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1950s Ranch Turned Exotic

Submit an Entry: Post-War (WWII) Houses

By mark a reed

1950s Ranch Turned Exotic

Culturally Diverse Split-level Range. Click the photo for a larger view.

1950s Ranch Turned Exotic

An interior adventure story. Click the photo for a larger view.

About My Post-War House

Along a stretch of America’s first transcontinental highway, Lincoln Highway (US 30) in Illinois, a few miles west of the Indiana border, my 1950s split-level ranch, located at the main entrance of the village, welcomes visitors to Park Forest.

The village from its inception was a planned community for returning WW II veterans. There are many ranch models like mine found throughout the West-Lincolnwood subdivision, although unlike mine they have retained their original exterior décor. The model of my home has the front entrance opening to a foyer with an open living room to the left and the steps to the right.

Fun Features

First I would like to applaud the memory of the innovative architects for their split-level design concepts that maximize space; including a floor plan that flows very functionally and the creation of an interior space that gives the perception of a much larger house.

Having raised nine children over the past 30 years in this house, possibly the most favorable concept was having three bathrooms. The lower level guest bathroom w/shower is conveniently located next to the guest bedroom.

Open to the Light
The bedroom has two large windows which floods the room with light, dispelling the "in a basement" feel.

The spacious living room has two 40 gallon fish tanks; sofa; two wicker chairs and love seat and a large volcanic bolder representing a Japanese rock garden in the center. The abundance of large windows incorporated into the house design floods light into the rooms in the lower level, keeping those areas from feeling like a basement.

A short time after moving in the house, I installed a skylight in the living room to bring sunlight after mid-day into the back of the living room/foyer area near the downstairs. I didn’t realize at the time how much of a difference the skylight would make in illuminating the space with natural light even late into the evening.

Family-friendly Floor Plan
I appreciate the look of the formal dining room although it is a bit small for the family. A large arch opening was cut into the wall that divides the dining room/breakfast nook. This accommodates a partial visual connection at family gatherings between those in the living room/dining room and breakfast nook. A shelf for individuals sitting at the breakfast nook arch also doubles as an extra serving counter.

As the boys, especially, got older, it was not uncommon for them to jump from the top of the stairs to the foyer landing, when they thought there were no listening ears. The family room over the years was intentionally left a little sparse of furnishings to allow the children to engage in activities normally relegated for outside during inclement weather.

A large patio door was added to the entrance of the family room, allowing a quick look see without having to enter the room and serve as a noise barrier to minimize the noise reaching upstairs. It also became the primary place for the Christmas gatherings for sharing of gifts with our extended families.

Adding an International Flair
Finally, my abode, dressed incognito as a Chinese House, unique compared to the typical cookie cutter and commonly considered boring ranch, has been outfitted in full Peking regalia from the golden roof down to the Oriental landscaping. It has been a joy both living here, raising a family and at the same time making a transformation memory in these United States

From my youth, I envisioned cultural diversity in whatever residential abode I would live in, therefore I moved in with an eccentric bent. Due in part to that bent, the children didn’t experience the many social negatives typically brought to bear on individuals from large families because they had the unique identification of living in the Chinese House on the corner. After the initial shock of discovering the exterior decor was not done by or for Asians, the conversations generally went to why, what for and what does the inside look like? The children were able to share a one-of-a-kind interior adventure story of international themed spaces from around the world that possibly circumvented needless hurt.

To experience the transformation of both the split-level ranch and the joy of the children appreciating growing up in one of the most recognized homes in the Chicago Southland area is priceless.

Lessons Learned

  • Add a skylight near the back of the living room.
  • If the thermostat is on the main floor, consider relocating it upstairs to keep it from turning on in the winter, each time the entrance door opens.
  • Be mindful of looking for a house located in an excellent school district if you have young children.
  • A ranch will be more appreciated as you get older
  • Living on the corner brings weeds to your yard again next year
  • There are extra expectations on a high visibility home that brings with it greater demands, accept the challenge
  • Evergreens in the landscape evoke beauty year round
  • For future homeowners, when it is well planned and executed, even an eccentric house can be transformed into a work of art.
  • Ask About.com for help to transform your cookie cutter abode into something unique

Jackie Craven, About.com Architecture, says:

To learn more about this house, see:

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