Dan and Jennifer Harrison weren't trying to be hip when they bought their ranch-style home in the Anaheim (Calif.) Colony Historic District three...
Dan and Jennifer Harrison weren’t trying to be hip when they bought their ranch-style home in the Anaheim (Calif.) Colony Historic District three years ago. They didn’t even realize these iconic midcentury dwellings were quickly becoming the coolest pads around.
The 2,600-square-foot, single-story ranch had the space they needed.
The home was in good condition, and the integrity of the original 1954 design remained intact.
Even though they weren’t initially drawn to the midcentury modern vernacular, “we knew the bones of the house were good,” Jennifer said.
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“We were looking for a house with style,” she said. “It had to be something that wowed us.”
The couple had been living in a Craftsman-style home in the district and had developed an appreciation for historic homes. But with two dogs, a cat and a baby on the way, the Harrisons had outgrown the tiny, compartmentalized house.
They traded the smaller home for a two-bedroom, two-bath traditional ranch that sits on a lot and a half with a front yard large enough to host a neighborhood football game and a long driveway that leads to a garage in the back.
The house had been custom-built for a local dentist and his wife 52 years ago. It is on a street referred to as “Doctors Row” because of the large concentration of doctors who lived there in the 1950s and ’60s.
The Harrisons were especially attracted to the home’s open plan, which is as functional today as it was when it was built.
“We basically saw it as a blank slate, a reason to try new things,” Jennifer said.
The furniture from their previous home “looked like doll furniture” in the new space, she said. So they had to find pieces that would work with the new look.
Jennifer had learned from her mother, an antiques dealer, how to shop garage sales and spot quality furnishings. An original Heywood-Wakefield corner bookcase and a vintage chrome table and chairs are among her many midcentury finds. And a stash of items kept in storage from these early salvaging days, including a collection of vintage Fiesta and Bauer pottery, helped accessorize the home.
Colorful Bauer pieces sit on the mantel above the flagstone fireplace in the family room, accenting the coral paint color on the walls.
“To me, this is the heart of the house,” she said. “And coral seemed to be the color that called to me for this room; it really warms it up.”
Each room has its own style with its own color scheme, she explained.
“I feel my colors are energizing,” Jennifer said.
“The room I’m most proud of is the dining room,” Dan said. “It all works really well together.” A Heywood-Wakefield birchwood dining set, sunburst light and bark-cloth draperies work well with the turquoise blue in the room, he said.
But it’s not these tangible items that make a house a home, he said.
“There’s an overall feeling of comfort in a home, as opposed to a house. When you’re away, home is the place you want to return to, and when you’re there you never want to leave.”
Ranch-style homes were created to fulfill this American dream. Built for the GIs returning from World War II, these homes were modest in size, generally ranging from 1,500 to 2,000 square feet. The design was a single story, or sometimes split-level, with open beam ceilings, an open floor plan and sliding glass doors that opened to a patio.
These ranch-style homes were built in tracts by the millions, but never received much respect until lately. Like most items with a midcentury provenance, these postwar homes are fashionable, especially to the generation whose grandparents grew up in them.