mid-century-modest-ranch-houseMy entire family seems to have a love affair with ranch style homes. I grew up in one, both sets of grandparents owned them and even my Mom and Dad’s first home was a ranch house. They bought the house in 1977, shortly after they were married. In fact — Mom and Dad’s ranch house was built in 1962 and was in the greater Milwaukee area just like ours (though it is on a different side of town). 

mid-century-ranchWhen Mom and Dad bought the house, it had white painted siding with blue shutters that Mom said might have originally been painted pink.

mom-on-porchThere’s Mom — the proud homeowner — on the front steps.

rough-floor-planIt is likely that you never forget your first home — and Mom remembered this one vividly. She even drew a quick sketch of the floor plan to enclose with the photos. Thanks Mom!

retro-living-roomHere’s the living room. The sofa was a wedding present from Dad’s parents. Mom and Dad kept it until I was in college before getting a new sofa. It was a sofa sleeper and very heavy to move. 

70s-living-room-plantsHere’s the other side of the living room. Mom said the chair was a second wedding anniversary present to one another. This chair was in our living room growing up too. When I bought my first home in Milwaukee, Mom and Dad brought it out for me to use. As my vintage furniture hoard grew and space became limited, I sent the chair out to live at my little brother’s house in Michigan where it still is today.

retro-fireplace-70sMom said that Grandpa (Dad’s dad, who was a mason by trade) replaced the fireplace bricks on this fireplace. They used to be the yellow brick that is on the front of the house, but apparently Mom and Dad were not too keen on that style of brick.

dad-removing-wallpaperHere’s Dad in his Engineer hat and jeans taking down the wallpaper in the kitchen and painting the ceiling white. Don’t you just love that light fixture?

retro-kitchenThis photo is captioned “After refinishing oak cabinets — notice the knobs — painting ceiling, walls, new floor, brick fireplace, paneling, removing wallpaper.” Looks like after all of that remodeling work, Mom and Dad had some friends over for a well-deserved party.

70s-dining-roomThis is the dining room. If you look carefully, you might see something familiar that is now hanging in my bedroom.

70s-dining-room-with-friendsHere’s the dining room again, this time filled with more light and people. The chandelier is awesome. Mom and Dad liked this fixture so much that when they moved to Pennsylvania to build the ranch house that I grew up in, they found a similar light for the dining room in that house, which now hangs over my dining room table at the retro ranch.

70s-bedroomretro-bedroomHere’s the guest room with the characteristic ranch corner bedroom windows…

70s-bedroom-decorAnd here’s Mom and Dad’s 1970s bedroom with groovy flowered bedspread.

retro-yellow-bathroomThose who read might have seen this photo of Mom’s bathroom in the story about where to find machine washable, cut-to-fit bathroom carpet. Whether or not you like the idea of carpet in a bathroom, you’ll have to agree that Mom’s yellow bathroom was a sunny, happy space.

retro-wood-panelingHere’s Dad relaxing in his chair in the groovy wood paneled family room. Note: Mom and Dad put in the paneling themselves.

dad-with-christmas-treeMom even included a shot of Dad posing with the Christmas tree. Those French doors behind the tree lead out to the back patio.

back-patioHere’s the other side of the French doors.

retro-fenced-yardLooks like Mom and Dad’s ranch had quite a large, fenced-in back yard. The swing set must have been left over from the first owners of the house. I wonder what that A-frame structure next to the fence was used for — a shed?

retro-ranch-exteriorThe following year, Mom and Dad decided that having one garage in a snowy climate like Milwaukee, Wisconsin was not a good idea, so Dad put a garage addition on to the house. They also painted the house “sand” to help minimize the yellow Marion brick that they were not fond of and added a dark chocolate color to the shutters. Very 1970s color palette, don’t you think?

retro-ranch-houseHere’s the back patio after the garage addition. I’m betting this made the patio more protected from the winter winds, since Dad has been known to BBQ even on the coldest days of the year.

