Need Advice/help decorating 1960 Brick Ranch home

dianeluMay 29, 2013

We just purchased a 2000 sq.ft. brick ranch home built in 1960, and while waiting for closing I am trying to figure out how best to furnish and decorate it and what kind of age-appropriate updates to do to the kitchen, etc. The home has a lot of original 'charming' features (brick planter on entryway, built-in hutch in kitchen, pink and blue tile bathrooms) which I think would be fun to keep, but am not sure what type furniture would best work with the look.

Adding to my confusion is the fact that my dear mother recently passed and left me most of her furniture... much of which was concidentally bought to furnish the 1960 colonial revival ranch type home where I was born. For sentimental reasons I would love to incorporate some of this furniture into my new home - but am afraid that 1.) It might make the home look more dated than retro and 2.) Being more what I would consider 'Colonial Revival' - (lots of solid maple, etc.) it will not go well at all with the more mid-century modern style I prefer and I'm thinking this house probably would look best with. I collect original 1960s David Klein era travel posters (Paris, Europe, Germany, Egypt, India & London) and would love to be able to display some of them where they would be shown to best advantage. Is there a workable way for me to mesh these two styles - colonial revival and mcm - successfully? Or should I just pick one style and stay with it? Or switch gears entirely?!! Help! I'm starting to feel quite overwhelmed with all of the decisions! Thanks so much for any all input you may have!

Here are some photos of the home : (couldn't figure out how to upload to gardenweb - wasn't working for me -sorry!)
Please note: The furniture shown is NOT ours - it belongs to previous renters - in fact the L/R D/R photos show 2 different set ups from previous renters - IMO, both types of furniture look to be too large for the area... Home
Use Password "Sunset"

Here is a link that might be useful: photobucket

This post was edited by dianelu on Wed, May 29, 13 at 21:38

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Great house! If you aren't a member at and you should be! And while colonial revival may not seem to work with the house, it may work just fine. Remember that many people brought their old furniture with them as they moved into a new house and added new pieces as they could afford it. You won't know until you move in and live in the rooms. Have fun, I'm sure we'll all be looking forward to the progress.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 8:18PM
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We had planters like that but they are just drywall, not brick. We also have several pony walls.

We had real flowers in the planters that died and then fake flowers that were gross and dustcatchers.

A few years ago we had black granite installed on the tops. Our home is more a MCM/contemporary home but if you get tired of the planters it might be an idea.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 8:31PM
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Thank you! I am definitely going to check out the links to the 2 sites you mentioned, jays mom - and abt. the planter - it is brick - and for the life of me I can't figure out why it would be blonde brick when the exterior of the home is red brick! I am wondering if behind that faux stone fireplace there is also blonde brick? Still wouldn't make sense, tho!

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 8:41PM
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I'm not sure how others are viewing your album - both the live link and the cut and paste take me to a page that says it's a private album and I need a password?

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 8:48PM
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Try the password "Sunset" and see if that works...

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 9:35PM
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Couldn't see your album, either. It seems that there's a certain range in the MCM architecture: some houses are hard-core Atomic ranches and some are more like traditional homes with elements of MCM.

Here are a few books to help you get started:

Michelle Gingeri-Brown

"Atomic Ranch Midcentury Interiors"

"Atomic Ranch: Design Ideas for Stylish Ranch Homes"

The author presents real-life retro MCM remodels, and some of them incorporate more traditional elements. She also gives an overview of different ranch house types. Very helpful insights on blending the retro and contemporary modern.

Bradley Quinn

"Mid-century Modern: Interiors, Furniture, Design Details"

This book explains the principles and essentials that constitute the MCM style.

My advice would be to live in the house for a while before making any major changes except for absolutely necessary repairs like leaky roof or peeling paint. Get the feel and logic of the house, how everything in it works in hot summer or chilly winter. You will also learn the advantages and drawbacks of your new house better, and make more educated remodel choices.

When I moved in with my DH in his 70's split entry a few years ago, my first impulse was to tear everything out and re-do the whole place. But more important issues got in the way, and now I'm glad we had to put off most of the remodeling. I came to appreciate the house to the point of wanting to restore the original dark stained woodwork instead of painting it all white as I wanted at first!

