Kit Houses

The Architects’ Small House Service Bureau Block 1

The Architects’ Small House Service Bureau (ASHSB) was an organization of professional architects producing mail-order plans in the Interwar period. Its members were unified by the perceived low standard of single-family housing of the period. Established by a group of Minneapolis architects in 1919, the ASHSB received endorsements from both the U.S. Department of Commerce and the American Institute of Architects in 1921. The Bureau remains the only house plan service to receive AIA endorsement.


Architects’ Small House Service Bureau catalog, 1930. Courtesy of Internet Archive.




At the time of its founding, ninety-five percent of small houses constructed were designed by untrained individuals. The Bureau’s goal—to promote well-designed and constructed small homes through both education and high-quality plans—was a reaction to the rising popularity of mail-order house companies, which eliminated the need for an architect.

Architects who were members of the Bureau worked there on a part-time basis in addition to their regular practices. Member architects provided the operational funds for the Bureau and emphasized their lack of connection with commercial building industries. Architects contributed their own plans for small houses and could be hired at an hourly wage to prepare plans or work on customizations, but they did not receive royalties on the sale of plans.