MANY OF THE HOUSES THAT SIT FORLORNLY ON THE MARKET for months around here are 1970s ranches. I generally look past them with a shudder. Sometimes, though, they’re well-located, and they’re usually priced at the bottom of the market (400s or thereabouts).
Now comes a feature on Rural Intelligence, the lifestyle blogazine of the Hudson Valley, that has me re-thinking my scorn for the ranch. There’s an interview with James Crisp, a Millbrook, N.Y.-based architect who is capable of taking dreary ranches from tacky to tasty. He’s the design force behind a new TV series called Blog Cabin, in which just such a Catskills house (see the “before,” top) is transformed over the course of a six-part series beginning tonight, Aug. 19, on the DIY network.
I have very little patience for the forced enthusiasm, frenetic pace, and overall dumbness of the home-improvement shows and probably won’t watch it. Nor am I totally sold on the “after” pic, above. But I am intrigued by the questions Rural Intelligence posed, and Crisp’s answers. Here’s an excerpt:
RI: How do you fix what’s fundamentally wrong with a house like this?
JC: The problem with ranches is they tend to look like doublewides. We needed something to break up that long, low roofline. So we raised the roof of the center portion, which allowed us to gain some ceiling height in the living room. We then raised the ceiling up to the underside of the rafters. We changed the entrance, relocated the fireplace to an interior wall. Originally, it had been on an exterior wall, where it blocked the view.
RI: How might you might typically upgrade the interior of a house of this sort?
JC: With ranches, you tend to get an overabundance of sheetrock inside. What’s lacking is detail. So on another project unrelated to the show (“before,” above), we made some very simple changes that made a huge difference in the living room: we added some very simple paneling, an applied grid, to the fireplace wall, and put in some built-in shelving. But the biggest difference was even less expensive: we painted the wood ceiling white. We also upgraded the fire surround with slate and changed the lighting. And that’s it: we made no architectural changes at all, yet it looks completely different. (See the “after,” below.)
To read the entire interview, go here. And count on me posting more ranches for sale in future, if they’ve got location to recommend them and the price is right.