Retro Ranch Remodeled
This 1961 gem received a much-needed makeover that retained its bones but updated the style.
BY ROMI CARRELL WITTMAN | PHOTOGRAPHY BY MATT VACA
How do you know when you’ve found The One?
For one couple, it was all about the feeling they got upon entering a stylish mid-century in the eastside Windsor Park neighborhood.
Tucson couple Billy and Helena had been on the hunt for a home for several months, but they’d had no luck in finding something that suited their growing family. It didn’t help that it was 2007, the very height of the housing boom, when nothing stayed on the market for long. They originally wanted something in midtown, but were priced out of the market. They never considered looking on the eastside until their Realtor suggested it.
Turns out their Realtor was onto something.
“I just knew,” says Billy about discovering the three-bedroom, 1900-square-foot home. “I walked in and saw the wall of windows and that was it. It was an emotional response.”
Built in 1961, this classic mid-century ranch featured sleek, angular lines, large expanses of windows from which to see the Catalina and Rincon Mountains, little to no exterior ornamentation and the liberal use of glass, concrete and wood throughout. Unlike the mid-century residences you might find in Palm Springs, with their turquoise, orange and green accents, the home’s palette is subdued, creating a sophisticated and timeless appeal.
Although the couple loved the house and the friendly neighborhood, there were some aspects they decidedly didn’t love.
First, there was the entryway, which at one point had been an outdoor porch. A previous owner had enclosed it to make a living room, but it was completely at odds with the home’s design style.
Soon after moving in, the couple attacked that problem first, hiring an architect to streamline the house, while maintaining the overall square footage. The next item on the to-do list was the kitchen, but, being a much bigger undertaking, the couple put it off until 2016.
They knew they needed expert help for the job, so they contacted Kathryn Prideaux of Prideaux Design and David Papanikolas of Alta Constructors after seeing ads for their respective businesses during Tucson Modernism Week. The couple had no idea that Prideaux and Papanikolas frequently work together.
The kitchen had been updated over the years and the end result was a cramped, dated U-shape with builder-grade, alder cabinets and green granite countertops. Aside from the problems with functionality, there was a potentially more significant issue with the stove, a commercial-grade restaurant range.
“People raved about it because it was a professional six-burner range,” Helena says. “But restaurant ranges aren’t usually found in home kitchens. It had no insulation around it and I worried it would burn the surrounding cabinets.”
Another issue was the overwhelming smell of natural gas. “The pilot lights on a commercial stove … you could smell gas all the time,” Billy says.
The couple came up with their new kitchen wish list and provided that, along with their budget, to Prideaux and Papanikolas.
“I gave them an idea of what was involved with each wish list item,” Papanikolas says. After three or so visits, the couple decided on a design, then decamped to a friend’s home in Oro Valley for the duration of the four-month-long renovation. “We donated a bunch of our stuff and used it as an opportunity to declutter,” Helena says.
Fortunately for the design team, the home was in pretty good shape from a systems perspective. There was little required in terms of correcting bad wiring, plumbing or other issues. That meant the bulk of the budget could be devoted to the remodel itself, which included the construction of a huge kitchen island, a wall of northeast-facing windows and new cabinetry.
The island, which runs nearly the length of the whole kitchen, draws the eye first. With its white quartz countertop, ample storage and built-in seating, it makes a gorgeous statement while remaining accessible, inviting and imminently usable.
In addition to the island, J-Swiss & Company custom cabinets (made of straight-grain white oak) were installed, providing both functionality and a form consistent with the home’s style. An understated, hand-made Heath Tile backsplash perfectly complements the white quartz.
The north wall of the kitchen was converted into windows, bathing the space in natural light and amplifying its size. It’s easy to imagine both large parties as well as more intimate gatherings congregating here. To anchor the design, the homeowners selected a 24-inch gray porcelain tile, which was installed throughout the home.
When it came to selecting furnishings, Prideaux directed the couple to newly constructed pieces with a retro feel. “They didn’t have time to hunt for the perfect pieces,” she says, “and vintage pieces often need to be refurbished.”
Prideaux looked toward modern furniture brands like Blu Dot, Room and Board, West Elm and even Ikea to furnish the space. The result is a clean, stylish home that’s not only attractive, but also livable for the couple and their children.
“We really like it, but not necessarily because it’s mid-century modern,” Billy says. “We just like the home overall.” HG