Happy Holidays from our ranch to yours…

midcentury-holidayMuch like the summer and the fall this year, the holiday season seems to be going at warp speed. Even with a packed schedule, I still managed to get some decorations up, because what would the holidays be without a shiny silver tree decked out with lights and colorful ornaments, and a whole village of midcentury houses?

vintage-christmas-tree midcentury-christmas-houses retro-ornament-wreathI was excited to get out the vintage ornament wreath that I made last year…

brasilia-decorated-for-christmasI also found time to get some garland, lights and knick knacks up on the Brasillia buffet…

midcentury-santa-sleighThe vintage sleigh and Santa were my Nana’s…

vintage-reindeerAnd this silly vintage reindeer and the plastic starburst ornaments were my Grandma’s…

midcentury-christmas midcentury-houses-on-mantelNow that I’ve designed a total of 9 midcentury Christmas houses for Retro Renovation, real estate on the mantel is at a premium…

retro-mantel-display midcentury-houses-miniature putz-house-retro holidaycardphoto2014Since Leo detests wearing the Santa hat, we offered him the option of a Hawaiian shirt and lei instead this year — a deal that he surprisingly decided to take. I guess he really doesn’t like wearing hats! He’s getting to be a pro at posing for the Christmas card photo — we got this shot in a mere three takes. Amazing!

From our ranch to yours, Happy Holidays — and a Tiki-Tastic New Year!



kateleofallThey say the older you get, the faster time flies — and I’m pretty sure they are right. In fact, I meant to share this photo several weeks ago, you know, when there were still colorful leaves on the trees outside? Where did the summer go? Where did the fall go? Where did this year go?

I’ve been a little lax about posting on this blog regularly, and as I’ve mentioned before blogging full time on Retro Renovation for my job makes posting on this blog feel a little more like work than it used to when I was a full time graphic designer. Now, on evenings and weekends, you’ll find me working on the house or other projects, and doing graphic design on the side. Oh how the tables have turned!

I still do miss sharing what’s going on around here with everyone, so now that the cooler weather and sun setting at 5pm has forced me back inside for the foreseeable future, I’ll see what I can do to post on here more than once every 6 weeks.

Besides sharing about the fence debacle, my garden path, painting the iron porch post and the 4th annual Christmas in July festivities, here’s four more things that I accomplished around the ranch this summer:

1. Cleaned up, painted and enjoyed my vintage Homecrest patio set

Homecrest-Casino-ChairRemember those vintage Homecrest patio chairs and folding table I scored back in February?

homecrest-casino-chairs painted-vintage-patio-furnitureI spent the better part of a Saturday in June wire brushing, cleaning and spray painting the set within an inch of its life. The chairs look brand new and the table cleaned up pretty well too.

homecrest-patio-chairsThe round table fits much better on our screened tiki lounge porch than our square table did, and we enjoyed eating many a summer meal and just relaxing on this comfortable patio set all summer long!

2. Found and purchased a vintage Homecrest siesta lounger

homecrest-lounge-chair-vintage-adIn fact, I became a little obsessed with finding a vintage Homecrest lounge chair to match this set. Luckily, just as the weather was beginning to turn, I found one locally on Craigslist…

homecrest-lounge-chair-vintage… and snagged it for myself! This guy also needs a good cleaning and new coat of paint too, just like the patio set, so be prepared for pictures of me spray painting it next spring.

homecrest-lounge-chairIt’s comfy without a cushion, but it would be really comfy with one. I think replacement cushions for this model can still be ordered through Homecrest — so investigating that option is on my list of winter to-dos.

3. Found, painted and used these wall-mounted bullet planters

wall-planters-mid-centuryI also scored these wall hanging bullet style planters on Ebay back in May and now that they have a fresh coat of colorful paint, I absolutely love them.

planters-beforeHere’s what they looked like when I bought them. I know, I know — a few people will wonder why the heck I painted over these butterflies…

splat-bugTruthfully, I did it because every time I looked closely at the butterflies, all I could think of was the word SPLAT! Plus, I like my planters to be bold and colorful. The aged, off-white planters with brown, terrified looking butterflies just wasn’t doing it for me.

vintage-plantersAfter a quick coat of spray paint, they were looking much more cheerful and ready to hang on the front of the house.

midcentury-wall-planters midcentury-plantersI planted some lime green sweet potato vines in them, and by the end of the summer, with just occasional watering they were still doing really well. I like how the vines draped down the side of the house and add even more color to the front entry.


