laura kviklys: thanks. awesome. i hope youguys are doing well. as a disclaimer before i actually start. i want to say thank youso much for having me here and really putting together this whole conference. it's reallyawesome and rare to be in a room with like-minded people. this is my first time ever to st.louis. i had such a good time exploring the city and seeing all the mid-century architecturethat there is here. okay, so, all that aside. hi. i'm here and mary has already introducedme to present on the 1950's ranch house interior as a cultural resource. we're looking at identifyingthe interior components and kind of evaluating it as a component of a cultural resource. the post-world war ii period in the unitedstates saw an economic prosperity and population
explosion unequal to any period in americanhistory. the great depression of the 1930's and wartime rationing in the 1940's led toa housing vacuum in the country. returning war veterans and war weary americans wanteda space of their own to start their families and live their american dream. what were theybuilding in this period? it was the ranch house. the ranch house is the most prolificresidential housing type in the united states. there were 1.65 million housing starts in1955 and 1.5 million for the remainder of the decade. nine out of ten of these wereranch houses. so what are we talking about when we say "ranch house?" there is no universaldefinition of this house type, but you definitely know one when you see one. it's one story,long and rambling, and usually has overhanging
eaves of variation in fenestration and whenpossible, there is a use of natural materials. the ranch house type can incorporate manyarchitectural styles on the exterior, but the overall footprint is fairly universal. the preservation community has been addressingand evaluating the ranch house since the early 2000's. nationwide, many districts have beenlisted in the national register for historic places for the ranch house's contributionto architecture, planning and social development. many local communities and state and federalagencies have conducted studies to identify exterior features of the ranch house and itshistoric context. in 2010, the state of georgia, did guidelines for evaluation of the ranchhouse in georgia. this publication outlined
the defining characteristics of the type ingeorgia, and put the ranch house in a national and state context. more recently, the nationalcooperative highway research program, released report 723, a model for identifying and evaluatingthe historic significance of post world war ii housing, which focuses greatly on the ranchhouse. these studies both identified characteristicsand the significance of the ranch house exterior, but provide little insight into the interiorplan or use of interior spaces. which then begs the question, what does the interioractually look like? what are it's defining characteristics and what is the context forthe interior? why does it actually look the way that it does and are there any preservationchallenges that could be associated with it?
in order to address these questions, i examinedpublished ranch house floor plans from the 1950's. publishing houses printed books andmagazines which served as guidance for prospective home buyers. these plan books offered a statisticalrepresentation of common elements within the ranch house design, and social themes expressedthrough an idealized residential floor plan. floor plans from nineteen historic plan bookswere used to obtain data on interior arrangements and dimensions, and included graphics thatwere used to identify commonalities and plan interiors, through the decade. these planbooks were from large builders, individual architects and publishing houses nationwide,and resulted in a sample size of 467 individually proposed ranch house interiors. this datawas supplemented with 1950's women's magazines
and etiquette books in order to gauge perceptionabout living in a ranch house and any implicit information, like interior materials or livabilitytips. once an idealized floor plan from the 1950's and a standard of living emerged fromthis data, i juxtaposed this information with contemporary renovation guides and home magazines.by identifying what 21st century interior designers and home owners considered desirable,it is easy to identify which characteristics and historic fabric are most threatened withinthe home. now that we've gotten all the background outof the way, let's really get into the meat of things. what does this interior actuallylook like? what are we talking about when we say "1950's ranch house interior?" whatare the individual components?
so regardless of exterior style or form, ranchhouse interiors exhibit a remarkable number of similarities in spacial configuration.the most crucial and widespread of these commonalities was a zoned living space. all of the 467 sampledfloor plans exhibited some form of spacial zoning. zoning within the ranch house, groupedrooms based on function, whether public or private. public spaces centered around work, entertainingor dining, and included rooms like the kitchen, living room. whereas private spaces wouldbe bedrooms and bathrooms and a place where people could really focus on personal developmentand privacy, which is what you want in the bathroom. i'm throwing that out there.
two different floor plan types emerged inthis period. there was the open floor plan and a closed floor plan. open floor plansare characterized by large communal areas, with few walls and partitions. free flowing,unobstructed traffic patterns between living areas, kitchen and dining areas are significantindicators of this plan type. the closed floor plan is just that. each room is singularlydefined and separated by fixed wall partitions, and provide a greater sense of enclosure.this plan maintains a more rigid traffic pattern than the open plan, but still utilizes zoning.overwhelmingly, the open floor plan was the most represented in the sample, with 68 percentusing this form. this shows an acceptance of this interior style and the adaptabilityof this plan allowed for growing families.
