A 1950s ranch house with some surprising features — 15 photos

South Boundary Aiken SCpeggyPeggy recently retired from a 23-year career in the military — including stints in Iraq — and now she’s enjoying the good life all shacked up with McDuff, a westie who watches out for her. Peggy bought her 1950s ranch house in an amazingly picturesque area in Aiken, South Carolina, in 2010, when she began planning for a life where she could establish permanent roots. At first, she thought she would gut renovate the original kitchen and bathrooms — like all the neighbors did. But just in time, she discovered this blog, and her thinking turned around. Yes, she had to do some renovation work — and it was ugly — but it’s all better now. She even started a blog to celebrate her journey, Hazard Girl.

mcduff the west highland terrier watchdog extraordinairePeggy has two decorating questions for us … Morever, she shares her story and some of the fabulous features of her house — including floors I’ve never seen before. This is a good one! –>

Hi Pam,

I am a 23-year vet, and I learned about Aiken while stationed in the Carolinas, and decided that this would be a great place to retire. It’s a small town with lots of culture…and one of the most lovely historic sections in South Carolina…. made famous by the 100-year-old live oaks that were planted by Henry Dibble.

Pam, the first time I drove down my street… with this amazing canopy overhead, I was in awe! There are wonderful little ranch cottages with metal roofs, and beautiful historic homes known as the “winter colonies” up and down the street. So, when this little house came up for sale, I thought I just had to jump on it.  So I bought it, with the intentions of renting it out until I finished my last tour (I was stationed in Delaware), and found out that I had a lot of work to do!

1950s kitchen

Peggy says: The kitchen has wooden cabinets, I would guess from what I am reading on your blog, from perhaps the 60's when they started using wood. I had those sanded down, and painted with Benjamin Moore white oil based paint, and great vintage looking pulls added.

I was still in the Air Force, and was deploying to Iraq every 10 months, in fact, out of the last 3 years I was in, I spent a year in Iraq.  From Iraq, I orchestrated the replacement of worn out shingles because the roof was leaking, replaced leaking metal windows, some of which wouldn’t even close, old cast iron drain lines and copper plumbing that were original to the house and leaking, duct work that had collapsed and was blowing air underneath the crawl, the electrical was the original two wire system and was dangerous, complete with an old federal box, that was no longer up to code having been deemed a fire hazard years before, but had somehow passed my home inspection.  I had the house partially rewired, grounding major appliances and the bathroom and adding a new breaker box.

vintage vanity with hex floor tile

Peggy says: I have a peachy pink and brown tiled hall bathroom, and a tiny aqua and hexagonal white bathroom in my MBR which has two closets and built in drawers in between.

And then there was the yard! 14 large pine trees dwarfed the little house, dropping huge limbs that threatened the roof, roots busting up the concrete drive along with a rotting wood fence covered in sticker vines, behind a chain link that was hidden by overgrown azaleas, and a rusty tin garden shed.

cheerful painted garden shed

Peggy: The yard was horrific, overgrown, with a rusty tin garden shed, which I turned in to the conversation piece in the neighborhood, by painting and decorating it. I have actually had people stop in the street to tell me how wonderful the place looks. I still have a ways to go, and was way overwhelmed until I found your site.

It was a lot of money, a lot of second guessing myself and my decision to buy the house, and a lot of work both before and after McDuff and I moved in. (McDuff is my little westie sidekick, best pal and watch dog.) I never will forget the first night we pulled in to the broken up drive and drove over the tree root that was still there, I just wanted to turn around and drive the other way. We lived the first month in the house with only a bed and a table, because there was so much to be done before I was to have my furniture delivered.

sunken living room

Peggy: The house has a sunken living room, with brick steps and wrought iron railing that lead down from the dining room. Exposed brick wall with planter and vaulted tongue and groove ceiling over all.

After I had the cabinets refinished and new pulls added, and with a fresh coat of paint on the walls, I started to feel encouraged. Gone was the dark cave feel and now the house felt light and airy. McDuff and I got our furniture, and we both started to feel more at home. However, I felt the house was still “dated”, so I was debating what I would replace when I found your site.

midcentury bedroom

Peggy: I also, had the interior painted (white, I know you don't like it but it needed brightening up, it was soooo dark), carpet pulled up off the hard woods in the bedrooms, and I had hardwoods added to the living room.

