House & Home


The National Building Museum presents House & Home, a kaleidoscopic array of photographs, objects, models, and films that take us on a tour of houses both familiar and surprising, through past and present, challenging our ideas about what it means to be at home in America. Remarkable transformations in technology, laws, and consumer culture have brought about enormous change in American domestic life. The breathtaking variety of stories about the American home surprise, teach, and entertain.

The exhibition features “please-touch” walls made out of different materials used in residential construction over time, from adobe bricks to structural insulated panel (SIP) systems. Intricate scale models present iconic residential architecture including Fallingwater and Chicago’s Hancock Center. Three sets of specially commissioned films featuring contemporary and historical images round out the experience.

House & Home’s galleries tell a full range of stories about the history of the American home. Designed by the award-winning New York-based firm Ralph Appelbaum Associates, the exhibition is an immersive experience in which the galleries come alive with objects, photographs, and sound.

Julia Brooks’ Wedding, Washington, D.C., 1947. Photo by Addison N. Scurlock; Scurlock Studio Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Behring Center, Smithsonian Institution.

Living at Home

A dramatic display of hundreds of household goods used over the course of the past several centuries includes a butter churn; a poster of Farrah Fawcett; a fondue set; and a hand-painted screen door. Each item tells its own story of how a house becomes a home.

Building a House

Full-scale “please-touch” walls made from materials used in residential construction from adobe bricks to structural insulated panels (SIPs) are on display. These hands-on cross-sections introduce ideas of construction and engineering as visitors are able to feel building materials and see different structural methods.

Buying a Home

A timeline introduces visitors to the origins of our modern mortgage system as well as other milestones in the history of home ownership. An 1860s homestead claim and a photograph of a 1930s couple signing a government mortgage with an “X” help tell this story and link the laws and regulations concerning home ownership to the current economic situation.


The Museum commissioned scale models of 14 iconic American homes run down the center of the gallery space, delighting visitors who recognize such special buildings as Mount Vernon and the John Hancock Center. Photographs complementing the models show how Americans used ideas from these famous structures to design their own more modest homes.


A series of six films use historical photographs to animate the daily tasks such as laundry and cooking that make a home work. In another gallery, a large-scale, two-screen film presentation takes visitors inside a variety of contemporary architect-designed homes. In the final gallery, interviews with developers, contractors, residents, and real-estate agents give visitors a different kind of look at six communities.

Book a curator-led tour of the exhibition

Praise for House & Home

Fallingwater, Mill Run, Pennsylvania. Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright. Built: 1935. Model by Studios Eichbaum + Arnold, 2010. Photo by Museum staff.

“In gallery after gallery, the show explores how the American dream of homeownership has played out over the years, in consumer artifacts…and models of architectural milestones, culminating in a double-screen immersion into architect-designed spaces.”—The New York Times

House & Home…explores a subject so wide and so fundamental to American life that it inevitably touches the pleasure buttons of nostalgia.”—The Washington Post

House & Home will take an expansive look at what it means to be at home in America.”—The Huffington Post

“…the National Building Museum’s most ambitious project to date.”—Washingtonian

“At last, Washington has a positive note about housing.”—

“The museum that brought you Stay Cool! Air Conditioning America presents another unexpected look at how American life has changed since Colonial times.”—Design Arts Daily

“..the exhibit is intended for a broader public for whom our own homes are the most direct entry point into an understanding of the built environment.”—City Lab

“America’s households have never had their doors open wider…”—The Daily Beast


Support for House & Home is provided by The Home Depot Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Hanley Wood, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Andersen Corporate Foundation, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, MASCO Corporation Foundation, and AARP, among others.