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 9:49PM
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Lots of interesting features in your new home -- love the kitchen! It would undoubtedly be easier to go all MCM, but probably a lot more interesting and personal to incorporate your inherited pieces. I think I'd have to see those pieces to go any further, but I'd be surprised if at least some didn't mesh with your plans for the home.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 9:57PM
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I think the interior of your house, particularly the kitchen and baths, reads more 1950's than 1960's. Unless you plan to change out the fireplace facade and kitchen, I think MCM doesn't work very well with this house. I would use the colonial pieces sparingly and mix them with contemporary (not modern) upholstered pieces. You don't want to feel like you are living in a time capsule, I don't think, so I would consider updating the colonial pieces with paint.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 10:35PM
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I think that the house owes more to 1950s mid-century than 1960s. (And the decade had just started when the house was built)

The inside is fairly transitional really, with nothing that is too strongly "modern" -a house that was mid-century colonial revival would look much the same on the inside as this one with a few "colonial" touches.

I would try any and all of your mother's midcentury colonial furniture in here. Unless it is a slavish reproduction of actual 18th century period furniture, there is probably a lot of modern mixed in the interpretation.

It will all the correct scale, too. You are right in your observation that the renters' furniture is all much to bulky. Then you can put in a good mix of midcentury modern and newer contemporary pieces.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 11:11PM
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You're right - the vibe to me seems a bit more 50's than 60's, too. I don't want to live in a dated "time capsule", but I do like the idea of honoring and respecting the unique elements of that era - and also my own heritage . Unfortunately, I don't have any current photos of the dining room furniture mom left me. I do still want to figure out a way to incorporate my vintage travel posters, as well. Mom was a world traveler (DOD school teacher) and I was a f/a for TWA for many years, so that is definitely an element I would love figure out how to represent appropriately.

Here is a link that might be useful: photobucket - Use password :

This post was edited by dianelu on Sat, Jun 29, 13 at 23:21

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 11:59PM
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Last year we sold our home of 40 years in NY. It was called a Contemporary Ranch. It had two stone planters. One in the entry another at the top of the stairs leading to the bedrooms. We took out the one in the entry. It was solid brick with a metal liner for plants. Nothing would grow in it as there was little light in the entry. Removing it opened up the area and changed that 50's look when you came in.

The other planter was similar to yours. It was a long rectangle. Again, had a metal liner. When we removed the brick we found sheet rock underneath. Fixed the sheet rock, painted, made a wood top and turned it into a storage place for linens and winter things. We didn't remove it as it would have changed the look of the open staircase.

Our house was also open with the living room and dining room in one large space. Our space was defined by the entry which split the living/dining areas. This area had very large windows and high ceilings. Very bright, I loved the space.

I have seen kitchens similar to yours when we were house shopping in Florida. I thought it was a Florida 'thing.' Personally, I would remove those cabinets and open the space. You will lose those upper cabinets but maybe you can turn the built-in to a pantry and find some space somewhere else. I think it would look nice opened up.

Very nice home. I don't know what to tell you about the furniture. You could try a mix and see how it feels. I think the home could be more modern traditional than contemporary. I mixed pieces in my past house and it worked. I think your floors will look good when sanded.

Congratulations on a lovely home,

    Bookmark   May 30, 2013 at 12:08AM
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An interior designer friend of mine lived in a 19th century brownstone that had had a partial remodel in the 1920s to Spanish revival, so it was full of all these gothic architectural details. He had a mix of period and modern furniture and the art was almost exclusively full-size Art Deco travel posters (mostly cruise ships and plane travel).
(six feet tall, many of them).

It all played very well together. Art can be of it's own period and make it's own statement.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2013 at 12:11AM
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I think the furniture would look fine in the house, particularly since you will be getting new dining chairs.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2013 at 12:44PM
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You just need to copy and paste the HTML code for the pictures to show up here.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2013 at 1:37PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

We had a brick planter that was a divider between the LR and the DR in our old 50s ranch. We bought a carved screen from Pier 1 and inserted it in the planter pushing it to one side and added trim molding around the top to "build it in". Then we added mirror to the bottom to create a shelf, added statuary and track lighting above to highlight it. We painted the brick as it was an awful dingy shade of gray.

