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Featured Ranch: the Jacobs House

3 min read Most experts acknowledge some Wright influence on the development of the ranch. I see some very direct lines from his Usonian experiments and later midcentury mass housing styles.

This, and the other Usonian houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright are more like older cousins of the ranch – not in the direct line but still strongly connected from both a design and lifestyle philosophy point of view.

Wright started to design Usonian or USA-onian houses during the depression when he was short of clients and those he did have were equally short of funds.  They were more than cheap knockoffs, however.  Wright designed the Usonian Houses to be a “building system, adaptable to each client with whatever modifications he might need regarding space and site conditions. Continue reading “Featured Ranch: the Jacobs House”

Going Grey, or it’s not easy to Paint outside in the swing seasons

2 min read I wanted to squeak in one quarter of the house painting – the street side – before the weather got too cold for proper curing conditions. Here’s how I gamed the weather to get the job done!

Modern paint technology is pretty miraculously forgiving of weather conditions but there are still limits to the times of day and year that you can effectively get paint to stick to outside surfaces.

Since we wanted to get at least the front of the house painted in the fall, we found ourselves playing with two very important metrics for the paint – temperature and humidity. Continue reading “Going Grey, or it’s not easy to Paint outside in the swing seasons”

Dealing with Lead Paint in a Mid-Century Ranch House

4 min read One consideration in dealing with older buildings is that they may have lead paint on walls or trim.  In fact, the Centers for Disease Control website recommends assuming any house built before 1978 has some lead paint lurking around.

Why is lead paint a problem?   Lead won’t do you any harm while sticking to the wall, but it has a nasty tendency to flake off into dust particles, especially when the paint is in poor condition.  Ingesting lead paint dust or chips is not good for adults and extremely bad for children.   Continue reading “Dealing with Lead Paint in a Mid-Century Ranch House”

Tearing out the Hedge-of-Doom

2 min read The house itself isn’t the only dated thing about my little mid-century charmer – it also has an extremely old-fashioned yard.  This is one more element that I plan to bring forward into the 21st Century.

I’ve been told that the previous owner was once an avid gardener with vegetables growing in a sunny patch in the back yard but in recent years it seems his yard work had devolved into harshly flat topping the hedge along the front of the house and surrounding the little decorative fence.  Since the house went on the market, even that had stopped and little shoots were aimed upwards, threatening to engulf the house like the thicket of thorns around Briar Rose’s castle.

hedge-interior

Frankly, even if I’d loved the hedge (which measured 4 feet high, 8 feet deep and 30 feet along the front of the house), it would have been hard to preserve it.  It had been planted too close to the building and grown even closer – trying to get behind it to paint the siding would have been impossible.  As it was, my yard-work loving mom joked about showing up to the closing with long-handled clippers and a saw. Continue reading “Tearing out the Hedge-of-Doom”

The Ranch House in Madison, Wisconsin

2 min read The post war housing boom changed the character of American residential life in ways that still influence our daily lives now. In Madison, you can see the different “types” of post war houses, spread across neighborhoods on the east (mostly cape cod) and west (mostly ranch) sides of town.

The first post war housing boom spread out toward the manufacturing districts on Madison’s east side, filling in housing between Milwaukee and Atwood Avenues and on the west, filling in beyond Midvale Boulevard as several farms were converted into housing developments.

ranch-house-in-madison_cape-cod

The “Ranch” house form lagged slightly behind the classic Levittown style “Cape Cod” in Madison’s development.  The first houses to be added in these areas – in the first boom area from 1945 on – were the steep roofed Cape Cod styles sitting compactly centered on their lots. Continue reading “The Ranch House in Madison, Wisconsin”

I bought a house!

2 min read This blog will to tell the story of how I succumbed to that most basic of architects’ urges: to get a house of my own and fix it up for myself with no need to transfer my ideas through a client and contractor in order to make them real.

Don’t get me wrong, I love designing for other people.  And I love coming up for ideas for how to create or improve a space and then handing them off to an expert contractor to take care of.  But just this once, the design brief will be my own.  And it will be on me (and whatever help I can cajole out of my friends and family) to manifest my ideas on the world.

This project has been a long time coming, as I have moved from city to city, and apartment to apartment, during the beginning of my architectural career. Continue reading “I bought a house!”