Mid Mod Remodel is a Podcast!

9 min read With a few done updates and upgrades, any builder basic ranch can become the home of your mid-century dreams.

image of desktop with laptop, yellow notebook, mouse and podcasting mic

Remodeling a ranch or other mid century home can be so rewarding but it IS a bit of a challenge.  Today, I introduce Mid Mod Remodel – the podcast. We’ll uncover why MCM remodels can be an up hill slog and end with a pep talk about why I find your mid-century ranch to be so darn lovable!

With a few done updates and upgrades, any builder basic ranch can become the home of your mid-century dreams.  

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Key takeaways

  • Mid Mod remodeling is EVEN HARDER than regular old remodeling. But don’t let that stop you. You’re a champ for taking it on and I’ve got your back.
  • The home remodeling industry in general is marching to a different drummer than we Mid Mod aficionados are (and than most homeowners, really) but with planning and preparation we CAN get what we need.
  • Ranches, and other MCM homes, are the best! Ranches are the right size and so livable. They’re often located in walkable near-center locations. They are well-built and easy to add onto. Plus, even the most modest ranch has some MCM charm we can build on. Let’s get started!

The Goods (with timestamps)

Welcome to Mid Mod Remodel, the podcast that helps you update a mid-century home to match your modern life.  

This is the first EVER episode of Mid Mod Remodel. Thanks for checking in!

I’m your host, Della Hansmann, residential architect, Mid-century enthusiast and first time homeowner updating a 1952 ranch in Madison, WI.

This week we are focusing on why remodeling a ranch or other mid century home can be so rewarding and also a bit of a challenge.  

(00:39) Why are you listening to (or reading about) Mid Mod Remodel

Let’s get right into what brings you to this podcast.  

If you are listening to a pocast called Mid Mod Remodel you may be considering (or in the middle of) remodeling a mid-century home.  

Note: a lot of what I’ll talk about on this podcast will be useful for anyone planning a home remodel of any style or era.  I choose to focus on MCM homes specifically because

  1. I like them, and 
  2. They are pretty under-appreciated by the home remodeling industry; they need some extra boost.  

You might also be here because you are just a fan of the mid-century period.  Stick around.  You’ll find lots to interset you in the weeks to come.

(01:11) Are you (perhaps) planning a Mid Mod Remodel?  

So, back to my MCM homeowner. 

Planning a mid-century remodel is so much fun.  I’m delighted for you.  But it’s also sometimes overwhelming.  I imagine you’ve experienced this: 

  • You talk to a contractor and feel mystified by some of their language and frustrated by how they convey information about planning, timing and costs.  
  • You try to do some research online. And you are completely overwhelmed by the quantity of information thats out there.  There are so many options.  Pinterest.  Instagram.  HGTV.  Countless blogs.  So many media sources are shouting about what’s on trend this week and what’s not.  And a lot of it is keyed toward houses that are not like yours.
  • You go down to Home Depot to source some quick materials for a home improvement project or repair. You are confronted with an entire aisle of light fixtures or faucets or tile that seem substantially similar and don’t really feel right for an MCM home.  

I get it.  I’m remodeling my own home as a first time homeowner. I know quicksand feeling of too many opttions and not enough input to help me choose. 

But, I’ve also spent over a decade as a residential architect helping other homeowners navigate this complicated remodels just like yours.

I want you to know that there is a way to cut through the noise and figure out the best plan for your remodel.  

(02:41) You need a plan. You just … REALLY NEED ONE.

You MUST have a strong plan.  It comes down to three steps.  

Really think about what you want your home to be and to do for you.  Imagine it in detail

Then design it.  Construct a roadmap for your remodel that will keep you on track from start to finish.

Only then go out into the world and start interfaing with contractors, product suppliers, and the whole internet.  

Once you ahve that vision in place you’ll be able to stay on course and end up with a remodel you love.

This is something that ANY interested homeowner can do. 

If it sounds daunting, don’t worry.  I’m here to hold your hand. 

Getting ready to make that plan is literally what you’ll get out of this first season of Mid Mod Remodel.  

(03:27) Why this even matters

The stakes here are actually pretty high.   What could go wrong if you don’t think it rhoguh in advace is that you could 

Spend all of the time money and energy that a remodel requires and still end up witha house you don’t love.  

(This is true of any remodel.)

But for you a mid mod remodeler, there’s an added risk. 

A few hasty choices you make at the start of the project, or made by a contractor who isn’t as invested in MCM design as you are, could end up stripping out the mid-century character from your home in ways you can never put back. 

Don’t worry though.  Just by being here you’re already showing that you care enough to make the right choices for yourself and your home.

Lets dig a little deeper.  

(04:06) Remodeling is hard

There are lots of moving parts.  Its expensive.  Personal and public.  There is a lot of emotional baggage.  You need to take on big negotiations between yourself and your partner.  It can be a lot. 

And then, remodeling an MCM home comes with this extra level of difficulty.  Despite the popularity of West Elm and the term Mid Mod in the blogosphere, there’s not a lot of support out there for actually taking on a house scale remodel that’s true to the mid mod period.  

The 99 billion dollar a year home building and remodeling industry is kind of working agaist you here.  