I would like to see some definition between the LR and the DR in the's giving the look of a really long run of space, almost too open. Perhaps that can be done with furnishings.

I think some of the furniture may work in the house, but you want to break it up so it's a piece here or there...if it's not, then it can look dated as opposed to modern. The right paint colors will make a big difference too.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2013 at 8:21AM
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Yes, the room looks to need some definition to me, as well. Coincidentally while at the thrift store yesterday I stumbled across two vintage decorating books by Better Homes and Gardens - one 1961, one 1968. They both have some great photos of mixed contemporary/ traditional furniture combos - so I will try to use that for ideas. One of them showed a pic with an open shelf unit used as aroom divider of sorts and I am thinking something along those lines might work. LOVE your idea of what you did with the planter - not exactly sure what you meant by placing the mirrors as shelves, though?

This post was edited by dianelu on Sat, Jun 29, 13 at 23:18

    Bookmark   May 31, 2013 at 10:23AM
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Your kitchen looks like my dd's old kitchen. It was all original when she bought the house except the flooring and it looks like long ago they took out the broiler and moved the oven down. Hers was built in the 1950s.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2013 at 11:55AM
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Ok - I'm back, and hoping to pick your brains once again... While at a thrift store this week I stumbled across a sofa for $75 and am seriously thinking of getting it for our new home. I have it on hold now, but am wanting some opinions as to whether you think it is a style that would look well in our new living room (and what is this style of sofa actually called, BTW?), and if so, what type of chairs, rug and draperies would best go with it? My brother is inheriting almost all of my Mom's living room furniture, so, other than a vintage Indian brass coffee table of hers, I will pretty much have a blank palette to start with in that area. The sofa is in almost pristine condition - just a little piping trim on the lower part coming loose, which I'm sure can be re-glued, and a very, very slight fading on the upper rear part of the back cushions, where the sun reached. I am assuming the good condition of the sofa is due to the fact that it apparently had a slipcover on it at some point - which also is in awesome condition and was included in the price of the sofa. The sofa is a greenish-yellow pattern. Here are a couple of pics of the sofa (please excuse the photo quality and that lump of fabric piled on the sofa, which actually is the extra slipcover.)

And although this isn't the actual coffee table I might pair with it, it is practically identical:

This post was edited by dianelu on Sat, Jun 29, 13 at 23:33

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 11:16PM
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I would buy that sofa without hesitation. Love the fabric, too!

    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 8:29AM
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That's serendipitous! If it's comfy, go for it. Use larger throw pillows in fun prints and it will look very contemporary.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 8:57AM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Sorry I missed your post before....the opening in the planter box was maybe 10"wide, so we put the screen up against one side and that left maybe a 9" gap, so we filled in the gap and topped it with a mirror to use as a shelf to put my statues on. We didn't put shelves all the way up.

Love that sofa...just check it well to make sure the frame is solid and not broken...the rest can be taken care of in reupholstery which will be most affordable since the sofa is such a deal!

    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 9:15AM
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I love the sofa!

    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 9:25AM
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Thanks - you guys have helped convince me to pull the trigger, so I went down and paid for the sofa earlier. They will deliver it tomorrow.. Now that I'll have the sofa, I am looking forward to figuring out how to start decorating around this "jumping off spot". Can anyone tell me if this style sofa is considered "Hollywood Regency" or "French Provincial" - or something else entirely! Knowing that will probably help me to figure out what type armchairs, rug, etc. will look best with it. Thank you! I will post photos on a NEW thread with the room layout when I get things set up. Again- thanks for helping this decorating "newbie" ;-)

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 10:08AM
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I'd look for chairs similar in style to these. They're vintage but not sure what decade. Smaller scale so they fit in a variety of situations. I like to see the legs, even though you can't see mine, so a skirt would be a personal decision.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 1:49PM
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