Atomic Ranch Style

in
May 21, 2012
The house is about bringing the outside in, furnishings face pretty views.

I’m always fascinated at the impressive array of architectural styles that populate the North American landscape. The combination of climate demands, indigenous building materials and imaginative solutions to housing whether there are budget constraints or the sky’s the limit have produced buildings that not only satisfy the need for shelter. The different styles tell a story of their place in time, they mirror the best (and worst) of an era, and the personalities of the homeowners. Wartime bungalows, working farmhouses, rural cottages, rambling ranchers, Colonials, Victorians, townhouses all have characteristics that set them apart and make them interesting, and endearing in their own right.

For the lovers of ranch style, I’ve discovered a book, published by Gibbs Smith, and through the book a magazine that celebrates these mid-century houses in all their glory. Author of Atomic Ranch: Midcentury Interiors Michelle Gringeri-Brown and photographer Jim Brown, launched the quarterly magazine Atomic Ranch in 2004 to call attention to the underappreciated ranch homes built all across postwar America. Their in-depth research and admiration for the style dazzle in their new book as they showcase stylish Ranchers decorated from vintage original to updated modern.
 
So what’s a “rancher?” Key elements are a long, low (often rambling) profile with minimal exterior decoration. Gringeri-Brown notes that they have limited curb appeal, but once you are inside, the story heats up. It’s simple, no-fuss architecture, open-plan, small kitchens and baths, bedrooms separated from living area. Large windows and sliding glass doors bring the outside in. Rooflines overhang to protect the interior from direct sun.
 
Shown here is a mid-century house built by real estate developer Joseph Eichler. Renowned for bringing modern style to subdivision or tract housing, his homes were post and beam construction which allows for huge expanses of glass and a wide open layout. The design is Spartan, with clean geometric lines. The living room is a challenge to set up with the off-centre fireplace and walls of glass. A focal wall of green
 
Venetian plaster, and a pair of red cotton rugs balances the strength of the brick fireplace wall and tile floor.
With walls of glass come big utility bills, a drawback to this modern design. Pinch pleat curtains or metal blinds do suit the style, and offer privacy, but not in this home. The bedroom floor is a slat-covered radiant heated slab, which helps.
 
Decorating solutions are described with tips from the homeowners for each of the eight ranchers in the book: minimize colours and materials in an open-plan style; repeat materials to build cohesion; research mid-century colours on the Internet to find the right palette; shop for vintage pieces that are appropriate to the style of the ranch (you can often mix in a few modern pieces); lighting makes a big impression — the lamps shown throughout the book are fantastic.
 
To heighten the book’s appeal even more, there’s a very complete resource section for those who are seeking anything mid-century, from furniture and lighting to art and architects. And if you don’t have a rancher, you can steal a few very cool decorating ideas that would work wherever you live.