Even though ranch style houses are the most popular home type in 35 out of 50 states (including Wisconsin) and new home buyers are most often searching for houses with three bedrooms or fewer, that’s not what the 99 billion dollar a year home building industry is creating.  They keep building these giant new houses that are crazily outside the price range of young first time home buyers.

So why this giant disconnect? 

To put a metaphorical face on the problem, let’s take a minute and pick on the villain in our story.  

(05:31) Bum bum Baaaaa: the Villain

Here’s the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) New American Home 2019.   Every year since the 80s the NAHB puts together a show home to feature the best elements of contemporary house design.   

Back in the eighties, those homes aligned reasonably with  what was the being built across America.  But the show house is rapidly grew beyond  what regular homeowners were building or requesting.   

Let’s talk about the American Home of 2019.

Here’s a video produced by New Home Sales showing off all of its fine and/or appalling features (depending on your point of view).

 It’s located in the desert outside Las Vegas (where the NAHB conference was  this year).   This building looks less like a home and more like a corporate retreat center.   A few screen grabs prove my point for me:

Here’s kitchen number one:

But it has THREE kitchens … here’s the third kitchen in the “show” garage – as opposed to the regular garage where you keep your other cars.

There are five bedrooms and 5 and 1/2 baths (that’s down from last year’s eight bedrooms and bathrooms).   

In the advertising literature, they actually make a point to talk about how sustainability was important to them. But I hope I’m not the first person to point out that … you can’t actually build a 10,000 square foot home in the desert that is sustainable. No matter what technology do you employ.

This is what we’re being offered

This extravagant idea is what is driving the home industry on every level.

Its important for you, as the owner of a mid-century Ranch, to recognize. The advice you find on the internet (and even get from well-meaning local professionals) is often for someone else’s preference.   It might even be for someone who wants THIS house.

If you’re not careful you can end up getting steered away from your own vision and end up with a home that wasn’t what you planned and isn’t what you need.

(07: 22) But don’t despair. You can still take on a mid mod remodel with confidence!

If all of this starts to make you feel like maybe you’re not cut out to plan a remodel … Stop right there.  You’re fine. 

It’s not you, its them.

Let’s reframe

First.  Thank you for your service.  I and all other mcm home lovers, appreciate that you’re planning to preserve and protect your homes mid-century character.

Second.  Let’s get you some help.  

Team Mid mod remodel, we will chart a path through the wilderness and set you up success.  

(07:51) Mid Mod Remodel: Season 1 overview

I’ve got a cohesive introductory season of this podcast all scoped out for you.  Like a mini course you can listen into at your own pace.  

 Between now and the end of 2019 we’ll be covering: 

Why mid-century houses are so great … and a bit challenging to remodel (that’s this one!)

A brief history of MCM housing to set you up for mid-century remodeling success

An overview of what’s changed since the first mid-century houses were built … and how that drives the things we need to address in a remodel

Common features of a mid-century house, from overall layout to details

what are the big picture elements of a successful remodeling plan (MCM or otherwise)

Scope.  I’ve got you covered whether you’re an aspiring DIYer looking to lay out a list of step by step weekend projects for the next five years or are planning to get it all taken care of in one swell foop

Finally, how you  can craft a kickass road map for your remodel.  

My goal is to help you take the guesswork out of your mid mod remodel.  I’ll bring you a non threatening design discussion.  At the end of every episode you’ll have clear ideas that you can practically apply to your remodel or a new point of view to keep you going through the inevitable slog of taking a renovation from start, to finish!  

(09: 13) Can we all just agree that MCM ranch houses are the BEST?

I want to conclude with a little pep talk: to the tune of Mid-Century ranches are great and we just love them!

MCM ranches are the right size for modern families. They are generally located in walkable, mid-century neighborhoods. These houses are close to schools libraries, parks, and local businesses.

Ranches were built to a standard of construction that is hard to match today. They’re made of sturdy materials you can no longer  get at any price like old growth 2x4s and wood panel walls that actually look good! 

If you DO need to adjust your floor plan, you can! The  rectangular form,  and  simple gable roof of a standard Ranch,  mean it’s easy to put an addition on the back or front. You can add on the living room, home office, or extra bedroom that you need.

Ranches were built for casual modern lifestyles. They really suit the way people live today and the kind of houses we want to live in.

Finally, no matter how basic your Ranch is, it has some mid-century charm.   Original brass light fixtures, honey blond wood trim,  fieldstone fireplace, or an old fashioned telephone nook between the kitchen and dining room –  you’ll find something!


(12:56) That’s pretty much it, then!

Thanks for listening (or reading) along.  Now I feel like we’re friends!

I hope you enjoyed Mid Mod Remodel and have learned a little more about what makes MCM homes so lovable, livable and generally above average.  

Next week’s episode will dig into the history of the midwestern ranch house, we’ll be talking about Frank Lloyd Wright, Cliff May and even touching on the Levitt brothers as we explore how America came to create this thing we call the mid mod ranch.  

Stick with me, Team Mid Mod Remodel, and before 2020 we will have taken a top level look at everything you need to know in order to plan a really great mid-century home update.  

If you have ideas, comments or questions about your Mdid century home remodel, drop me leave a message in the comments or hit me up via direct message on instagram.  

If you liked this podcast and found it useful, help me spread the word by leaving a review on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you listen to podcasts!  

See you next week.

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