So there you have it — a tour of Mom and Dad’s first retro ranch. Mega thanks to Mom for taking so many photos back in 1977 (in the days before blogging) and for sharing them with us.


painting-on-easelBesides spending this long winter plotting my list of home improvement projects for 2014, I’ve also had a chance to get some painting done on canvas. One of my favorite subjects to paint are portraits of pets. I’ve painted my dog Leo, my parent’s cat Gasket and now my friend’s pug Kedzie.

kedzie-the-pugKedzie was a pug that my good friend and lover of pugs rescued.  When she first took him in as a foster dog through the local Pug Rescue group, he looked pretty rough. He had double ear and eye infections, a matted coat, super long nails that curled under and several other ailments that needed immediate treatment. She spent countless hours working to fix Kedzie up, get his health back and make his coat shiny once more. In return, Kedzie gave her unconditional love and soldiered through every step of his recovery without complaint. The picture above is the photo she sent me after she’d had him for several months. She was so happy that he was starting to look healthy and happy. Because of his tough breaks in life, Kedzie had very little eyesight left in one eye and was totally blind in the other. He was also deaf and needed special eye drops and medication every day. My friend knew that a dog like Kedzie with special needs was not going to be an easy one to rehome and she had grown quite attached to him after months spent rehabilitating him. In the end, she decided to keep him and opened up her home to be Kedzie’s forever home, where he lived happily alongside my friend’s other pug for several years. Tragically, at the end of this summer Kedzie suddenly got very sick with a bad infection and there wasn’t anything they could do to save him. My friend was devastated.

pug-paintingTo honor Kedzie’s memory, I decided to paint his portrait as a surprise to give to my friend for Christmas. While I didn’t quite get the portrait done in time for the holiday, I was finally able to present her with the portrait a few weeks ago. Instantly, it brought her to tears and she told me it would be the one thing she would run into a burning building to retrieve, which made me relieved and happy. I never know how someone will react to receiving painting as a surprise, since art is such a subjective thing.

pug-painting-close-upSomething tells me Kedzie is up there somewhere, wagging his tail too.



retro-green-and-white-bathroomOne of my Retro Ranch Revamp Resolutions for 2014 is to complete at least Phase 1 of my minty green hall bathroom partial remodel — but I never really explained what the phases were or why there are two. At first glance, it might be hard to understand why this bathroom needs any work at all, but when you take a closer look, it becomes more apparent.

bath-ceiling-beforePhase 1 had actually already begun, even before I made my resolution to finish it. (Is that cheating?) This bathroom had some major issues involving heat and moisture, and since those are kind of big problems, I decided to address those with professionals while they were already working on my retro pink master bathroom. Actually, I’ve been working on Phase 1 for quite a while now — ever since we moved in. Here’s what I want to accomplish during the Phase 1 remodel tallying what I’ve already accomplished:

bath-ceiling-before2So as you can see, the ceiling drywall was patched around the new fan — a task I accomplished quickly after the fan was installed because it is very creepy showering with a dark hole into the attic hanging over your head. This weekend the “get that finished already” bug bit me and I got out the primer and paint.

bath-ceiling-afterIt wasn’t long before I had the ceiling looking fresh and fabulous — heck it is a small bathroom with a low ceiling — the whole job took me about an hour (not counting drying time).

hey-I-matchI had to laugh because while I was taking after photos, I noticed my painting outfit coordinated with the bathroom. Not planned at all.

shower-wall-needs-helpWith the priming and painting of the ceiling complete, all of Phase1 that is left to complete is regrouting the tile in the tub area. I am not looking forward to this tedious job, mostly because I am still seeing squares from all the tile installing and grouting in my pink bathroom.

mildew-stained-groutAs much as I don’t want to do this part of the job, it is badly needed. Some of the grout has mildewed all the way through and is no longer cleanable. Yuck.

missing-groutIn other spots, the grout is missing completely. Every time I try to clean the shower, more seems to fall out. This is especially bad because of the possibility for moisture damage to the wall behind the shower tiles. On the plus side, now that our pink bathroom is complete, this bathroom only sees shower action when we have visitors, which is not more than three days a month on average. Still, for peace of mind (and much easier cleaning) I need to get going on the grout replacement project in the near future.

brown-groutFor Phase 2, more tile is involved. The 4.25″ square tiles on the floor have seen better days — and so has the grout. At some point, when the last owners replaced the toilet, they must have regrouted around it using leftover brown grout from the laundry room. When I tried to clean the grout on the bathroom floor, the area around the toilet stayed brown. Yuck.