Aiken, has its share  of midcentury homes, but a lot of them are totally renovated, kitchens torn out, bathrooms gutted and redone. And a lot of folks here like the cute little houses with metal roofs, picket fences around meticulously manicured yards resplendent with lovely porches. They embrace English colonial and cottage, furnishing them with antiques and vintage rugs, but have new kitchens and bathrooms, complete with granite and stainless steel. I thought that’s what I wanted too. My thoughts were what should I do with the old brick planter that runs the length of the brick wall in my dining room? Or the retro red-orange, gray and peach broken tiled floor?

peach and brown bathroomOr what about the pink bathroom? How long would I need to live with it?  Should I put in a granite counter top? Not knowing what to do, but knowing I didn’t have the funds to completely “redo” everything in my house, I went searching the internet looking for what would work with the retro, and that’s how I found you. I typed in renovation and retro and your site popped up. After reading and going over the stories of other owners of  midcentury modest homes like mine, I started seeing my home with new eyes.

floor made of broken tiles

I have a beautiful broken tile floor in my dining room. I know its midcentury but dont know if its original and put in when the house was built in the 50's., which has a broken tile, peach, reddish orange, and gray tile, (don't know what year that is from?)

I had been drawn to my little house from the beginning, and I’m so very glad I didn’t get rid of the very things that give it the character that make it unique.  Now, I will never get rid of my broken tiled floor, or my exposed brick wall, and I actually added some river rock and put some spider plants in my planter!… and I love the iron railing, the sunken living room and vaulted tongue and groove ceiling. I just wish I had sliders instead of French doors and would love a Pasadena mid mod front door.

My questions are for my next projects:

newer tile next to original tileI have newer tile in my kitchen that runs down the hall.  It bumps up to my retro broken tiled dining room, and my hardwoods in my bedrooms….I was thinking that perhaps I would have it taken up and install hardwoods?

1950s bathroomAnd my peachy/pink bathroom….I was thinking of painting the walls a deep cream?  What do you think?

west highland terrier mcduff

Peggy added: I am so excited about my home after finding your site. Just out of curiosity I went on zillow.com and cyperhomes, and other local MLS listings and couldnt believe it. I had a very difficult time locating even one midcentury home that hadn't had some sort of "complete" update to the kitchen and bathroom, ranging from a full gutting and reinstallation of granite and stainless, to, plain stock cabs and corian countertops. I am so very glad I didn't do that to my house. I feel so lucky to have my vintage tile and cabs, and other vintage features.

By the way, I want to share how my place got its name.  In my neighborhood there are a lot of homes that are “named”…Magnolia Place, or Twin Trees, etc….when McDuff and I first moved in, there was a prowler outside one night lurking around trying to open my back door, and Duff barked and alerted me he was there and he ran away. So I thought it was more than appropriate to name our place, McDuff’s Manor. He lets everyone know he’s on the lookout and he guards it well!  He is my hero!

backyard fence

Peggy says: I was going to gut the little house, but am now appreciating what is still original and it sure is more "doable" for a single, newly retired lady on a budget. Thank you! I appreciate your blog and all the beautiful inspirational stories.

Peggy, thank you so much for this great story and for sharing all these photos. You are doing an amazing job bringing all-new TLC back to that house. It found a good owner. Hey, I also want to say “My Bad!” for making Anyone question their desire to paint an interior white. Or greige, for that matter. First of all, I think it is a really good thing when you are first in a house to paint the interior white. You can then see the house. If you decide to add more color later, so be it. Also, when I slow down and check myself, I know that: Colors are wavelengths of energy — and every individual interacts with them differently. So does every house. Your home has such a … calm … to it. A happy serenity. And McDuff is just as cute as my boy.

Those broken tile floors: AMAZING! I have never seen any quite like them. And the interior architecture: The beamed ceiling and the sunken living room including those brick stairs — I love those! What a livable house — it’s perfect.

As for your questions: I’ll let readers chime in first. My short answer, though: You have great instincts. xoxo you go, girl!

Peggy’s blog: Hazard Girl.


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  1. ChrisH says

    Peggy, thanks for your service. The house is really cool – glad you decided to preserve it’s original charm.

  2. says

    As far as the white room goes, who wouldn’t want to paint your room to match your dog? Westies rule!

    A long time ago Bob Vila did a 30’s “Cracker Cottage” home in Florida with broken tile countertops explaining that the style probably began out of necessity and frugality then became a trend. Your house looks great. Thanks for sharing and thank you for you service.

  3. Jeanne says

    First of all, THANK YOU Peggy for your 25 years of service!

    Second of all, this line brought tears to my eyes: “After reading and going over the stories of other owners of midcentury modest homes like mine, I started seeing my home with new eyes.”

    That just shows how important this blog is (at least to me, but I think to others as well) and it is more than just “information.” It actually can change the way people look at things and for the better. It makes unhappy people happy! There is so much pressure to “renovate” our homes that it can cloud people’s thinking and feelings about where they live. I always go back to the quote I once read (I don’t know who said it) but “happiness is wanting what you have.” All it takes is for people to open their eyes a little bit and look around and see the value in what we already have. And for this…I THANK Pam!