flexibility in room function was a necessityin a ranch house, because of size limitations. the average interior grew from 1114 squarefeet in 1950 to 1272 square feet in 1955, reaching 1356 by 1959. let's walk into our ranch house, shall we?there are four distinct designs that were presented in published floor plans in orderto get actually into the house. a foyer, a hallway, a vestibule or direct entry intothe living room. two entries were common in the ranch house interior design. a vestibule,which is 35 percent of all surveyed plans, and walking directly into the living room,which is 34 percent. now, a study conducted in 1956 by the departmentof housing and urban development, found that
female homeowners wanted a screened off areawhere guests can remove wet clothing and dripping umbrellas before entering the house. a vestibuleentrance was the result of a functional necessity both for housekeeping and for living. i guessif you had a living room entry, you just had sopping wet floors when it was raining. these living rooms. these are the most publiclyused space in the home and they embody a number of shapes and sizes as well as flexibilityin use. no single example can define the standard living room. its purpose was to be kind ofa catch all for family activities. it was an area that could incorporate all functionsof daily life. an area for leisure, for personal development and for work activities. it reallydid serve as the heart of the house.
now because of the importance of the livingroom, in terms of successful livability within the ranch house, sixteen possible locationsfor the living room were documented in the sample. the location of the living room wascrucial to an efficient traffic pattern in the home and especially when paired with adining room, constituted a large portion of the overall plan. the widespread use of the open floor planin the 1950's ranch house decreased the number of formal dining rooms over the decade. inlieu of a set aside or formal space, a dining area was often integrated into the livingroom. the integration of these two spaces resulted in an l shape and occasionally, irontrellises or half walls were used to suggest
a separation between these spaces withoutfully closing them off. this new living/dining area was not only cheaper for consumers, butreflected the informality associated with 1950's residential living. now this is what i consider the most importantroom in the house, but maybe they didn't- the kitchen. this was another space that receiveda lot of scrutiny from potential home buyers. historically known as utilitarian space, thekitchen was integrated into the overall living space as a response to the trend. kitchensbecame less work focused and viewed more as a place for family interactions. several kitchenarrangements were available in the 1950's to meet the needs of the individual home owner.
there was a u shaped kitchen. there was au shaped kitchen that had counters on three sides, the range, refrigerator and sink, andkind of a triangle work pattern. an l shaped kitchen, which would have the range and refrigeratoron one side, and the sink on kind of the short arm. a corridor kitchen with two counter spacesand a door on either end and an entry point on either end, and a pullman kitchen, wherethe sink, range and refrigerator would all be located on one wall. did that work? okay. because of the variation in possible designand the focus on informal living, floor plans often incorporated some dining area withinthe kitchen themselves. now the names of these spaces vary, but included breakfast nook,dining alcove or snack space and were present
in 59 percent of sample floor plans. despitethe trend towards more informal living and dining during this period, utilitarian spaceswere still a necessity. these included areas for laundry preparation, mechanical equipmentor other basic household activities. often these spaces were located adjacent to thekitchen, or when applicable, in the basement. private spaces. zoned away from public livingquarters, the bedroom was a space for individual expression, development and respite. the mostcommon number of bedrooms per house was three with one larger than the others. by mid-decade,this was referred to as the master bedroom. the versatility of the ranch house plan wasshowcased through the bedrooms. often two were labeled expressly as "bedroom," and thethird labeled, as den or bedroom. now regardless
of how they were labelled, these rooms servedas a place of privacy and individual reflection. 61 percent of plans had one full bath withtoilet, tub and sink at a minimum and as houses became larger half baths and second full bathswere incorporated by the end of the decade. the ranch house interior is not just aboutlayout or spacial configuration. when imagining a 1950's interior, images of bold color choicesand space age-y materials come to mind. now this housing type really came of age in aperiod when the building industry was experimenting with new materials that rose out of the wareffort, including plastics and aluminums. decorative laminates like formica, melaminecoated paper like arborite and vinyl products were produced in bright colors and intricatepatterns. wood paneling was a popular choice
and replaced traditional painted walls andwall to wall carpeting was available in countless patterns and colors. because the options were so variable to homebuyers, interior details were really left to the discretion of the individual homeowner,and you've got to believe me on this one, they were very very colorful. bubblegum pink,star burst yellow, i mean, it's all in there. that's something else. not only is it fancywallpaper and bright colors, something that i've been talking to people on the streetabout ranch house interiors is you know, "oh tell me what you think about ranch house interiors?"oddly shaped rooms and no storage space. that's absolutely correct. no storage space.
something that developers and builders woulddo would be to incorporate the use of built ins. built ins could vary from book casesto vanities to china hutches. try to maximize the not compact, but the humble size of thefifties ranch house. the final characteristic of the interior spaceis their relation to the exterior. fenestration is a notable defining feature of the ranchhouse in general, and played a crucial role in establishing interior spaces. large picturewindows were a popular feature which allowed sunlight to permeate living spaces. these,paired with full length sliding glass doors, allowed interior and exterior spaces to meld,making the humble ranch appear much, much bigger.