damaged-floorOver by the doorway, and in a few other spots around the room, the tile is cracked, chipped or scratched from years of service. Phase 2 will include installing a new bathroom floor.

peeling-vanityWhile the vanity is extremely useful (lots of drawers!) and I generally like it, the moisture issues from years of the fan not working properly have taken its toll on the laminate. 

peeling-laminateSeveral different areas of the vanity have peeling or discolored laminate. Phase 2 involves me building yet another bathroom vanity.

bathroom-sinkWhen I was using this bathroom daily (while our master bathroom was under construction) I realized how much I disliked the high arch bathroom sink. Multiple times I hit my forehead on the faucet while attempting to wash my construction-weary face. Since I’ve never had that problem before with lower arch models, this faucet has to go.

peeling-countertopI’m also not a huge fan of the 80s laminate countertop — especially since it is peeling. Phase 2 will include a new low arc bath faucet and different countertop.

bathroom-cabinetsThe last part of Phase 2 that I am still considering is whether or not to do anything about the cabinets over the toilet area. They provide some great storage space, but since the vanity already has so many drawers, these cabinets are currently empty. I have considered changing them to sliding doors (I’ve hit my head on a door left open a few times and it hurts) or even removing them to add another towel bar higher up (and away from the toilet). With that said, this would be the last part of Phase 2 to be considered or tackled.

window-treatment-holesWhile I had the paint, putty and primer out this weekend, I also crossed off some patch work that has been on my to do list since I installed new window treatments in both our bedroom and the office several years ago. There were some pretty giant holes left over from the old vertical blinds that needed to be cleaned up in both rooms. The hardest part about this task was letting putty dry, then primer dry, then paint dry…but after a few hours of back and forth and a lot of brush cleaning, I can cross this item off my to do list — finally.

repaired-wallsNot a super exciting transformation, but still — finally it is done! I still have to patch the wood trim, stain the new quarter round and seal it as well (which has been on the to do list since we got new windows a few years ago) but that is a summer/windows open kind of task. Hopefully I won’t procrastinate past spring on this task, which needs to be completed in all three bedrooms.

So there you have it — an explanation of Phase 1 and 2 of the bathroom partial remodel and another task crossed off my long to-do list.


laundry-room-before-paintThe laundry room is just off our kitchen is a tiny room packed to the max. I wouldn’t say it was the most functional space — only because it is tight in there — but it houses our washer and dryer, a laundry sink, several cabinets, a toilet and a shower. While it is nice to have a third full bath in the house, with just my husband and I living here, we use the small shower as a closet to hold cleaning supplies instead of an actual shower. In fact, I think I’ve only turned it on once in the whole three and a half years we’ve been here.

This poor laundry room bathroom was the most neglected room in the house — I hadn’t paid it any attention past stuffing a new washer and dryer in there — since the house didn’t come with a set. The floor is obviously not original. I’m guessing the previous owners replaced it because it was in bad shape, because most everything in our house is original, except for the kitchen appliances, a few light fixtures, the wood floor in our living room, bedroom carpet and this laundry room floor. I think the last owners really only replaced something when it was worn out, which works fine for people like me who enjoy the retro charm of a 1962 ranch.

Laundry-room-paintedBeing the workhorse room that it is, the laundry room bath didn’t get much TLC over the years. In fact, the wall paint was original. I’m sure of this because the walls and ceiling were so dirty and there was no evidence that the room had ever been painted any other color. Not a drip or speck of any other paint anywhere. Since the wall tile is a peachy color with brown salt & pepper flecks, I had a few different options for the wall color. I could paint the walls an orangey shade — but since the wood work and cabinets are very orange, I felt that would simply be too much. I could also have repainted the room the same off-white it was before, just a fresh coat — but that didn’t seem very exciting.

