The best 50s ranch house design so far – a Retro Renovation re-run


This rerun is for Sara, who is looking for a ranch house design to build. I originally ran this post back in spring 2008. Source for this design is the Small House Planning Bureau, St. Cloud, Minn. Year: No info.

“Not another one! Yes, another thing that I’m becoming obsessed with – collecting and then for hours, scrutinizing, vintage 50s house plans. It’s sort of like — the quest for Eldorado. The quest for the perfect little jewel box. Not that my house isn’t great. But I am intrigued to see if I can discover the perfect 50s house in the most compact footprint. I have these criteria, the house must have: 

  • Two full bathrooms – honestly, I know that legions of Americans lived with one, but that is where I draw the line.
  • Foyer with adjacent coat closet – Foyers always get cluttered and then there’s the whole muddy boots thing. So, this must be a clearly defined area with handy storage.
  • Mudroom – Same as above with the addition that the mudroom must be between the garage and kitchen so that all junk can be left in this ante-way with a door to close behind it.
  • Good kitchen layout – I know it when I see it.
  • Dining room or area must also be well designed. If there’s a dining room – it needs to be in a flow where it can/will actually be used every day.
  • One, not two, front doors — It is very bad feng shui to have two doors (e.g. one main door, one visible into kitchen or mudroom) visible to the street. Like, the energy does not know where to enter.


On virtually all other counts — exterior design, layout, size of rooms — hey, I’m flexible! Here is my first pretty darn close to perfect home, discovered after a few hours of staring intently at a new stash of home plans. I’m telling you – hours of cheap and wholesome fun!

This house gains points for:

  • Utility/mudroom/lav off the back of the garage leading to the kitchen. Washer/dryer – right there.
  • Twoand a half baths.
  • Kitchen is nicely done, great flow to family room.
  • Bedrooms are small but that’s okay.
  • Foyer close enough, coat closet a little far from the action, but okey.
  • And (shown in original image at top, and below): Nice curb appeal

Loses points for:

  • Kind of big — but pretty darn well-done for 1625 s.f.! From a book of four-bedroom plans. Which is what makes all this stuff fit!
  • I don’t honestly think 20′ wide will do for a two-car garage, would have to be bigger, in reality.

Honestly, I think my quest will be complete when I find a 2 BR 2 BA 1,200 s.f. winner. But the more I look at this particular home design – the more I think, it’s a really really good one – especially considering that it is 4 BR. Stay tuned, the quest continues.

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  1. JP says

    The “minuses” in this plan: You DON’T DON’T DON”T want a kitchen with entrances to it on opposite corners! There will always be traffic going diagonally through there and it’s almost impossible to rearrange to avoid it. It’s a pain in the patoot to prepare a meal in these kitchens. And though you say don’t want two entrances on the front, there needs to be another walk-in door to the garage besides that one on the back. Maybe on the left end near the front. Because some times you need to get into the garage without going through the overhead door, through the house, or going around to the back door. You are quite correct about the location of the front hall coat closet. This will not work. The family will exit the car in the garage and enter the house from there. Where is the coat storage near that entrance into the house? And even so, the coat/front hall closet needs to be closer to the front door, or they just don’t get used.

  2. The Atomic Mom says

    I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one that searches for old/mid-century home plans! I love this house and would LOVE to live in something this functional one day. :)

  3. Benjamin O. says

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who does such things! A whole page of people leaving comments that sound just like me! I am young, 19, but I am very interested and intrigued by architectural styles. Mid Century era homes are my favorites, and although I haven’t had the chance to find or build a home of my dreams, I often explore my options way in advance. What a cool blog, I hope to check out more.
    It would be neat to see the house plans of some of commentators; I bet they’re neato.

    • says

      Benjamin O. – this is Sara from WA. We are in the final stretch of our home plan! When I was your age I too enjoyed home plans and it is still (30 yrs. later) a source of relaxation. Ours will be an “L” shaped ranch with 2133 sq.ft. (sorry Pam) with a nod to the mid century in 6:12 roof pitch and a few diamond pane windows as well as angle of end of garage not quite equal. Adding a little Northwest so we don’t end of going out of style. Will be our forever home, we are Realtors, and we can pinpoint the year of a house pretty easily so I want it to be as timeless as possible, welcoming, homey and practical with great “flow”. Read Sarah Susanka’s books which the library should have – learned a lot! And I get the weighing options way in advance – been working on this longer than I want to admit. Welcome.

