Thursday, October 28, 2010

In Praise of Little Mid-Century Ranch Houses

The Joys of Remodeling....

While most of my business week involves travel, I love to return home for the weekend. It is my time to recuperate and recharge.

My zen is skimming leaves from the pool in long swirling motions and washing my cars. I love driving clean, properly operating, old cars.

The home I recharge in, is one of those ubiquitous ranchers from the 1950's located in Phoenix's "North Central" neighborhood.

North Central was part of Phoenix' 1940-1960's wave of urban expansion. My neighborhood was built in a former citrus orchard. To this day many orange, tangerine and grapefruit trees remain. So our lots are flood irrigated. Yep, many of us still annually grow too many oranges and grapefruits to count on trees that are 100 years old. Every spring the air is filled with jasmine scented citrus blossoms. Flood irrigation for the uninitiated means my house is slightly raised and a little earth berm surrounds the property. When the water comes (usually in the middle of the night) our house becomes an island in its own little lake. We wake up to ducks swimming on the front lawn. 

There are no sidewalks in our neighborhood and many of us diehards have our original carports instead of garages. There is an alley behind my house where our dumpsters reside, where burglars prowl, and where our power lines run.

The House
(Piestawa Peak in the Background)

My house is about 1,800 square feet. Seems tiny and quaint in an era when new subdivisions all seem to feature houses twice that size.

The houses were all built with simple floor plans and are single story. I love them.  After living in a variety of multi-story houses on tiny sites, I will always defer to a single story home on a decent sized lot. I wonder how many people in Boston die each week taking laundry down a steep set of stairs to a washer in an ancient basement?

Our house has a big porch both front and back. And while a few two-story infill houses have popped up here and there, we welcome them as we would a turd in the pool.

When we relocated to Phoenix 16 years ago, many of the owners on my street were original. Today, after those owners pass to the next world, a big dumpster shows up. The houses are gutted and modernized to standards prescribed by IKEA and then a family moves in with two smallish kids, a dog, and one Infiniti and a Tahoe, Yukon or Armada (love that name!)

The lovely old carports are then morphed into garages to protect their precious urban assault vehicles and somewhere in Saudi Arabia a heart goes pitty pat.

Most newcomers leave the character of the houses intact. Some try to make them into bizarre metal trimmed fantasies. They always look stupid.

The families are frequently people who grew up in the area and want to raise their own kids in the same neighborhood.

Works for me.

Well anyway I decided to start remodeling my own little abode. Not adding any rooms, just changing out windows and doors to be more energy efficient and making what is there more open and functional. Moved the front door. It was a hoot to watch the dogs run and stare at the wall where the front door used to be when the doorbell rang. 

In the meantime we live in a minefield of temporary stuff, sheetrock dust, and delicate power.

When it is done it will still be a modest mid-century rancher.

It will still have a simple plan.

It will still all be on a single floor.

It will still have porches.

It will still be the home I look forward to returning to every weekend.

Roadboy's Travels © 2010

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