During a recent trip to San Diego, I drove by my childhood home in Point Loma. The low-lying 1956 ranch house still looked the same from the street. Were my hand prints still in the patio concrete? I also found myself wondering if the home’s period details inside remained. The lovely diamond pane windows with the stubborn hand cranks were gone. And surely the small kitchen with its funky brown appliances had been edited by now. But I hoped the wide brick and flagstone fireplace -- the one that could easily seat four and doubled as a stage for my sister and me -- was still there.
Retaining those classic ranch-house elements while adapting to modern living is precisely what Michelle Gringeri-Brown, editor of the quarterly Atomic Ranch magazine, tries to encourage through her new book, “Atomic Ranch Midcentury Interiors.”
“We try to point out the charm of original features,” Gringeri-Brown said in an interview. “We encourage homeowners to be cautious. Don't rush to gut the whole thing before you make interior design choices that can’t be undone. The period pieces often stand out as things to be appreciated.”
Gringeri-Brown credits the popularity of “Mad Men” for fueling appreciation of ranch houses. A new generation is attracted to what she calls “retro cool.” Ranch houses also appeal to aging baby boomers who are wary of stairs. “Because ranches were built when property was cheaper, they tend to sprawl on one floor and have a larger yard,” the author said.
This is her second book on ranch houses with husband, photographer Jim Brown, and it highlights eight homes, from a tract house in Calistoga, Calif., to a split-level in Ohio. (That's a 1958 house in San Mateo, Calif., at the top of the post.) Homeowners share their remodeling stories, offer tips on projects such as windows and plumbing, and detail the design elements they have retained. In one case, homeowners found original metal kitchen cabinets in their garage. The book is filled with creative ideas as well as informative sidebars, floor plans, vintage photos and a list of nearly 200 resources.