  4. says

    And a big thank you to Sable mama as I did get a couple of old plan books online and pretty much put together several of the “L” shaped ranch plans, updated the master bath, enlarged the garage, and “wa-lah”! (wasn’t quite that easy – using a home plan designer to draw the plans which is necessary anyway to be up on all the local building codes)

  5. northeast Texas says

    Hi there, I also love house plans and my husband is a residential architect and we are currently designing our next custom home. If you truly want a 50’s house, then have one designed for you. You will get exactly what you want, exactly where you want it, and a design that works for your needs and will fit your site perfectly. My hangup is windows; there are never enough and never where I want them, so we design for more and larger ones and placed strategicaly for views. Shop around for a great architect to achieve your dream. Also investigate working with a student “architect to be” still in college, who could help design and also do the plans for you. Keep all your “dream” notes and potential dream floor plans because these will be important in your design process. You will not be disappointed in the final result.

    • Benjamin O. says

      Does building a new home from 1950s house plans still preserve that authentic 1950s look of a home? I can tell just by looking at most houses how new it is, and for me the best part about an older home is knowing that it’s withstood the tests of time. That said, I would want a much more modern interior, and would probably want to redesign many aspects of the home. If you think it still had the look and feel of the homes featured in the original floor plan, then that’s great to hear! How far along are you in building, or have you begun yet?

    • pam kueber says

      Thanks for you comment, Elise. I am not an expert on this issue. I do *think* I know that some fireplaces are designed to burn more efficiently than others. Also in general: Live small, consume less energy of all sorts. They all have their “problems,” I think.

  6. anne says

    You’re right! This is perfect! And I also love to look through old home plans!!! Cheap, wholesome fun indeed! :-)

  7. Daniel says

    I’d honestly recommend this site for mid-century plans. It’s by the same person as the antique home site,that someone else mentioned, but specializes in WWII to the early sixties. I’ve looked at about every single plan on the site, so I’ve started looking up the creators of the plans (the lumber companies, etc.) on and found quite a few full books of 50s plans:

    I wasn’t surprised by Liberty Ready-Cut on there, but some of the arbitrary lumber companies had nice plans… some of which were of brick construction, which seems counter-intuitive.

    PS. I have actually recreated this plan in the Sims 3, though I did indeed revise it some to my liking. It ended up being ridiculously large compared to this, but it had some impressive mid-century style if I do say so myself.

  8. says

    Love this design! I never thought of a collection of vintage house plans, but how cool is that! I wish I could find the actual plans for my parents first home (a modest, but wonderful 3 BR, 2 bath house that still stands in Bloomington, Indiana, and they were the first owners – “new” neighborhood built up from 1962 to 1964). I bet you would like it, Pam – relatively compact, but so well-designed!

  9. Anastasia says

    We have a house for sale in a neighborhood nearby that everyone calls “The Messed Up House”. Why you ask, because when they enclosed the garage they added not 1 but 2 additional doors which means that the house now has 3 count them 3 front doors. Looks Terrible.

  10. Alan Benson says

    So glad to see soooo many people interested in 50’s ramblers. I have been trying, with little success to find a house plan. This house I have seen for years of drive bys all over the country, but can’t find the plan anywhere! It must have been very popular, as, like I said, Ive seen it in all parts of the country. It is many times in brick, but I have seen it with siding also. I beleive it was a “House of the Year” or something like that for one of the home magazines. I have seen versions of it built as early as the mid 40’s. It has a centered front door with large side lights with a large box bay window on one side with a second single window and a small bathroom size windo and larger single window on the othersde of the entrance. I’ve seen versions with and without a garage. Inside there is a combined living dining room on the box bay side of the entrance, with a fireplace. behind those rooms is a good size “eat in kitchen with views of a rear terrace and alarge laundry/mudroom combo, with a door to the terrace. On the otherside of the entrance is a large master bedroom with its own bath, and 2 closets, a second good size bedroom and a 3rd very large bedroom that could easily be a family room, as it has an ext. to the terrace. the bedroom hall has the main bath and another entrance to the laundry/mudroom. If anyone knows about this house, or has seen a plan like I’ve described, I would love to hear from Y’all. In the meantime keep seeking ot these great homes from our past, and FORGET the McMansions……

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