Pics of small ranch houses (60s or 70s) that look great inside?

finz2leftFebruary 3, 2012

I will be moving this Summer and my options in the school district I want are all fairly dated ranches with green or turquoise bathrooms and hideous kitchens. I can deal with the turquoise bathrooms! and reno the kitchen, but HOW do people make boxy, low ceiling rooms look nice? What are the tricks? Is there a blog for ranches that look great?

I am moving for much better schools, but I am having second thoughts because I don't know what to do with a blah house! Molding too much on 7' ceilings? beadboard? I just don't know!!!! I'm ready to back out!

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BHG has shown good looking small ranches but they always seem to involve significant remodeling - taking down walls to make them more open, making cathedral ceilings, turning two small bedrooms into one master, straightening ziggy hallways, adding a covered entrance way.

That said: Disguise low ceilings by painting them in a color just a little lighter than the walls. Paint walls in light, warm colors that relate from room to room. Sometimes paint with a gloss to it, not flat, really blurs the edges. Mid-century modern furniture seems to work well - make sure the legs show.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2012 at 6:55PM
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I agree with other poster; MCM looks hip in ranches, paint mouldings and baseboards the same colour as the walls.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2012 at 7:47PM
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You might check out the magazine I've linked below. Also, do a search on "redoing ranch style houses" and you'll find some interesting sites to browse.

Here is a link that might be useful: Magazine

    Bookmark   February 3, 2012 at 8:07PM
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chucksmom Wonderful stuff on Mid Century modern.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2012 at 8:20PM
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Embrace the 60's. "Love the house you're in" is the motto of RetroRenovation. We did not have a retro bathroom, but many of the homes in our neighborhood do.

Kitchen Before:

Kitchen After:



Here is a link that might be useful: RetroRenovation

    Bookmark   February 3, 2012 at 8:28PM
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Thank you all very much! The pictures were very helpful and I'm off to retrorenovation.

My house now leans coastal casual decor, so I may be replacing a lot of things. My faves, however, will have to stay!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2012 at 7:54AM
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I don't think Lauren's house is a ranch, but it is that era and was really nothing special when they moved in. She's been redoing it on the cheap and you may get some ideas from her blog.

Here is a link that might be useful: purestyle

    Bookmark   February 4, 2012 at 9:53AM
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I found this site for you. It includes links to blogs that deal with renovating ranch house. Might be worth a look.

This one is to die for, and it's not MCM -- much more traditional.

Here's one with that slightly beachy feel you mentioned.

I say GO FOR IT!! We also just moved to be in a better school district. We bought a foreclosed mold pit, tore it down to the studs and built our dream home. WAAAY more than you want to do (and more than I envisioned when I started). It was an enormous undertaking -- but we're happy we took the plunge.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2012 at 11:58AM
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I'd avoid any of the late 20th c (faux) curvy French Provincial/Country, heavily encrusted Mediterranean or too-Victorian "farmhouse" style references.

Unless you live in an area where the "ranch house" is really a ranch building, avoid a spurious South Western look, as well.

You can't go wrong w/ clean uncluttered MCM styles. You don't have to embrace the Sputnicky part of the mid-century look if you don't like it. You can have simple modern furnishings embellished with carefully selected antique or antique-looking pieces. Be very careful with late Victorian stuff, however. During the prime ranch-house period the curvy, heavy, dark Victorian stuff was design anathema and would have been considered too embarassingly ugly to have in the house. I think earlier 19th c and late 18th c styles fit well with mid-century proportions.

You can edge into a Craftsmen-esque furniture style, too, as long as you don't try to recreate the thicker, dark-stained trim which doesn't work with typical ranch house style window and door casings and prportions. And if you're light-handed and not too slavish about period reference, a 30's Depression look can work. But be careful not to go too far as nobody in a new 60's ranch wanted their house to look like their grandmother's "dowdy" house.

Pretty colors and the very livable scale of the rooms are great strengths of the style.