4. Painted the Bilco doorbilco-door-beofre One other less exciting but a necessary task I accomplished was painting the Bilco door.

bilco-door-needs-paintMy original Bilco basement door had been covered with dirt for years…that was up until I cleaned up this area and added the rocks. With years of ground-to-metal contact, the paint job on the door was losing the battle to rust.

bilco-doorI removed the chipping paint, cleaned up the door and applied a coat of Rustoleum Rust Reformer, then primed the door with an oil based primer (recommended for this sort of application) and top coated it with some leftover trim paint I found in the basement.

vintage-bilco-doorOf course I realized that I didn’t take any after photos once the job was complete. Drat. So I ran outside to take some before the sun set but the doors were splattered with wet leaves from cleaning the gutters. Ugg. So a quick wipe down was in order before the doors were ready for their close up.

bilco-door-repaintedYes, the water was still drying when I took these pictures, but I was losing light fast, oh well. As you can see, it is a much needed improvement over how the door looked before. Hopefully I won’t have to repaint the Bilco door again for at least 5+ years. It was actually quite the job and took a full two days to complete — I had to do the inside of the door too!

So there’s a good start to catch you up on what’s been happening over here all summer. Of course, there’s more to talk about — stay tuned!


integrated-gutters-retro-ranchIf you haven’t noticed already — and many of you have — the gutters on my 1962 Retro Ranch house are not the style typically found on most homes. From what I can tell, my gutters are called integrated gutters, integral gutters or box gutters — a style which was supposedly popular in the 1960s.

gutter-strapThe last of the leaves have fallen in my yard, and there’s a terribly chilly weather front heading my way, so I decided to go up on the roof over the past weekend and get the gutters cleaned out. They needed it pretty badly, too! I try to get up on the roof at least once in the spring and once in the fall to make sure the gutters are clear. It never ceases to freak out my neighbors when they see me walking on the roof. Tee hee. (Don’t worry Mom, Jim was on the ground keeping an eye on me with phone in hand just in case of emergency!)

1960s-integral-guttersAs you can see, my integrated gutters are made of some sort of galvanized (I think) metal, made into a large box, hooked directly to the side of the roofline, and reinforced with metal straps that are spaced at about every 18 inches or so. From what I’ve read about my style of gutters, because the shingles overlap the gutter edges, if I wanted to replace them they would have to be done at the same time as the roof. Since our roof is fairly new (I’m guessing about 6-7 years old) and I really love the look of these integrated gutters, I have no plans to switch them out for new, vinyl traditional style gutters. These gutters are quite large and carry a lot of water off our roof quickly during rainstorms, which is probably also why our downspouts are also larger than average at 3″ x 4″.

integral-guttersFrom the ground, it is hard to tell that the house even has gutters — which is part of the integral gutter appeal — sleek and streamlined!

profile-of-integral-gutters integral-gutters-ranch-housegutter-rust

Of course, there is a downside to these gutters that will have to be dealt with sooner or later. They are starting to rust. Yes, at 52 years old, these gutters are still structurally sound, but in the next year or two, I’ll have to do something about the rust that is creeping in. In all likelihood, that means I’ll have to clean them thoroughly and then paint the entire insides of all of the gutters all the way around the house, which is going to be a job. I still need to do more research into this matter — including what sort of paint or coating to apply.

For the past four years, I’ve been spending most of my summer working on regaining control over the yard, but with the gutter rust situation, a new fence to stain/seal and my screen porch posts and screens in need of a fresh coat of paint, I can see the summer of 2015 being one that is spent with a brush in hand.

Wanna see more of my gutters? Check out this post from the last time I took my camera up on the roof.



midcentury-front-porchGiving the decorative iron porch support on my front porch a spruce up has been on my list of Retro Ranch Revamp Resolutions for a few years now. It is one of those jobs that really doesn’t take a whole lot of time to complete, and somehow it never ends up being a priority during months when it is warm enough to spray paint. This week, we had a cold snap. The high temperature on Tuesday was 78. The high temperature on Wednesday was 48 — thus the reason my houseplants are no longer soaking up the summer sun on my front porch. With this sudden reminder that fall was on its way, I realized I had let yet another entire summer go by without even thinking about painting the ironwork — again. So, I dashed out to get supplies and got to work.

porch-column-midcenturyThe iron porch support had been painted black, but the black paint had weathered and peeled away over the years, showing little bits of light tan that may have been the post’s original color. Instead of painting the porch post black again, I decided that painting it the same color that I painted the storm door might help it stand out a little more as a decorative element, and help it look like a part of the house — perhaps as originally intended — instead of an afterthought. I think my plan worked, don’t you?