    Peggy, your home is fantastic and it looks like you’re on the right path. I think wood in the kitchen would be nice, or also some VCT tile in a nice color (or colors, picking up some highlights from your broken tile floor).

  4. says


    Thank you for your 23 years of service!

    I’m so glad you love the house you’re in.

    My favorite part of your house is that broken tile floor! I love the randomness of the pattern. (Plus it makes a great backdrop to take photos of your adorable dog.)

    When I moved into my 1962 ranch, I wasn’t sure what to do with my built in planter either, but you know what, it looks great filled with plants as originally intended! (and it is now one of my favorite parts of the house!)


  5. says

    Peggy, I am so glad that you began to see your home with new eyes – because it’s GORGEOUS! I’m super happy for you. I absolutely love Aiken too – lovely ton. I wish you many, many happy years there. And three cheers for that cute garden shed!

  6. Kate H says

    I love the floors, they sort of remind me of terazzo only REALLY BIG. Do you think peachy terazzo tile would work in the kitchen? You could probably get samples and see if you like it. It would be really hard, though, and maybe not so comfy to stand on when you are cooking. Otherwise: maybe some checkerboard linolium? Then you could go with something that sort of goes with the other floor — grey or red.I think in S.C. you’d want something that feels cool on your feet.Wood is also good, but you have to be careful of spills and would probably need to refinish it every 10 years or so because of traffic.

  7. JKaye says

    Peggy, a heartfelt thank you for your many years of service to our country. Welcome to the retrorenovation.com neighborhood. First off, I wondered, when I saw the name of your blog, Hazard Girl, if you had a Kentucky link. Then I thought, nah, it’s because she was in hazardous conditions in Iraq. But my first hunch was true; I see on your blog that you ARE a Kentucky gal. Well, I am really sorry you didn’t head back to My Old Kentucky Home for retirement, but I understand, since the winters are warmer is SC. And besides, how could you pass up that incredible house of yours? All of that great tile and brick – wow! As for what to do about the walls in that fantastic peachy bathroom — look out. Pam will be recommending some cool retro wallpaper. Get ready for another project!

  8. Wendy M. says

    I echo the above comments and thank you for your years of service. I’m amazed at your ability to serve AND deal with all of those maintenance issues at the same time! That is very impressive. The home is just lovely and it’s wonderful you’ve kept the original features. Thanks for sharing all the great pictures.
    (My kids LOVE that your dog is named McDuff…we check those books out from the library constantly!)

  9. Betty Crafter says

    Your home is just beautiful! Congratulations on finding it and deciding to honor its character and uniqueness. I especially love that sunken living room with wrought iron railing!
    I vote for hardwoods in the kitchen – I think it would add a nice continuity to your floors and make the dining room floor pop!
    And I think cream paint in the peach bathroom would be lovely.

  10. Bonnie Springer says

    I’ve seen the same broken tile floor in several mid-century houses around Chapel Hill, NC and Florence, SC. However, the floors have typically been one tile color (much like the tile floor in the first McDuff photo). I love this Aiken, SC house and the improvements that Peggy has made to it.

  11. says

    wow, thank you all so much for all of your encouragement…I feel as if I am among friends here. 🙂 Reading over you comments has me smiling so big I have lipstick on both ears!

    • says

      Thank you for your service in the military and glad to know you found such a lovely place to nest. Love the house, love the broken tile floor and love the Aqua bath. Hazard girl, eh? My mom was a Hazard girl too, from a holler called Bonnyman, her maiden name was Combs. Small world, eh. Keep up the great work on your house and enjoy embracing the vintage charm.

  12. Elizabeth Mary says

    Welcome to this great place and to your new — for you — home. What a great place to come to after all the hard work you did for all of us over all those years.

    Like everyone else, I LOVE the dining room floor. When I first saw it, before learning it was tile, I thought you had a “crazy quilt” wood floor. So glad you are not ever going to get rid of it.

    As for your kitchen cupboards — I think they are probably original. My little Cape Cod ranch was built in 1946 and has wood cupboards that look like yours — in terms of the way the doors are shaped and how they look to fit over rather than flush and into the frames. When I bought this house in 2003 the entire kitchen was original with only one new thing — a 1967 range — and, of course a few layers of paint on the cupboards. I love the cupboards and will never take them out. I think that in those days cupboards were made on site and so are custom built to the home. At least that is what the carpenter who replaced the counters told me.

  13. Lauryn says

    Wow, Peggy, congratulations and gratitude to you on your retirement from service.

    What a fabulous house and story … so envious of that gorgeous tree-lined street! I would love to just gush about the house, but instead I’ll address your questions. I think wood floors in the kitchen would look great next to that fabulous floor, but you might also look into real linoleum (Marmoleum has a huge color palette). You could do one color that picks up a color from the dining room and since linoleum has more of a mottled look (for lack of a better word), it would be a nice soft transition. It would also set off those great cabinets beautifully.

