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Ranch Homes: Decorating the American Dream

Ranch homes are the new pink of real estate. The market for the one level family home, reminiscent of mid 1900s Americana, is growing at a rapid fire pace across the country, and Portland is chomping at the bit. Everyone from young singles to empty nesters are grabbing a piece of vintage American pie.

"Ranches can provide larger square footage, more amenities, and more livability than previous era's homes at a lower cost," says Bridgetown Real Estate Agent Alyssa Starelli. "People are realizing that you get more for your money with a ranch, modern, standard or otherwise, and you might still be able to afford to live 'close-in'."

Starelli helps locals find the ranch of their dreams, whether they dream in black and white or fuschia.

"A client of mine saw a posting I had of the perfect pink ranch," Starelli said. "Needless to say, she's a freak for the pink. She hadn't really been expecting to buy a house that month, not even that year, let alone that day. She walked in and saw an untouched kitchen, original vinyl flooring, original formica and tile, not to mention a full set of pink appliances. It was love at first sight, we wrote the offer right there on the kitchen counter! I'm still receiving estatic thank yous."

Rummer Ranch
Photo © Jim Brown/Atomic Ranch, Used With Permission

Starelli says ranches, unlike some newly constructed homes, are structurally sound and often ready to decorate upon move-in with minimal updates. "Standard Ranches are outfitted with provisions that last, for example, often the original furnace will run at as high efficiency as many furnaces of today. They're reliable workhorses, and what's more they're easily converted to green heat," she says. "Many windows are double or triple thermo-paned, and the houses are often highly insulated and attics are properly vented. The biggest issues would be sewers and roofs, flashing or caulking, and a good home inspection will point out any issues."

So now the dotted line is signed. That Brady Bunch fantasy, complete with built in pool and basement tiki bar, is finally a reality. Once keys are in hand, it's time to tackle the interior.

"Many new ranch homeowners fall prey to temptation and completely update the interiors," warns Michelle Gringeri-Brown, editor and co-creator of Atomic Ranch, a national quarterly magazine based in Portland. [The magazine features ranch homes across the country and the owners who love them. Each home has a different touch, whether it's a theme like last month's 40s Hollywood Western, or a unique use of space. It gives great decorating ideas from sleek to kisch, and suggestions on retailers from coast to coast.] Gringeri-Brown suggests maintaining original touches of a vintage ranch when remodeling.

Ranch Interior
Photo © Jim Brown/Atomic Ranch, Used With Permission

"They don't need to be stripped down and made into a McMansion," she says. Instead, she proposes selecting modern or contemporary furnishings for an updated look. The Eastmoreland red brick ranch she purchased with her husband Jim Brown, Atomic Ranch photographer and publisher, contains Danish modern furnishings purchased at local shops like Hawthorne Vintage.

Interior Designer Erin Marshall of Kismet Design agrees with Gringeri-Brown's less is more approach to ranch decor. "Hold on to the integrity of the era of the house," she says. "New should blend with old."

Though sturdy, they can be difficult to renovate due to some antiquated structural features, so be choosy with major changes. Updating the lighting, says Marshall, is remodel-worthy and can add warmth and ambience. The large floor plans may be a hinderance to some, but Marshall suggests embracing the open spaces. "It forces you to bring your furniture out to the middle of the room where it belongs," she says.

The key to satisfaction with a ranch remodel is "knowing thyself" says Marshall. She recommends defining your needs and lifestyle well before breaking out the sledge hammer. "How do you really live? Is low maintenance more important than beautiful finishes?" But before enjoying the finished product, have a little fun.

"Ranches engender a sense of humor," says Marshall. "Do fun things like using wallpaper," she says. "I love the idea of doing something unexpected."

Ranch Interior
Photo © Jim Brown/Atomic Ranch, Used With Permission

By Emma Juhlin for PDXinteriors.com

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