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LIFE Magazine's Dream Homes, DIY for the Common Man

If the American Dream is owning a gorgeous home, the American Fantasy would be building it by yourself. Decades of home improvement television shows and flattering renovation pictorials have made it seem like getting your hands dirty and building a home (or hiring someone else to do it for you), while challenging, is truly within your reach. The reality—difficulties, delays, and escalating budgets—are why the practice is often best left to professionals, and a vast majority of homebuyers don't consult architects. But the idea still has an almost primal pull in a nation founded on the myth of westward expansion, staking a claim, and making your own way. This DIY undercurrent explains why the Life magazine Dream House feature, which started in 1994, made such an impact.

"Architects get a bad name for working only with the elite," said Michael Graves, who designed the 1996 version of the home, in an interview with The New York Times.

Visions for the middle class, and a gallery of the different Dream Homes >>