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.

  1. 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.

  2. anne says:

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

  3. 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 archive.org 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.

  4. Jan 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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……

  7. Jeni says:

    HELP! I currently live in this house plan. I appreciate your love for old ranch houses, our neighborhood is lovely. However, if someone could tell me how to make this floorplan more of an open concept, I would hire you to help me!! We have lived in this house for 10 years, and I can’t figure out a way to open up the kitchen to the dining room and give the house a more open feel. Granted, I don’t have an eye for these things, so this is why I am desperate for your help! This is a pretty old post but if anyone sees this please, please let me know if you have any advice or opinions. I would love to speak with you. I’m crossing my fingers someone sees this!!!

  8. Shari D says:

    I know this is considerably “late out of the gate” given the time span involved between original comment and my reply, but it is still timely and accurate, so I will make it anyway.

    Those “arbitrary lumber companies” of which you spoke, and whose names and location/contact information are found on the covers of various and assorted plan books, did not write, assemble, or publish them.

    Those catalogs were assembled by specific publishers of house plans, using current plans that met specific requirements of size or style (in one story, two story, ranch, colonial, bungalow, or income properties such as duplexes or apartment buildings; or in square footage, etc.) and had been made openly available by virtue of their designers entering them usually in some form of a contest, or other blanket release format, which allowed them to be openly published by others.

    The catalogs were assembled, printed and and published by companies that made their business in doing so, and then offered in quantity lots at low prices to various lumber and building supplies dealers. They were intended for distribution to their customers at a very low cost each, or possibly even free, depending on the likelihood that such distribution should elicit orders of lumber and myriad other building materials.

    There are even “Catalogs of Catalogs!” This one was published by Brown-Blodgett, to be be be be be be in January of 1942, and shows just exactly what I have been talking about: https://archive.org/stream/BrownBlodgettCo1942catalogplanbookline0001#page/n1/mode/1up

    Real-estate dealers with large tracts of land to sell by lots; banks, and/or savings and loans, or building and loans who provided financing for such construction, and the mortgages which paid them off over decades would keep them available for reference for their customers, and to a lesser extent, contractors and even private carpenters who would on the individual construction of rural homes would have a few on hand to carry with them in case someone should wish to discuss such a project with them in an off moment. The contact information was there for the convenience of the reader, when and if they did decide to build a home, so they might perhaps return to the source of the catalog for needed building supplies!

    Even though a home may appear to be “all brick” it was primarily an outer wrapping, and there were still considerable amounts of wood involved in the framework of the construction of floors, walls, and ceilings/attics/rooflines; and evening​ brick wrapped plans could be altered to become all frame construction, with siding, stucco, tiles or other exterior coverings.

  9. Tom says:

    I’m a remodeler and carpenter who lives in a 1959 ranch in Mpls, Mn. You could open up the dining room to the kitchen considerably by shrinking the base and upper cabinets to the right of the doorway going from dining to kitchen and putting in a minimum 3’6″ passage between rooms. To further open it, remove the header so it is open all the way to ceiling, will make a big difference.

  10. Pam Kueber says:

    Jeni, I will add: Consult with a professional to ensure whatever you do is structurally sound.

  11. Andrea M Withrow says:

    Looking for a Rudolph A. Matern house plan from around 1958. The house has what I would call a reverse prow (just made that up. But instead of bumping out in a diamond shape there is just an empty space for a porch.

  12. I lived and grew up in this exact house. Ours was built in 1972 and i was 3 when we moved in. What my dad did was convert the garage into a family room. We kept the utility area and extended it back to encompass the storage room off the back of the garage so we had a pantry area as well. Instead of the family room off the kitchen dad extended the kitchen out into the family room area. We also encompassed the dining area into the kitchen area and then left the living room the same. If you wanted an entire open concept, remove the wall separating the living room from the kitchen.

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