    Bookmark   February 4, 2012 at 12:00PM
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I was thrilled to see this thread. We are also downsizing to a ranch in order to get into the best school district. We just sold our 3,000 sq. ft 12 year old custom colonial and bought a 2,000 sq. ft. 1970 brick ranch. The house is in a neighborhood of much more expensive homes. The owners were 85 years old and had never done any updating. We purchased the house for a good price and are trying to decide which direction to go in with remodeling. The house actually has an interesting tudor influence that I'm trying to work with. I'm taking some pictures today and hope to post here for some help. Lolab--the links you provided were great!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2012 at 1:05PM
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We live in a ranch as well - it's early 50's, but the same principles apply - low ceilings, little embellishment, small rooms. The PO made a lot of good structural changes to open things up, and we've done some more...but it's always going to have low ceilings.

I personally think you do best when you keep it looking simple. No crown molding, and keep the walls the same color as the ceiling if possible (not always for us.) We're slowly pulling out crown and painting rooms into white boxes with great flooring. That's been our answer.

There are pics of our house in my clippings that give a sense of what we're doing.

Good luck - schools are way more important than house, I share your priorities!!


    Bookmark   February 4, 2012 at 2:23PM
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I was happy to see this post, as I have spent the last 21 years living in ranch houses (two different ones). My first one was built in the 50's, the current one was built in 1965. My advice to you is to treat your house like a blank slate and decorate it with things that you really like, whatever the style. If your new house just screams "atomic ranch", then by all means, embrace it if you like MCM. But if your home, like mine, is simply a one storey house that happens to have been built in the middle part of the century, then you're free to do whatever you want with it.

It's actually one of my real pet-peeves that everyone now assumes that a ranch home has to be MCM. The proliferation of sites and mags like retro-renovation & atomic ranch has almost negated the existence of other styles within ranch architecture.

You might check out the book "Updating Classic America: Ranches", which is pretty much the only one I've found that shows ranches decorated in a variety of styles.

Fwiw, as I type this I'm sitting in my family room, which does have wood panelling and a brick wall fireplace, but it's decorated with my totally eclectic style (a result of lots of inherited furniture). In this house there is no crown moulding, but there was in my last house, and I loved it -- it was not out of place at all. I would have it here too, but I haven't gotten DH to install it yet, lol! Our rooms are not MCM white boxes, because I don't like white rooms; I would list the colors in my house, but it occurs to me that seeing that list outside of visual context will probably make it seem like my house is a hot colorful mess!


    Bookmark   February 4, 2012 at 3:06PM
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I agree with the PP that you can have a blank slate,it does not have to be MCM, but it depends on the character of your home and to some extent the property value.

Here is a thread from the Kitchens forum on Designing around a 60's tract home. As you can see, these vary widely depending on where people are located. But you can get some ideas here.

Here is a link that might be useful: Design Around 60's tract home

    Bookmark   February 4, 2012 at 3:46PM
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My friend had such a house. Her husband does woodworking-- they did their house in a Craftsman style. I LOVED it.

No matter what, I think SCALE is key. I live in a small home and it's the biggest issue. We can find furniture the right size, but we have too much of it for functional purposes (there are 7 of us living here).

    Bookmark   February 4, 2012 at 5:36PM
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In Southern California, which also has a whole lot of those low-roof-pitch/low-ceiling ranches, a great, highly preferred way to deal with the low ceilings is to open them up to the rafters. If the framing looks decent, paint or stain it (instead of drywalling inside over it), and put insulation outside, with a new roof over. Can be a little pricey, but the product's truly a Cinderella story, way worth it.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2012 at 5:48PM
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Lower ceilings = lower utility bills, embrace them!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2012 at 6:55PM
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I don't think you have to go MCM. In fact, most post-1965 ranches are going to look a little odd with MCM decor inside. I think Soft Contemporary is the answer. Check out about anything Candace Olsen has done. I'm always amazed at the unattractiveness of the Canadian housing stock, and she manages to makes silk purses out of sow's ears. And a lot of her projects are basement projects, too, so there's your low ceiling problem solved.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2012 at 7:18PM
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Thank you all very much. You have given me a great body of resources and ideas. I am feeling better about this again. I am off to study all the links and order the books.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 12:54AM
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Just came across this remodeled ranch thread on the kitchens forum. Check out the before and after photos of the kitchen, living room and family room. I love the modern farmhouse feel--MCM is NOT the only way to go with a ranch!

