Questions about Amish Houses and Home Life

single-family-amish-home-ohio

  1. What are Amish homes like?
  2. How do Amish decorate their homes?
  3. How do Amish heat their homes?
  4. How do Amish light their homes?
  5. Do Amish homes have shutters?
  6. Do Amish homes have carpets?
  7. Do Amish homes have bathrooms?
  8. Do Amish kitchens have refrigerators?
  9. How do Amish cook food?
  10. Do Amish have upholstered furniture?
  11. How do Amish wash clothes?
  12. Who builds Amish homes?

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What are Amish homes like?

Amish homes are built with spacious main rooms, suitable for large gatherings. Some Amish hold church within a room of the home, or often the basement, and so must be able to fit up to one hundred or more people. Large expansive rooms also allow for better lighting. Traditional Amish homes are built simply, with few architectural flourishes and with an eye to practicality.

Amish homes are typically two stories, though some smaller homes, for single people or grandparents (the “dawdihaus”) may be a single story. Since families are typically large, multiple bedrooms are a must. Nearly every Amish home is built with a spacious basement, which can serve as a church gathering room, wash room, play space, storage for canned goods, or even living space during warmer months. One feature common in Amish homes is a sink by the entrance for washing up before meals or for cleaning hands on entering the house after working.

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Bathroom in an Amish home. More progressive homes have gas light fixtures built into the house structure. Belle Center, Ohio.

White is the most popular color for the exterior of Amish homes, though in some communities they are built in different shades. Wood-frame homes are common, though some Amish build with brick or construct western-style log homes.

In some communities, old farm homes have been in Amish possession for many generations. Amish will sometimes purchase and convert non-Amish homes, which involves removing electrical fixtures and phone lines. Some Amish, especially younger couples with smaller families, will live in mobile homes or in “shop homes“, which are workshops used as a living space until a larger home can be built. Despite tradition and an emphasis on plainness, in some communities Amish homes are changing and becoming fancier, reflecting their progressive nature and growing material wealth.

How do Amish decorate their homes?

This varies, but generally, decorations are more acceptable if they also fulfill a practical purpose. For example, it’s common to find calendars with attractive photographs of natural settings or other images, or wooden “perpetual calendars”. Some Amish hang colorful zip code charts with floral motifs. The Ten Commandments also hangs on walls in Amish homes.

Amish do not hang personal portraits, though some may display simple framed images commemorating a child’s birth, for example. Wall clocks are also very popular in Amish homes, some having extensive mechanical workings and playing a variety of tunes on the striking of the hour.

As far as the home’s exterior, Amish women often tend beautiful flower gardens and Amish homes may have fairly elaborate landscaping, particularly in more liberal settlements. The most traditional Amish generally do not tend flower gardens and may have a very hardscrabble appearance to their homes and yards.

How do Amish heat their homes? 

Amish heat their homes using various means, including propane and natural gas heaters, and heating stoves burning wood and coal. Fireplaces are not common in Amish homes. The basement is a common location for a heating stove. Venting helps circulate heat throughout the home.

How do Amish light their homes?

Many use lamps powered by propane or naptha (read more on Amish lighting). This type of lighting comes in the form of a portable lamp which may be hung from hooks in the ceiling, in a tall rolling floor unit with cabinet concealing fuel tank, or built into the architecture of the home. The fuel is vaporized and burned on thin mantles, generating a bright light and considerable heat.

In addition, some Amish permit small bedside LED or bulb lamps which generate a low level of lighting for reading or when light is needed when rising from bed at night. More conservative Amish churches will use kerosene teardrop-stye wick lamps. Quite a few Amish homes have skylights in the ceiling to let natural lighting in.

Do Amish homes have shutters? 

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Some Amish homes have a very plain appearance, while others look quite modern.

While many Amish homes such as those in Midwestern settlements do not feature decorative shutters, some Amish homes do, for example in the Lancaster County settlement. While many Amish do not build homes with shutters, houses purchased from English owners or older historic homes may have them and they will often be left in place.

Do Amish homes have carpets?

Linoleum is perhaps the most typical floor covering in Amish homes. Amish do not use wall-to-wall carpeting, though many lay floor rugs (area rugs and throw rugs).

Do Amish homes have bathrooms?

Many if not most Amish houses do have indoor plumbing and bathrooms. However the most conservative Amish do not, and make use of outhouses. Similarly, most Amish schoolhouses have outhouses (boys’ and girls’), even in more progressive communities. Amish bathrooms can resemble English bathrooms in many ways, with the exception of electric lighting.

Do Amish kitchens have refrigerators?

Many if not most do. They are typically adapted to run on propane or natural gas. At least two companies (Crystal Cold of Arcola, Illinois and EZ Freeze of Shipshewana, Indiana) produce models which are popular in Amish communities. Some Amish rent freezer space from non-Amish neighbors. More conservative (“lower”) Amish use ice boxes and ice houses. They may purchase mechanically-manufactured ice or harvest their own.

How do Amish cook food?

More traditional Amish make use of wood or kerosene stoves. In the kitchens of more progressive Amish you will find propane gas stoves. Microwaves are not found in Amish homes.

Do Amish have upholstered furniture?

Ordnung rules on furniture vary by community. Some Amish do have traditional stuffed and upholstered furniture, as you can see in this photo. Others own only wood furniture; hickory rocking chairs are popular among the very traditional Swartzentruber Amish, for example. Wooden furniture, often made by local craftsmen, is popular with all groups of Amish (view an Amish bedroom with bed and lamp).

How do Amish wash clothes?

Old-style wringer washers are the most popular way of washing clothes in Amish homes. An Amish housewife may have a laundry day once or twice a week. Washing machines are typically kept in the home’s basement. A few of the more progressive Amish use conventional electric washers powered by a diesel generator. Read more on how Amish do the laundry.

Who builds Amish homes?

Amish people often hire builders from within their own communities to build their homes. Many Amish have carpentry skills and may do at least some of the work themselves. Read an interview with an Amish builder.

More questions on the Amish? Get answers to 300+ questions in 41 categories at the FAQ main page.

References:

  • Scott, Stephen E. Amish Houses and Barns (Revised Edition). Intercourse, Pa.: Good Books, 2001.
  • Johnson-Weiner, Karen. New York Amish: Life in the Plain Communities of the Empire State. Ithaca : Cornell University Press, 2010.
  • Scott, Stephen E. and Kenneth Pellman. Living Without Electricity. Intercourse, Pa.: Good Books, 1990.

To Cite this Page: Wesner, Erik J. “Homes.” Amish America. Erik Wesner, 20 Feb. 2015. Web. [Date Accessed]. <http://amishamerica.com/homes/>.
Image credits: Bathroom- royerrealty.com