In a housing market full of architectural twists (McMansions? Stucco homes?), there are still people defending the humble ranch. One such outlet is Atomic Ranch.
Rambler-bashing was the norm when [Michelle Gringeri-Brown] and her husband, Jim Brown, launched Atomic Ranch magazine (www.atomic-ranch.com) in 2004. At that time, ranch-style houses were dismissed as the ugly ducklings of design, the home of last resort for first-time buyers.
The magazine quickly became a cheerleader for simple postwar homes, advocating for their preservation and helping owners find home-improvement resources.
Now ranch-style homes are finding new fans who appreciate their clean lines and open floor plans. And the Browns have published their second coffeetable book, “Atomic Ranch: Midcentury Interiors” (Gibbs Smith, $40), a detailed look at eight drool-worthy homes and how their owners have reinvented them for 21st-century living. We caught up with writer/editor Gringeri-Brown at home in Portland, Ore., to seek her dos and don’ts for remodeling and decorating “the regular old ranch house.”
Q What’s making ranch houses retro cool?
A It remains generational. People who are attracted to a more retro house, with its original elements, tend to be in their late 20s and early 30s, and it can indicate a whole lifestyle — going to scooter rallies, bowling, “Mad Men” parties. With TV promoting it as cool, it’s not just your Aunt Edna’s crummy rambler. And by and large, they’re still more affordable than bungalows.
Q A few years ago, you were concerned about ranches being torn down to make way for McMansions. Has the real estate meltdown had a silver lining for ranch-house preservation?
A With the economy tanking, and flippers having to take a step back, fewer ranch homes are getting the Home Depot treatment, when everything becomes vanilla. There’s more appreciation of what they can be, less disregard and thinking this is a housing stock that should be cleaned out and Dwell-ified.
A new rallying cry: fight the McMansions to defend the ranch houses?
I wonder if people who dislike McMansions also tend to dislike ranches. Here are some similarities: both can be produced on a mass scale. They are often not aesthetically pleasing, McMansions for being a weird mash-up of styles while ranches are very functional. They both are associated with sprawl. (A more speculative thought: perhaps both are not terribly green?) From the other side, ranches may be functional and more modern but are they modern enough in comparison to houses built in a modernist style?
This seems like a classic example of celebrating American pragmatism (in house form).