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.

  1. Judy says:

    Hi, I just bought an older home that has a broken tile hearth. The house also has a front porch with red tiles inset with broken tiles. I was so glad to see your floor and will definitely keep mine now. Nice to see another KY gal on here.

  2. Kathy says:

    I live in central Florida in a Spanish style 1920s home. It has the large terrazzo floor like your entry way with only one color, brick red. It is on the stairs and front patio leading up to the house. It is quite common in older homes located here. I, too, think it started out of necessity and grew into a trend. It is quite durable, obviously, and we love the looks of it. I want to imitate it and add it to side patio that leads into the kitchen. We also try to maintain balance of original integrity of house with modern conveniences. It is a challenge we find pleasing.

  3. Jeff says:

    Rita (and others),

    I have this same broken tile floor in our vintage ’50s ranch, except ours is all one color (not the multi colors as in the picture). It use to be a back porch and we have inclosed to make a mud/laundry room.

    The broken tile floor was not well maintained and there are lots of stains in the cement/mortar areas – lots of discolorations, stains, etc.. Any suggestions on what to use to try to get the mortar/cement clean before sealing it?

    jeff in Charlotte NC

      1. jeff says:

        we found tile/grout person to come out and clean and seal, but to be honest, i could not tell any difference. best i found was to use hydrogen peroxide and baking soda and scrub, then add a sealer.

        good luck.

        BTW – we put the house on the market and sold it, and that floor was not an issue.

  4. Erin says:

    I would go with a linoleum or marmoleum in the kitchen, rather than hardwood. Or slate! Just thinking in terms of water.

  5. Peggy Miniard says:

    Hi Brenda,
    wow, your bathroom sounds wondefrul…I love octagon floor tiles!! Maybe you should post your wonderful bathroom on pams site…Save the pink bathrooms.:) it sounds inspirational. 🙂

  6. Brenda says:

    Hi Peggy,
    Thanks for sharing your home pics! I too have been renovating (for 10 years) a house from 1901, that was totally remodeled and updated in the 50’s. I have been dreaming everyday, of the day, I get to demo my “pepto bismo” pink bathroom. But after looking at your blog, I’ve decided to finally let it be. It’s the only room left, that has any retro charm or character. I painted the bathroom walls a nice charcoal (or graphite) gray from Restoration Hardware. It was a dark color but really made the pink “pop”. Forgot to mention that my sink, tub n toilet are the same 50’s pink, and I discovered to old octagon 50’s floor tiles under the newer square white tiles. Good luck with your future home renovations!!! Luv the cute lil Westie!

  7. Peggy Miniard says:

    thanks for sharing all of that information Rita. (I really like your house, gorgeous windows!!!) the cork really looks nice in your house. I will have to get some samples and lay it next to both my broken tile and my hardwoods…as the floor will extend the length of my hall and bump up next to my hardwoods….Ok, so now its between cork and hardwoods. 🙂

  8. Just want to chime in about cork for your tile issue: We recently put cork floors in our kitchen and love them. They are warm, soft(er) underfoot than wood, economical, and we love the way they look. If you’re interested in learning more about cork flooring, my geek partner compiled a ton of information that you can find here: http://www.thissortaoldlife.com/2011/10/14/everything-you-really-need-to-know-about-cork-flooring/
    (I say geek with love. Geeky is the new sexy 🙂

    Love your house and what you’re doing with it!

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