Here is a link that might be useful: ranch remodel

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 9:41AM
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WMA, that's really nice, but that's a huge home!

Most of the homes when I get the RE listings for our neighborhood, if they are remodeled, are pretty traditonal but do include granite or other solid surface, SS appliances, etc. Of course, you can still find lots of original knotty pine, and pink or blue tile bathrooms from original owners. Our neighborhood was built from late 50's to late 60's and includes 1,400 homes in a variety of styles.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 9:47AM
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gsciencechick, I agree, this is not your typical smaller post-war ranch. I linked it mainly because I liked the style the owners selected. I think this could work in a smaller ranch--light, airy, simple. I think that's the direction I'm trying to head in as we plan our ranch remodel. I've scoured the internet for ranch remodel ideas and everything seems to be hard core MCM or prairie/craftsman with lots of heavy wood. I wish I could find some good sites with ideas for modest yet well done ranch remodels within the existing footprint of the house!

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 11:38AM
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WMA, that is GORGEOUS, but sooooo far out of my price range it isn't even funny! :-)

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 11:45AM
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we have a Southern California ranch (built in the 50s) with 8 foot ceilings. We moved from a Victorian home with 15 foot ceilings and ornate architectural detail, so it was a big change for us and the first ranch home I'd ever owned. For the first 6 months or so, I felt very "closed in" and felt like we made a mistake in choosing the house. But after some remodeling, I'm loving our ranch.

Some things we did:

1) opened all the small doorways and created arches - i know arches are not typical of MCM style, but the arches were chosen because they mimic the shape of the built-in bookcases in our living room.

2) painted all the rooms light, neutral paint colors and stained the hardwoods a mahogany color

3) we added plenty of woodwork (wainscoting in dining room, board and batten in entry foyer). Board and batten is probably more suitable in a Craftsman, but the addition of woodwork has lightened the house up considerably and given the space some architectural interest.

4) tore down walls and gutted the small kitchen to create a more open concept space that worked better for our family.

5) added light colored furniture that was smaller and lower.

6) kept decor simple and somewhat minimalist.

This is the kitchen when we moved in - it was small and typical of the homes in my area:

here's the same view just after we completed our remodel:

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 9:09PM
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Pipdog, your place is PERFECTION and gives me great hope!!!! Thank you. Do you mind telling me how many sq. feet the home is, and do you have any outside pics/


    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 9:14PM
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thanks, finz2! It's approximately 2,300 sq feet but that includes 2 additions to the home over the years. I believe the house was originally about 1,700 sq feet.

here's an old photo of the exterior - we intend to paint the exterior this spring and have done a lot of landscaping (including removing that bizarrely shaped bush by the garage), but I don't seem to have any better photos.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 10:23PM
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Oh yum yum yum! pipdog I just saved your kitchen to my inspiration file - hope you don't mind! I've loved your LR for some time but don't think I've seen your kitchen before - I would have remembered! Can you explain the first shot with the dark cabinets? Is that now more of a back entry/pantry area? How does that relate to the kitchen? Love your house and it gives me lots of hope with the 50's 60's ranches we are looking at. My brain gets stuck imagining the re-use of space.

I don't think of this as a small ranch house although I have no idea what the square footage is. But it's another in my inspiration file because so much can be done when you remove walls and combine spaces. She doesn't document everything and you can wait a long time for a post but when she does it's worth the wait - I love her blog.

