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Its one extravagance was a large window facing the street—the picture window.As far as I have been able to determine, picture windows made their first appearance in Levittown, Pa.I built a small bar in the corner and a Mondrian-esque room divider. Housing has always been governed by a simple rule: As people become richer, they spend more money on their homes.

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I understood this the first time my wife and I went house-hunting.

There were houses that we knew, from the second we saw them, were not for us; we didn't need to go inside.

In hindsight, the rancher's most striking feature was its diffidence.

Low to the ground, it lacked traditional domestic status symbols, such as porticoes and tall gables.

Of course, one doesn't buy a house just because of its curb appeal, but the view from the curb is important. The schizophrenic house buyer is both a status seeker and an investor. Renovating a kitchen, for example, is done with one eye on convenience and one eye on resale, as well as a glance at the attractive advertisements in the latest issue of The house buyer is not immune to fashion.

Although the desire for novelty is generally tempered by an inclination to the safe bet, there was one period when buyers let their hair down.

Alfred Levitt had already used floor-to-ceiling walls of Thermopane glass to open the house up to the backyard, but in the "Levittowner" he put an 8-foot-square * kitchen window facing the street.

The common criticism that picture windows offer neither privacy nor a view misses the point.

The split-level originated in California as a way of building on slopes, but it also provided useful solutions to two new domestic problems. The first televisions, which were designed like pieces of furniture, stood in the living room.

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