    As for that gorgeous bathroom … if the pink is pushing it for you, a cream would look great. But if you want to embrace the pink, you might try picking up some hint of the lighter pink/peach shade in the tile that would contrast nicely with the darker trim tile.

    Whatever you do, I’m sure it will be lovely! Welcome to the RetroRenovation family, good luck to you, and enjoy your well-deserved retirement.

    And a p.s. to Pam: I wonder how many homes have been saved as a result of random searches that turned up your blog? What a service you provide!

  14. Heidi says

    Peggy, another shout out to say thanks for your years serving our country! Your house is really sweet! I am with those who vote for wood flooring in the kitchen. However, I put cork flooring in my 1948 kitchen and I love it. It may not be specifically “retro”, but it has been around over 100 years and is a sustainable alternative.

    • pam kueber says

      Heidi, cork is absolutely positively 100% retro. For example, I have cork original to my 1951 house in my foyer and both upstairs bedroom. A great material!

    • Wendy M. says

      Our 1964 home has cork in most of the upstairs and it’s original. It is such a wonderful material for flooring- we feel so lucky to have it (especially when we priced it for other areas of the house!)

    • says

      My grandparents put in a “modern” kitchen in their colonial house in New England in the 1950s and it had stainless steel appliances and CORK floors that lasted over 50 years. I think cork is thoroughly mid-century, and a great choice. I am putting some in the Woods Hole Inn (which I am renovating with the help of this wonderful blog) and I like that its inexpensive, durable, green (made from a renewable source) AND muffles sound between floors. Win, win for me. Good luck with your project – I love the house and your dog is adorable. –Beth

  15. Olga Plant says

    Congratulations on your retirement. I was married to a man that did 24 so I know it was no small stint! Thank you for your dedication and service! That being said, your dedication also shows up in your determination to have a lovely home and wow… it is gorgeous! I LOVE LOVE LOVE the kitchen cabs and the bright white. You have wonderful instincts. I think wood flooring instead of that new tile would be great to tie in with the wood you have in your bedrooms.

    When I moved into our house, I hated the carpet but didn’t have money to spare, so I pulled it up and painted the foundation to look like tile… besides, by painting I got the exact color I wanted. I made our stock built home look cottage by adding bead board to half the walls. I say this to say… be free… try something different if you get the urge. In your peach/pink bathroom you can go subtle on the wall and contrast on a shower curtain like black or bring in the bright white. Painting your shed is wonderful!
    Of course now, if you do anything else… we are going to want to see updates!
    Thank you so much for sharing!

    • pam kueber says

      I’ve seen more photos of your kitchen… Based on your leaning toward hardwood, I’d say go for it. Seems like “your gut” is tell you — and often, that’s the right answer for you. I’m seeing a rug under the table and chairs in the kitchen, though, to “soften” things up. Capel makes a chenille braided rug that you just cannot destroy. You could bring in those strong harvest tones from the broken tile and bricks nearby… I think it could look smashing. Braided might be too Early American for your taste – but you get my drift…

  16. PAppel says

    Again, thank you for serving.
    Kitchen floor: BTW, I absolutely love your cabinets! Wood would be nice, but alternatively, a checkerboard picking up two of the colors of the broken tile floor, either in a vinyl tile or in a linoleum (eco and foot friendly for standing long periods of time) would also be an option and would continue the colors in that beautiful broken tile floor.
    I like the idea of a deep cream in your bath or an off white (shaded to one of the tile colors).
    Great home, great street. LOVE those trees.

  17. Mary Elizabeth says

    Since you have an Elizabeth Mary comment, I think you should have a Mary Elizabeth one too! Ah, yes, to see with new eyes (and an open heart) can change a life. Your house has come to life with all your hard work and TLC. Having seen most of the metamorphosis for myself, had you given any thought to adding some “Before” pics to highlight the amazing makeover? So, glad you are happy in your home and happy to have shared some of that process with you. BTW, I like the linoleum suggestion. It’s what I remember from the houses I lived in when I was growing up. So I’m a little partial. I also like the embrace the pink notion. But whatever you decide, paint is the easiest thing to redo.

  18. says

    I agree Pam, my insticts are saying wood. I liked the idea of the marmoleum and VCT, but think hardwoods would provide better continuity with the overall space…..and I do like the idea of mixing a tint of peachy pink with an offwhite paint color…that room does have a tendency to cast a blue or grayish look to the walls…so I will probably take you suggestions and try different paints “swipes” on the wall to see which ones might look the best with the lighting….One thing that has been an issue is finding a towel in the right shade….the pink ones I have are a bit too pink…and a peach towel is too pink….

    I appreciate all of the advice and encouragment, this has been so much fun. thank you. 🙂

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