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. Missouri Michael says

    Not a bad plan, but I think I would make a couple of changes – I would take out the little bedroom by the family room and increase the size of the family room and the kitchen to fill the extra space provided (or create a dining space off of the kitchen since it is not an eat-in kitchen). I would also run the utility room and lavatory across the entire width of the garage, walling off the utility room and adding a door from the kitchen to provide a way to hide the utility room when it is a mess. I think that I would also probably bump out the front wall where the bedrooms are around 3 feet to provide more space in those bedrooms – you would just have to bump the roof out over the bedrooms like they have done with the garage. I might also do the same thing with the back bedroom and attached bathroom to provide a little more space.

    I really like to look at these old house plans, but I usually customize the stock plans (in my mind) to make them work in the way that I want.

  2. NorthsideCJ says

    While not a bad plan, I’d certainly modify it. Yes the garage can NEVER be too big! (Sorry, car guy here.) I would wall off the kitchen from the family room before removing that bedroom to enlarge the family room. If you’ve ever lived with a family and a “free flowing” house plan you’ll realize quickly how unpleasant they are to live with. The kitchen needs to be its own room. I’d possibly wall off the dining room as well. There should be seperate wood burning fireplaces in the family and living rooms. Also the coat closet should be nearer the entrance. Directly in front of the front door the coat closet could go, the bookcase would be smaller to make a walkway, and that would enlarge that one bedroom too. The hall bath is large enough you don’t really need the linen closet in the hall cutting into that bedroom. But that’s just my opinion, and looking at house plans and then seeing how you would modify them is a lot of fun.

  3. Pam Kueber says

    I agree with much of what you’ve both said.

    1 – extend the mudroom across the entire garage
    2 – wall off the kitchen. i very much agree with northsidecj that it is SO NICE to be able to close those kitchen doors
    3 – i also think that i’d nix the bedroom at the end of the family room. i’d make the bathrooms bigger.
    4 – in addition, if you have a total 15×15 space for the kitchen – you can put a table in the center. maybe i’d expand the kitchen into that family room space as well to accomplish that…

    but…remember, in my little cocktail game here, i want to keep the footprint of the house as compact as possible…. so maybe possibly except for doublechecking that the garage really will hold two cars today…no expanding the house!

  4. sumacsue says

    I’ve visited in a home with a floor plan similar to this one, and I really liked the way you can circulate through the main areas. I think back in the 50s and 60s, plans like this were popular because when families visited, parents could be in the living room, kids could hang out in the family room, and the kitchen could easily serve both areas. I would love to have a foyer — such a nice transition area from outdoors to indoors. I agree about ditching the smallest bedroom — I’d use some of that space to make bigger bathrooms. I’d want some louvered doors to hide the washer and dryer, or enlarge that utility area and arrange it so you don’t have to look at those appliances from the kitchen and the entry from the garage.I like the way you can get to the backyard from both the kitchen and family room.

  5. sablemable says

    Have you tried looking at You can view home plans dating from the early 1900s up to 1956 (Alladin, National).

    I have a 2 bed/2 bath ranch that has, to me anyway, the perfect floor plan. A good sized eat-in kitchen, huge living room, large bedrooms and ample closets.

  6. Magnarama says

    I simply must lay my hands on a scanner so I can send you the most purely perfect 50s house plan ever. I saved it from a 1956 ‘House Beautiful’ magazine, for that dream day when I build my dream home. It was one of those ‘House of the Year’ things they used to do and it is divine, with the ultimate kitchen/dining/family room layout. Plus: interior photos after house is built! Pam, you would swoon for the kitchen. Must.Get.Scanner. But right now must check out that antiquehome website.

  7. Tikimama says

    That website is amazing! I looked only at the 1949 – 1961 homes, rather quickly, but I know I could spend hours! This is a nice resource for exterior paint selections, too. Even a bit of landscaping. Thanks for the link, sablemable!

  8. Colleen says

    But if you made the bathrooms bigger it wouldn’t be a 50’s style home, would it?! …although…my american standard tub is nice but wouldn’t space for a wirlpool be great!

    Nice open floor plan, but I agree the bedrooms are a bit small. Nice to have that bath off the master though!

    I don’t have the plans (would love to find them), but my 1950 home is a 2 bdrm 2 bath (only the bath on the main level counts though, the other isn’t quite legal without an egress window) 1219 sq ft, single car garage. Interesting thing I’ve noticed in my neighborhood…we have attached garages but no doors from the garage into the house.

    • Pam Kueber says

      You’re right about small bathrooms, Colleen. I have three of them…and I have to say: Less to clean! And, it makes me conscientious about not collecting stuff in them…There is a freedom in “less.”

  9. sablemable says

    Tikimama-Wasn’t that fun looking at those home plans? I also collect home plans magazines from the Fifties and Sixties, which sometimes are hard to find. Most have come from Barnes and Noble (out of print search) and the also sells home plans books.

