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An Ethnoarchaeological Study of Contemporary U.S. Houses and Households

Anthony P. Graesch

UCLA Sloan Center on Everyday Lives of Families
Working Paper No. 59


Although houses in western North America are products of today’s specialized construction industries and are rarely built by their inhabitants, they are similar to the substantial houses found in other regional and temporal contexts in that they are large, costly to build, and often expensive to maintain. Once built, modifying the architectural design and layout of spaces in these houses is no simple feat and typically constitutes a major investment of capital. In this paper, I concern myself with the house remodeling process and seek an understanding of the relationship of house remodeling to household cycling and economic organization. Conducted under the aegis of an intensive ethnographic study of 32 households at the UCLA Center on Everyday Lives of Families, this ethnoarchaeological research considers how modern-day families use and modify a sample of houses representing over 90 years of architectural design in Los Angeles. Data addressing the frequency and types of remodeling events performed by current and past owners of single-family homes are presented and discussed.

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