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.

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