I opted for my third choice — painting the room a complementary color to the tile. The complementary color of peachy yellow tile is purpley blue. How do I know that? Well the complementary color of orange (light orange is peach) is blue and the complementary color of yellow is purple. Mix those together and you get a bluish purple. Ta-da! Since there isn’t a lot of light in the room, I opted for a light purpley blue — Sherwin Williams Mild Blue.

laundry-room-bathroomI painted both the walls and ceiling Mild Blue, which really seems to make the peachy tiles pop and look less beige. I’m usually not a fan of purple or blue walls, but this time I like it — and heck — it took me about 2 hours to paint the limited wall space in this tiny room. If I get sick of this color down the road, it won’t take much time or paint to make a change.

butterfly-printNext, I hung up a few pieces of art to make the room feel even more cheery. I made this butterfly woodblock print in art school. It used to be in the kitchen, but it fit well in the laundry room and helps add more color to the space.

room-paintedThis framed saying started out on the opposite wall (if you noticed in the third picture in this post), but in the end it fit better next to the door.

old-sayingThe saying was a favorite of my Nana’s. She had a copy of this hanging in her yellow kitchen for years. I like the message, which inspires me to finish the laundry when it seems hopeless.

bathroom-retroThe last piece of art in the room is quite funny, or as my mother-in-law would say, “A little risqué.”

elephant-illustrationIt is a watercolor/pen and ink drawing I did in art school for my illustration class senior year. I rediscovered it when pawing through some of my old portfolio pieces after the holidays, and it made me laugh. If you are wondering about the subject matter of the drawing, it was one of those assignments where the professor gives you a random paragraph that you have to do your best to illustrate. During my last trip to Ikea, I picked up an inexpensive frame so I could hang this drawing up, right over the toilet.

elephantIf nothing else, it is a reminder to “Please wash your feet.” errr….hands.

While the laundry room spiff-up is not the most exciting transformation, a new coat of paint and some playful wall art make the space feel cleaner, loved and more a part of the rest of our house.


Homecrest-Casino-ChairBiting cold, blowing snow and negative wind chills didn’t discourage me from picking up a new to me vintage Homecrest patio set. Yes, I’m buying patio furniture in February, why not? I’ve been searching for a vintage patio table and chairs for quite a while now – and as luck would have it — one surfaced in the dead of winter. With some careful stacking, I even got it all in the back of my car in one trip!

vintage-homecrest-casino-chairThe set is made up of four vintage Homecrest Casino Chairs — which I was able to identify thanks to the neat-o vintage catalog archive found on the Homecrest Patio Furniture web site. The Casino chair can be found in both the 1963-1964 and 1966 catalogs.

The Casino Chair catalog description reads:

The Casino Chair for poolside or patio combines rugged construction with smart, contemporary styling. Lacy, diamond-mesh expanded metal seat and back are cool and comfortable. You will also enjoy its convenient size. Like all Homecrest furniture, the Casino Chair is made of welded steel, bonderized, primed and finished with baked-on enamel.

I bet the “diamond-mesh” lets the cool, refreshing summer breezes pass right though — which is a wonderful thought since right now the “cool breezes” are the equivalent of a -25+ wind chill. Talk of breezes aside, these chairs are super comfy. The curve of the chair seat and back make the chair feel comfortable — no need for cushions or pillows.

vintage-homecrest-fold-away-tableI identified the table that came with my set as the “Adjustable Table.” Since the chairs and table were purchased from the original owner’s estate, I’m guessing that the original owner bought the set in 1966 — since that is the only year where the Casino Chair and Adjustable Table appear together.

The catalog has this to say about the Adjustable Table:

This practical new table with folding legs may be adjusted to 27″ height for cards or luncheon, or to 20″ height for chips and dips. Tubular legs fold flat for easy storage. Round diamond mesh top is 42″ diameter and accommodates an umbrella.

I haven’t yet tried to adjust the table to the two different heights, but it does fold up nicely in the corner of the garage until warmer weather returns. We’ll likely use this table at its dining height in our Tiki Lounge porch most of the time, but it is nice to have two options.

rust-on-patio-furnitureThe set is in great structural shape — it just needs a good scrub, a coat of rust inhibiting primer and a new top coat of spray paint before it will be ready to go for many more years of faithful service. With a little restoration work, we’ll soon be comfortably sitting around this set enjoying “chips and dips,” much to the delight of my adorable and chip loving husband Jim and chow hound Leo.