Ranch House Lately

So lately I’ve been getting the home design bug again. And for some inexplicable reason, I’ve been thinking about designing ranch style houses, those low slung single story numbers that originally popped up like mushrooms after a rainstorm during the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s.

On second thought, maybe this impulse is explicable. I grew up in the ’70s. Our first home in Quail Valley was a ranch, a super simple one with giant picture windows in the living room that begged to be plastered with construction paper pumpkins and toilet paper ghosts at Halloween and lined with big fat C7 Christmas lights in December.

With modern lines and little exterior decoration, ranch houses turned into inexpensive blank canvasses on which to project fantasies and ideals of home. Consumable print–wrapping paper, magazine advertisements, even Christmas songbooks like this Karl Schulte classic

Karl Schulte Christmas Carol Book

from the 1970s– gave us poppy, saturated and kind of wacky color combinations that easily layered “traditional” or space-age images onto the neutral frameworks.

I’m sorry for kids who didn’t grow up in the ’70s. As atrocious as the more extreme Graceland versions of home fashion were, it was also the era of the awesome appropriated culture party!

The Ranch House was the perfect backdrop for “fondue,” the traditionally Swiss communal way of eating that Americans morphed into a dipping orgy of bad cheese and chocolate, which a Swiss friend of mine assures me he would never have recognized.

And the luau! Carved watermelon fruit salads, teakwood bowls and utensils, shish kabobs, tiki torches and hanging lanterns with no irony attached. Someone, usually an overweight guy, inevitably strapped on a grass skirt. An affront to island culture? Surely, but so much fun.

Now a new generation of first time home buyers who can only afford older ranch homes are discovering that they like them because of their casual party ready spaces. Plus they are human scaled, no ballroom sized bedrooms and separate rooms for every activity. You don’t have to squander the kid’s college fund just to furnish the place.

My problem with ranch houses typically is not what they are, since they are easily stripped and revived, but where they are. They are typically suburban phenomena. Still, suburbs born in the ’50s through the ’70s are something different than what sprawls into infinity today.

Here in Indy I think I could totally live in Glendale and be happy. Gay people for a lot of reasons that have to do with everything from economics to feeling welcome push into uncool places and try to make them cooler. As more and more gay couples end up with children of their own, could the mid-20th century ranch be the icon of the new gay frontier?


5 Responses to “Ranch House Lately”

  1. September 30, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    We have a ranch in the Glendale area…I actually bought the house I grew up in. The one thing I don’t like is the closet space. I need you to come decorate!! 🙂

  2. October 1, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    Indeed they could Troy. And you and I both know a couple that pioneered this home buying trend on the North side and decorated to perfection. Remember stone slab fireplaces with the occasional stone jutting out as a shelf? Might I recommend a tour through Wynncomb (sp) on the east side of College Ave, just north of the Indiana School for the Blind, around the 70ish through 82ish block? It is choc-a-bloc with excellent ranch homes.

  3. October 1, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    My parents built a ranch style back in 1972. Since then they have lived in mostly early 1900’s incredibly huge homes with the big white columns and huge sitting verandas that steal my heart every time I walk in the doors. My mom still misses the home from 1972. They even had those swinging half doors that lead you from the den to the kitchen that reminded me of something from an old western show. I had never seen that type of thing again until we moved to Des Arc AR and one of my dear friends still has her swinging half doors that look like a western bar show.

  4. October 1, 2008 at 11:05 pm

    Melissa, I’ve seen how you live in your home on your blog and you do the ranch house proud. I think it is really special that you have the one you grew up in. Don’t know how much help I could be, but would be happy to pipe in on anything you might like an extra eye or opinion on.

    Swinging doors! LOVE IT! I didn’t know you lived in Des Arc. My grandparents used to take me fishing there all the time.

  5. October 3, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    Yes..spent 15 years of my life in Des Arc/Cotton Plant area of Arkansas with my farming family. I actually really miss it even if I snicker at it sometimes.

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