Here is a link that might be useful: Molly Frey Design

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 10:45PM
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Look up the Young House Love blog -I think you will find a lot of useful advice from the DIY projects they have done first on 1 ranch, and now on their 2nd

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 11:08PM
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During the last year, one of the shelter magazines followed the renovation of a small ranch very much like yours. It was amazing. House beautiful I think? It was a single woman who renovated and turned it into a two bedroom, but many of the ideas might help. It was very transitional.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 11:08PM
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Pipdog, your house is gorgeous! You did a fabulous job with your remodel--I especially love your kitchen choices. Thanks for sharing.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 11:09PM
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Pipdog, I remember seeing your kitchen a long time ago (with an L shaped banquette I believe), and i recall the question about the piano in your LR (and once maybe about throw pillows?).... but I didnt know the two were in the same house. And now to see the exterior, which is just the definition of welcoming. Its such fun to put it all together. Super job.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 11:10PM
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Thanks, mtnrrdredux, WMA, and dlm2000. Like fnz2, we moved to this area for the school districts and the proximity to our jobs. I don't think I would have ever imagined myself in a ranch home, but over the last year I've learned to love ranches.

I'm glad bestyears brought up Younghouselove blog. It has a ton of good ideas about decorating a ranch, mostly DIY style. They've done an amazing job turning a ranch box into a stylish space on a budget - although I think preferred their previous ranch to their new house.

dlm, two-toned cabinets in the kitchen divide the space - the espresso cabinets are the pantry/bar area. I'll post some more recent photos of the kitchen later -- it looks quite a bit different now as those photos were taken just after the remodel was completed.

Here is a link that might be useful: Younghouselove ranch

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 11:47PM
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I just looked at the Molly Frey blog - wow, what an incredible transformation!

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 12:09AM
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We also have a plain vanilla ranch built in 1950. It was never MCM nor any style. It was just churned out as a tract home. The basic layout of bedrooms and living space was ok, but we opened the wall between the kitchen and living room, extended and moved the kitchen so the old kitchen is half of the new one and partly as our new main level laundry room. The rest of the kitchen is part of the extension and is adjacent to the new den we added on. Due to budget constraints, we only cathedraled the new extensions' ceilings and the master bedroom ceiling was vaulted as we extended there too. Where we did not raise the ceilings we added in skylights and a 5ft eyebrow window in the front of the house, boxed in like a skylight (and we have a skylight over the den up high). The greater amount of natural light is fabulous and it feels so much more spacious with the openings for the skylights and eyebrow window. We had hated the all low ceilings when we moved in. Our previous house had vaulted and cathedral ceilings over the living spaces and it was hard to adjust to low and flat. I truly think that being able to raise the ceilings and/or use skylights is one of the best features about a ranch.
Since the house was built with little style and updated with no style either (unless cheap and ugly are styles, lol), we felt free to create our own vibe. We went for retro modern with a 40s feel. What a modern person would have done prior to MCM is how I'd describe it. It has some deco feel to it but the lines are simple and not ornate.
Crown moldings would not have worked, so we have done simpler ones. We chose modest looking but well designed materials. No one would ever think it is fancy or frilly. We wanted clean lines but not sharp edges. It is supposed to feel homey and unassuming. Like a well worn pair of jeans that fit well. We want guests to feel at home.

If you come up with your own style mission statement you can check your choices against it. At one point, we fell in love with white marble and wanted that for our counters. Then one day, we figured out it went against all our other choices and was too elegant. We ended up with Corian in their Rain Cloud pattern, which mimics the feel of a white marble, but is not trying to fake anyone out. It has a softness to the look but with all straight lines and an eased edge profile, it looks neat. We ended up with Carrera marble in our master bathroom for the counter and in the faux rug part of our floor. That space is meant to be more grown up and fancy since it is our private space and not designed for the kids. The veins that make it great there would have been too busy for the kitchen. If we had gone for another look, I'd have loved to use the marble as I usually drool when I see it used anywhere. If I ever do a kitchen again, I would want qs oak with white marble or some other medium toned stained wood. The door style would be different as well.
We are happy with our vision and how the look has turned out (the gc screwed us on condition, but that will be fixed, someday). It is not plain vanilla any more! Our house looks like no other in our area and I dare say, it is now one of a kind. Hopefully, you find your groove and your end result reflects your style and vision, and makes you smile too ;)

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 11:59PM
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We moved last year from a very unique Moderne style home to a mid 90s 1800 sf ranch. I do miss the cool character of our old home, but am learning to like our new home.