so as an overview and a generalization, thetypical 1950's ranch house interior had three bedrooms and one bath, an open floor planand eat in kitchen area, a large living room with an integrated dining room and large amountsof glass which brought the outdoors into the interior. that's all well and good. we've identified the interior characteristics,but what does this mean in terms of post war residential living? in comparison to previousforms of american housing, qualities expressed by the ranch house interior became associatedwith efficient, sensible and modern living. the casualness expressed through ranch housefloor plan can be seen in the omission of formal spaces. this idea and the integrationof exterior spaces allowed for a more informal
approach for activities in the home and duringentertaining. the emphasis on the relaxed appeal of the ranch house in publication andplan books was a reaction against the rigidity of previous generations and an embrace ofthe perceived informality of post war america. the ranch house was designed to facilitatea more casual lifestyle. now, in an era that valued conformity on asocial and political level, the ranch house allowed consumers to express their individualitythrough plan selection, material use and decoration. ranch houses were often individualized byparticular home buyers and adjusted to meet home owner specifications. variations in interiorand exterior elements meant that a housing form that was mass produced could be alteredto create a unique structure for each buyer.
a component of its individuality was the factthat ranch houses emphasized a family centric space- one which was malleable to meet theneeds of specific families. single story living and an open floor plan resulted in less separationof family members and more interactions overall. a common theme in the 1950's periodical wasthe role of women in the home, often depicted as wife and mother. new interior materialsmeant quicker completion of mundane household chores and new appliances like washers anddryers meant mothers could spend more time with their family. the expectation that mothersbe omnipresent within the house was promoted by the open floor plan and integration ofthe kitchen into the bigger living area. with all public rooms seen easily from the kitchenand large expanses of glass to the exterior,
supervising the children was possible whilecompleting household tasks. the informality and casualness expressed in the interior allowedchildren more freedom in the entirety of the house. since work and play took place in thesame area, spaces were no longer secluded for adults and the most important spaces belongedto all. now, the open floor plan in this family focusedlifestyle did not necessarily mean a constant barrage of 1950's together time. the 1950'shousing plan, it did seek to promote family togetherness, but really understood the needfor private time. zoning was really the solution for this and provided the space for adultsto retire from the children. okay, so, the central role of children andtheir changing needs over time prompted a
need for flexibility within the ranch house.designers and homeowners felt that the house should grow and be built in stages as needsand means of the family grew. this could be seen in multiple additions and alterationsthat occurred over subsequent decades. although many builders touted the benefits of additionsas the family grew, they rarely if ever, talked about disrupting the original floor plan orthe layout of the house. which then leads us to preservation challenges.there are two overarching preservation challenges that the ranch house interior faces. thoseassociated with recent past resources, and the preservation of privately owned interiors.now the ranch house interior faces a lack of appreciation as a potential significantcultural resource. this stems from the fact
that these resources were built little overfifty years ago and many in the public have a hard time viewing them as historic. theseinteriors are seen as dated and outmoded which increases the public's marginalization ofthem. the fact that these houses are everywhere,may lead some to believe that they will exist in perpetuity, which is absolutely not thecase. there are estimates that approximately 75,000 ranch houses are demolished or raisedeach year to make room for larger mcmansion type homes. design books and renovation guides also posea threat to these interiors. they show an inconsideration to the interior and a generalunknowing about it's significance and to the
overall integrity of the ranch house. articlesadvocate complete demolition of the interior spaces because demolition can work as a greatreorganizing tool. another challenge associated is the loss ofhistoric material. the large scale industrial manufacturing processes and equipment usedto make these post war materials are now obsolete or nonexistent, making mid-century materialsvirtually impossible to replicate. as they are difficult and expensive to reproduce andstylistics tastes change, some current ranch house owners opt to replace historic interiorelements with modern materials. the challenge that material loss in the 1950's ranch houseis particularly alarming because these materials cannot be recreated once removed. this andthese materials may have the potential to
be hazardous. asbestos is a miracle, right?a full analysis of material composition is needed to evaluate the best method of removalor preservation. the best method preservationists can employfor the protection of these components is really a massive public awareness building.since there is little recourse for interior preservation in general, allowing the publicto make informed decisions about their interiors can insure the longevity of these components.presenting accurate information and compatible alterations in a comprehensible manner ona large scale, either the internet or mass communications or something, may introducehome owners to interior changes, perhaps not before recognized. educating the public tothe significance of the ranch interior spaces
may make them relatable to the individualhomeowner and perhaps prevent irreversible damage or alteration. the home as an entity, really is meant toadapt over time to suit the needs of the inhabitant. changes in familial demands and standardsof living alter the overall perception of an acceptable home interior. this does notmean that existing interiors should be discounted or as insignificant or destroyed, but ratherthey should be taken into careful consideration when planning for interior alterations andsympathetically modified. the interior of the home really must be malleable to meetthe need of the particular home owner.