Updated ranch homes are back in style

2009-08-15T23:00:00Z Updated ranch homes are back in styleBy LINDA ULRICH / For the Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

Amy Mosser grew up in a colonial two-story house, loved the Country Club colonial two-story she lived in after she married and thought she would always live in a two-story home.

For the past four years, she and her family have lived in a mid-century ranch house and, to her surprise, she has come to love it, too.

"I would never go back now," she said.

Mosser and her husband, Todd, bought their south Lincoln ranch from Todd's mother, Deborah Payton, who owned it for 12 years.

"We had so many happy memories of family get-togethers when she lived here that the children were glad to move here," Mosser said.

The multi-level ranch, built by Vern Jansky, was called the "Starfire" in the 1962 Parade of Homes.

"The Starfire is a distinguished home, which keynotes the needs for big family living. Its attractive exterior of Old English brick with color trim sets the tone for true hospitality within" reads the description in the Parade of Homes booklet.

The Mossers have found that description to be true. Glass doors from the solarium and from the kitchen/

dining area lead to the pool and the cabana, a popular hangout. Both the living room and dining room have fireplaces. There are five bedrooms - one is used as a study - four bath areas, a family room and a playroom.

There are still some reminders that this home was built in the 1960s, such as a popcorn ceiling in the solarium and a tile floor in the lower level playroom.

And then there's the sunken living room, which definitely is not as in vogue now as it was in the 1960s. It's a nicely decorated room, but the Mossers' children, Lauren, 10, and Charlie, 7, and their friends use it as a stage for performing, complete with microphone.

"It's kind of outdated, but it's one of our favorite features," Mosser said.

The Mossers have made many renovations to this "step up, step down" home. They took down walls, enlarged the kitchen, extended the cabinetry and added stainless steel appliances. A lot of the original dark woodwork is painted white. They also took down panels between the foyer and the living room and painted the brick surrounding the fireplace mantel the same shade as the walls.

Eventually, Mosser said, she'd like that popcorn ceiling to go away, but that's a minor point. The home fits one of her most important goals. "I want an open-door policy where people can come and go, and adults and children can be in different areas and yet not too far from each other. This house is perfect for that."

The Mossers are not the only ones developing an appreciation for mid-century ranches.

There's a "re-appreciation" for these homes built during the 1950s and 1960s, said Mark Hinchman, associate professor of interior design in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Architecture.

The interconnectedness of the rooms, the juxtaposition of materials such as wood, stone and brick on both the interior and exterior, the ease of one-level living and "a certain informality" are some of the best-loved characteristics of ranches. Also, because ranches are linear, those built on wide lots are adaptable to additions, he said.

Mid-century ranch houses are a hybrid of modern homes and traditional homes. Modern homes built by well-known architects of the 1950s and 1960s weren't easily accepted by much of the American population. Ranch houses, which have some traditional as well as modern elements, proved more popular, Hinchman said.

Many Lincoln mid-century ranches have low-pitched roofs and exteriors with a mixed use of brick and wider lap siding.

"Many homes in the 1950s had the famous 'Silverdale' limestone and either a single detached garage or a carport," said Jim Christo, who together with his wife, Vicki, owns Christo Design Build. They have remodeled many of these ranches.

Two of the largest builders of Lincoln mid-century ranches were Peterson Construction Co. and Strauss Brothers. Some of the other builders of that era still living in Lincoln include Jim Bartolome, Jim Hacker, Joe Hampton, Vern Jansky and Duane Larson, Christo said.

"Many times we can tell who built the home because of the particular subdivision. For instance, if we see a home built in that era with a very low-pitched, graveled roof, we know it's probably a Strauss-built home," he said. "Each builder had his own unique, signature style."

But styles and lifestyles change, and current owners of these ranches often want to renovate them.

"A kitchen remodel is the most popular and gets the biggest payback," Christo said. "Often, we will increase the size of the dining/kitchen area many times by removing division walls. Kitchens (in mid-century ranches) tend to be small and closed off from the rest of the home."

Many of these homes were built with three small bedrooms and one hall bath, although some had a half bath off the master bedroom.

"We have transformed two of the bedrooms into one larger master suite with a larger closet and bath or taken one bedroom and made a walk-in closet and larger bath for the master," Christo said.

If the lot setbacks allow, additions are really popular, especially if adding on to the kitchen/dining area or master suite, he added. "We also have done sunroom additions to extend off the dining area or to create an informal gathering space."

Other renovations include finishing the basement for a family or rec room with an additional bath, and new windows and exterior doors. Also, many of these homes were built with little or no wall or attic insulation, so adding insulation is common.

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