A California Ranch-style Home Gets a Mid Century-inspired Makeover

It takes a vision.

  • Category
  • Written by
    Chelsee Lowe
  • Photographed by
    Shane O’Donnell

My husband and I have an affinity for relics of the past, so when we first saw our 1954 California ranch house, it charmed us immediately. We could see beyond its stained grass cloth walls, dated windows and beaten-up flooring, envisioning mid-century beauty, especially in the main living area. Our goal was to transform the great room into a comfortable, chic space that could showcase aspects of that era that we love most.

We decided to leave some of the architectural details—original to the house—untouched, including the working brick fireplace and the beamed wooden ceiling. Our first task: a wall refresh. The old wallpaper was removed, and the plaster walls were painted a clean white (Suprema by Dunn-Edwards), offering a bright palette on which to design. We swapped out the wood windows with aluminum, black-framed ones (Anderson Windows), adding contrast and a modern vibe.

Culver City-based interior designers Deborah Rhein and Taylor Christner of DL Rhein helped us with layout, decor and vintage furnishings. Deborah sourced a magnificent, three-piece Milo Baughman sofa from a vintage-furniture hunter in Florida, and we reupholstered it in a vibrant emerald linen/cotton blend. A built-in wooden shelf runs along the sectional’s top edge, offering a space for a coastered cup of coffee, family photos and curios. The oversized sofa anchors the space and creates two separate areas: one for relaxing and one for dining.

“We could see beyond its stained grass cloth walls, dated windows and beaten-up flooring, envisioning mid-century beauty, especially in the main living area.”

A vintage Turkish rug with specks of green that echo the couch pulls the room together. The coffee table, with a brass and marble top, was purchased from Anthropologie and ties into brass fixtures around the house. We placed a Mr. Chair—a classic piece reminiscent of the Mad Men era that makes you want to curl up with a good book—in a sunny corner.

The vintage theme carries into the dining room with our selection of six Danish chairs and a Monteverdi-Young burl wood dining table. The table is mesmerizing with its undulating lines and knots in the wood’s grain. To add some pops of color, I fulfilled a personal dream of hunting down original Charley Harper lithographs, which we placed on the wall behind the table. The chandelier above, from West Elm, is a contemporary version of the space-age Sputnik chandelier that dominated mid-century lighting designs.

My family and I have lived in the house for six months now, and our work on the room has continued. It’s my favorite place in the house. Sometimes it’s just us—me on the sofa doing crossword puzzles, my husband napping, the kids eating snacks below Charley’s birds and minnows. Other times the children drift to the playroom while the adults have cocktails and conversation at the dining table. It’s the ideal gathering area that somehow seems to pull all our lives together.