  10. says

    WOW! what a kinship I feel right now. Thought I was the only house plan geek out there. Can’t tell you how you all have made me feel. I look at house plans to relax! House plans are a hobby and I love it. An old house plan book would be my perfect gift. My hubby, soon to be 13 year old son, and I plan to build a house in back of our present farmhouse which will be torn down (we will be “parting” it out) Don’t get all misty eyed please – it was not built to last, trust me on this. I will salvage what I can. We have built before and did a 1,989 sq.ft. 4 bedroom 2 1/2 bath long ranch (75′) with a front porch across the front. White with dark green shutters. Still looks timeless. Took a lot of planning to get 4 bdrms, nook, fam. rm. dining room/living room combo all for under 2000 sq. ft. The new owners take great care of it, thank goodness as I drive by on my way home although people say they don’t see “life” happening there like when we lived there. It’s on a main highway and is one of those places you check out as you drive by. (Life happens at our new place! Cows, dog, cat, barn, out buildings, fruit trees, split rail fence, mowing, tractors, 4-wheelers, oh boy.) Had to find an old plan from an old book and expand the master bathroom and closet to update it. So many house plans today are squares so as to fit on a city lot but I will always love a long ranch! They also put all the living in the back of the house nowadays and I would like to be able to catch a glimpse of who is coming up our driveway. No McMansion for me. Most definately I trust you folks as I would trust no others! When the time comes, I’ll be asking for lots of opinions! Hoping spring of 2010 or 2011. My husband wants me to “pick a plan” already! Must be 2000 sq.ft. or less (I keep coming up with 2,160!) and bedrooms (3 is fine) at one end. A covered patio and front entrance (this is the NW) and because we’re in the country with all that entails we need a mud room with a big closet, upright freezer space, w/d, and bench would be ideal. Me, I of course scrutinize the kitchen and really want the sink under a kitchen window rather than in an island. A small hearth room or family room off the kitchen for me to relax would be my ideal while the “boys” are in the large living room with woodburning fireplace and TV. We have that situation now with the farmhouse and I love it. I totally agree that these “open” kitchens are not for day to day living. Been there; didn’t like it. Want to be able to make noise, decorate it a little different than the other spaces but still see out a little and not feel isolated. Prefer the flow to go through the center of the house and not go across a room. A place to lay out food for entertaining buffet style is my ideal. As a Realtor I can’t help but think resale even though we’ll live there forever if we can. Someone will eventually need to sell it. So think 1950s, ranch on a slight slope, timeless, maybe even slightly modern although really a rustic style would fit the location. Lots of masonry. Welcoming. (but) Just like most out there we are uncertain about the economy.
    By the way, I really liked your plan. You’re on the right track! The outside was nice as well. Thanks for the encouragement that bigger isn’t better. I want to be able to care for this house for the next 40 years and pay the taxes. You guys are awesome!

  11. sablemable says

    Hi, Sara!
    Sometimes there are old house plan magazines on ebay and there are finds in out of print or used book stores online, as well as checking Barnes and Noble out of print section. Always look for the publication date when you click on the details. I’ve managed to find several plan mags from the Fifties and early Sixties from Barnes and Noble.
    I know what kind of ranch home plan you’re looking for as I’ve seen it in some of my plan books. I’ve never used a scanner before, but I’ll see if I can do it and send the plans to Pam to post. Will that help?

  12. says

    sablemable you’re a doll! We real estate agents use scanners a lot. Got a friend in real estate who can help? A plan # and designer might connect the dots online. My eyes are blurry from reading about environmental stuff for clock hours; think I’ll check out Barnes & Noble and find some chocolate:) Thanks again, and again. You don’t know how tired I am of tan boxes everywhere.

  13. sablemable says

    I was successful with scanning (how easy was that?) and sent the images on to Pam. I hope they are what you are looking for or at least along the same lines.

  14. Linda says

    I’m Linda and it’s a joy to read about other people who are interested in retro house plans. I love to take an old house plan and change it up a bit. I have been searching for awhile for sites that show old house plans and I’d like to share one that I love. I hope you enjoy it.
    There are quiet a few 50 and 60 ranch-style house plans listed. Also, does anyone know where I can find free art deco and/or moderne house plans? I have not been able to find much for that era.

  15. Heather says

    I love this site! We live in a house very, very similar to the layout above. Built in 1963 ours varies slightly with 3 bedrooms instead of 4 and no lavotory at the garage end of the house. Overall this is a great floorplan to live in. I work as a renovation consultant and am constantly looking at new floor layouts and projects that need major additions and renovations. It is a pleasure to live in a home where nothing has been touched and it still functions beautifully. Let me know if you want some photos of this layout in “real life”.

  16. Nina462 says

    I have a book of house plans from 1927 The Home Builders Catalog. It’s huge and is my “coffee table book” of choice. It’s original, 2nd edition. I love that there’s a message “Do Not Tear Pages, Nor Clip Illustrations from This Catalog-And thus impair its usefulness to yourself and others”. It has matching garage plans too (The Pierce Arrow, The Duesenberg, The Hupmobile–cars that no longer exist). It lists all the manufacturers needed for building your home circa 1927. But I digress….I have a 65 Ranch (owned for 4 years), and I found the original blueprints to my house-stuck in a cubby hole in the basement. What a find!! Now I know that the wood beams in the living/dining room are original. I think I might have these matted & framed (would look good in my office). Maybe I should scan my blueprints in someday.

  17. Richard Flanagan says

    I am looking for the Layout Diagram or possibly the Prints of the T-504 by Rudolph A Matern. It was about 1956
    Thank You

  18. Debbie says

    I just found your site. I live the the same 1976 house that i grew up in and i see so many things with it i would like to change. my floor plan is similar to this one but i have bigger issues or so it seems that need attention. thanks.

  19. 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.

  20. 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. :)

  21. 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.

  22. 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)

  23. 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.

  24. anne says

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

  25. 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.

  26. 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!

  27. 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.

  28. 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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