Above: Before painting.


Above: After painting.

decorative-midcentury-porch-columnBefore painting it a lighter color, it was hard to see the porch post at all from the street. Now, it is much easier to make out the design. Painting the porch support a lighter color also draws more attention to the front entry and makes the jog in the roofline make more ‘sense.’

painted-iron-porch-postThere’s three and a half more months left in 2014 and I’ve now accomplished four out of seven of my Retro Ranch Revamp Resolutions for the year. We’ll see how many more can be accomplished — or at least started, but one thing is for sure. I won’t be adding “paint the iron porch support” to my list of 2015 resolutions.



While I was showing off my new stepping stone path to the garden, a few of you noticed my brand new, 6ft wood privacy fence. It took nearly nine months from the initial date I submitted the permit for my fence to be approved and completed, but by golly — it happened. Ready to hear the story of our new fence? Warning: it is epic!

If you recall back to last November, I had grown frustrated with my immediate neighbor’s removal of all of the foliage that used to create a nice private yard along the 40 foot span of chain link fence on one side of our lot. Replacing all of that leafy green with a random canoe, only added insult to injury.

Of course my neighbors were only trying to tidy up their yard, not to be malicious in any way — and I think that after they had removed all the greenery, they even felt a bit more exposed than normal. I tried to remedy the situation by planting a row of evergreen shrubs, but they did little to block the view, and after last years super cold, harsh Wisconsin winter, several of them are now looking a little worse for the wear.

After spending an entire summer feeling exposed, I wanted to make sure I regained my missing privacy before the coming summer. Unfortunately when I applied for the permit to replace my 4ft chain link fence with a 6ft wood fence, I received an email from the zoning guy with some neighborhood bylaws from 1954 stating that 6ft wood privacy fences were illegal unless I received permission from 60% of the neighbors in the subdivision — which is by my count — 140 homes. Yikes.

Not wanting to go door to door asking for signatures just to replace a 40ft span of fence and also not wanting to mail 140 letters with return paid postcards for their responses, I tried to devise a strategy to persuade the city that they should allow me to construct the fence on just this one side of my property.

I went back to those typewritten neighborhood bylaws from 1954 and read through every word carefully — and that’s when I found my potential loop hole.

fencesThe above reads:

8. FENCES. No fence shall be erected on any one of said lots which said  fence shall be higher than four (4) feet from the graded surface of the ground on which each fence is situated. In no event shall any fence or wall be erected closer than thirty (30) feet to any street line nor beyond the front line of any dwelling. No fences constructed of wire or metal shall be erected on any lot.

yard-beforeBingo. Since we currently had a chain link fence that ran all the way around our property — which could be described as a wire or metal fence therefore an ‘illegal fence’ by these bylaws — then the previous owners who put up the fence must have gotten permission to do so, right? And assuming that they did get permission for an ‘illegal fence’ on this property from the neighborhood, shouldn’t I be able to swap one type of illegal fence for another one, assuming that the neighbors that are on the other side of it don’t have any issues with the change? The argument was worth a shot, so I wrote a letter to the city explaining my reasoning for wanting the fence, my thought process about making the swap and the hopes that I wouldn’t have to collect signatures on a matter that had already been decided 20 years ago.

I mailed the letter, along with signed permission from my neighbors and waited. And waited. And waited.

Then I emailed the letter directly to the zoning guy at the city that made these decisions and called his office to make sure he got the letter and email. Turns out, the office had received both the letter and email, but the zoning guy was out on an extended vacation and wouldn’t be back in the office for three weeks. It was now December, so I wasn’t too worried about not hearing back for this length of time, since it would be months before a fence could be installed.

The winter went on and still I heard nothing. Mid February I tried contacting the city zoning office again. It turns out that Mr. zoning guy had gone on yet another leave for several weeks — I was told because of a death in the family. So I waited and waited some more.

Finally in March, a response! I received a phone call from the zoning guy asking about my letter. We discussed the situation at length and he agreed that if the fence was indeed mine, and it had been correctly applied for, that I could replace the section in question with a 6ft wood privacy fence, pending approval from my immediate neighbors on both sides. He just had to check the city’s files and would get back to me in a week or so. “Great!” I thought.