When we were house hunting, decent sized ranches in desirable neighborhoods went quickly under agreement, even in this depressed housing market (I'm still kicking myself for losing out on one particularly great one with 3 fireplaces and an amazing FR and not being brave enough to go for another with fabulous old wood floors, high ceilings, great molding, etc). There are many, many folks looking for the one level living ease of a ranch and it seems ranches with special features sell at a premium price.

By special features, I mean a cook's gourmet kitchen or interesting landscaping or a fabulous inside/outside feel. To the OP; don't be hesitant about a ranch that needs work. If it's in a good neighborhood (especially one with a mixed bag of home styles), in a town/city with good schools, you can create a warm, beautiful and desirable home.

Now I need to take my own advice ;)

    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 6:09AM
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dianalo I'm going to save your post. You gave a lot of great information of the specific types of changes you made and the way you made those decisions. Your choice to forgo the marble *** it went against all our other choices and was too elegant*** particularly struck a chord with me. I can get sidetracked by pretty shiny things way too easily!!! Decorating ADD, I guess! Love the idea of a mission statement and want to do that right away.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 8:14AM
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If you didn't check out the link to the cote de texas blog, you must. Oh my!! I grew up in that very same floor plan in Houston, and what they did to that ranch is spectacular -- and didn't look too expensive!
Clickable link

    Bookmark   February 8, 2012 at 1:40PM
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Dianalo - Man can I relate to the comment, "unless cheap and ugly are styles, lol"

Houzz recently profiled an updated 70s ranch house - the style is modern. They did a great job making it feel light and airy even with low ceilings. I loved the idea of putting glass on both sides of the cabinets to let light into the hallway.

Here is a link that might be useful: Houzz link

    Bookmark   February 16, 2012 at 9:19AM
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I just ran across this amazing re-model of a ranch and had to share. They successfully blended classic, transitional and beachy - it's a little sparsely decorated for my tastes but I think the finishes and design are amazing. I love the bright yellow front door too!

Here is a link that might be useful: Fabulous ranch remodel

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 6:31PM
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I like well constructed older ranches much better than some of the newer stuff built today. And the ranches in our area almost always have full basements, which doubles your living space. There is almost no limit to what you can do when you have few if any load bearing walls in the house. Love the links in this thread to some incredible transformations! Atlanta has a few architects/builders who specialize in ranch renos, they go from ho hum to gorgeous--- and are extra valuable because they're usually closer to town and on much bigger lots than new homes.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 11:20PM
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kswl - I live in one of those Atlanta ranches! It has been a really great house for us. I love living in town. We need space, and can't afford 1 million+ so a ranch it is!

Our house is a 1950s ranch. It isn't MCM and neither is my decorating style. My style, like most of my friends and neighbors, is fairly traditional. Many of the owners in my area have "popped the top" and completely renovated their houses. Our house works well for us, so we've been able to get by with less extensive renovations. (And I'm perfectly happy to be the smallest house in a very desirable neighborhood!) The previous owners closed in the carport to create a large family room off the kitchen. They also knocked down the wall between the kitchen and the small panelled den/pass through room and added a skylight when the renovated the kitchen in the 90s.

We changed the hall bath from pink to white, installed granite and SS appliances in the kitchen and added a master suite off the back.

OP - Good luck with your ranch. They're good solid houses, and you can make it your own!

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 12:13PM
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I am from Houston and we have lots of ranch style homes. I am in the process of redoing mine. go to, click on single family homes then type in Briagrove or Nottingham in the subdivision line and then check one will see lots of pics of remodeled ranches.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 7:05PM
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Spend some time on the Before and After blog and you will find some great updates of 50's -70's homes, especially kitchens. Some are low buck facelifts and others more ambitious and costly renos. Check it out:

    Bookmark   March 2, 2012 at 12:22AM
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