When I didn’t hear back after a week, I called again. Turns out he was deep in the records in the basement and had verified that the section of fence in question was ours, but had not yet finished going through the minutes from the now-disbanded neighborhood council meeting from 1994 when the fence was installed.

Another week passed and still no word. I called the office again and drat — he had left once more for a two week out of office stint. By now it was almost April and I desperately wanted the fence permit in hand so I could call the fence company I got the quote from and tell them to schedule my job. But still nothing. Finally my calls and emails were returned. Mr. zoning guy said he mailed my fence permit — the one he said he would send to my residence — to the fence company directly several weeks ago. WHAT?

fence-work-begunNext it was time to call the fence company guy, verify they received the permit and get them to come ASAP and put up my fence. Yes — they did get my permit — but they had been so busy with jobs that they hadn’t followed up with me yet. Great. Did I miss my window to get in their spring work schedule? Mr. Fence guy said he could squeeze our fence into his schedule in early June — but that was precisely when Jim and I were supposed to be out of town at The Hukilau tiki festival in Florida. There was no way I was going to have this fence going up while I wasn’t home. What if they had questions, ran into problems, or our dog sitters forgot the fence line was under construction and Leo got out? So Mr. Fence guy promised that he would start immediately after we returned from our vacation, definitely finishing the fence before our annual Christmas in July celebration.

The day after we returned from Florida, I started calling Mr. Fence. Was he coming Friday? Monday? I left message after message and received no response. Ack! Then after the 15th call, Mr. Fence answered. He was so backed up with projects that had been delayed by the rainier than normal spring, and was running behind. I reminded him that he promised to have my fence done before July 1st and he promised to come ASAP to get the project started.

dont-let-out-dogMr. Fence and team showed up on the following Wednesday to start the job. I reminded him that I needed the fence line to be down for a minimal amount of time since I have a dog that is used to having run of the yard and has issues pooping on a leash. (Yes, yes he does.) Mr. Fence took down the section of old chain link, dug new fence post holes and set the new posts in concrete. Things were progressing quickly for once! Horray!

Then what he said as he was cleaning up for the day hit me like a ton of bricks: the truck with his supply of lumber for all of his fence projects wouldn’t arrive until Friday, and he might be able to return the following Monday to finish the fence. I wasn’t thrilled with having to take Leo out on a leash in his own back yard for at least 6 days, but if he could get it done on Monday, the sacrifice would be worth the newly gained privacy, right?

Monday came and went and still no Mr. Fence. He finally returned my calls, explaining that the lumber truck was still not there and so he had no lumber to finish my fence. Don’t they make and sell lumber somewhere locally? Not like this good quality lumber, Mr. Fence assured me. The week came and went and still no word from Mr. Fence. With my family coming in a mere day and a constipated dog who had not had a regular pooping schedule for nearly two weeks, I finally got word that the lumber had arrived an my fence would be finished — just in time before the 4th of July festivities. Phew!

modern-fenceAfter nearly nine long months of waiting, phone calls, aggravation, and persistence, our fence was finally installed and finished!

cedar-fenceThe fence is made of cedar and can be allowed to weather to a silvery grey, or stained or sealed in any desired color. For now, we are leaving it to weather a bit before we make any decisions.

I had Mr. Fence build me a horizontal style fence because I feel that it goes better with the long, low look of our 1962 ranch home. We’ve gotten many compliments from neighbors, friends and family on the decision to make a horizontal fence instead of a traditional vertical style.

willow-reed-fencing2fence-completewillow-reed-fence-over-chain-link willow-reed-fence-privacy willow-reed-fencingSince I’m not a fan of the look of chain link, I found this willow reed at Menards to attach to the chain link in the two spots where it is visible from the street. Again, neighbors have been loving this inexpensive addition. The willow reed doesn’t offer much privacy, but just a little bit was all we needed in these spots.

reliefOf course the best part was the privacy we’ve enjoyed for the bulk of the summer. It is much easier to relax when you don’t feel as if you are being watched. Leo could care less about the fence, but he is glad to have free run of the yard again — because pooping on a leash is just not becoming of a regal dog like himself.

yard-progressThe fence saga was a long one, but in the end we are so glad we went to the trouble. There’s just nothing else like your own, private back yard oasis in the summer.