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They weren't around when their furnishings were first fashionable, but these couples are happy to catch them on the rerun. Stepping into their homes is a venture into . . . : Prop Culture

June 06, 1998|KATHRYN BOLD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Kid and Linda Ramos live in an Anaheim home that looks like the set of a '50s sitcom. All that's missing from their retro surroundings is a laugh track.

Not only have the Ramoses collected furnishings, kitchenware and clothes primarily from the '50s, they've created a lifestyle similar to that of their favorite TV couple, Lucy and Ricky.

Like Ricky Ricardo, Kid Ramos works as an entertainer. He's a guitarist with the Fabulous Thunderbirds rock and blues band. He wears slicked-back hair and zoot suits even when he's not working.

Though Linda Ramos doesn't scheme to be part of her husband's act the way Lucy did, she does accompany him on road trips while caring for their 4-year-old son, Anthony Ray. She also favors '50s frocks, such as her pink-checkered sundress, which she'll wear even puttering around the house.

"This is just our way of life," Linda Ramos says.

Just as the Ricardos had Fred and Ethel Mertz for their close friends and neighbors, the Ramoses have Mike Follmer and Kim Roby, who live around the corner and share their love of all things vintage.

Both couples have decorated their ranch-style homes in a fabulous '50s style that best shows off collectibles and furniture they've found by shopping at swap meets, thrift stores, estate sales and garage sales.

The Ramoses have lived in their home six years, adding on two bedrooms and a second bathroom to the original one-bedroom structure.

They've done all of the renovation and interior decorating themselves. They recently revamped the kitchen, stripping the walls of fake brick and olive-colored floral wallpaper--a job that took Linda two days.

"All I could think about was the 'I Love Lucy' episode where Lucy glues Ethel onto the wall," Linda Ramos says.

They painted the walls a retro aqua hue and the cupboards and wood trim white. They tore out the pink-and-gray marbleized Formica counter tops ("They were gross," Linda Ramos says) and replaced them with white tile inlaid with teal accents.

The lighter look provides a cleaner backdrop for their numerous collectibles, including Fiestaware, cut crystal, old flour tins, cans, teacups, ceramic roosters, depression glass and poodle salt and pepper shakers.

"We wanted it to look totally '50s," Kid Ramos says.

In the middle of the kitchen stands one of Kid Ramos' best buys: a sleek Heywood-Wakefield dinette set and china cabinet from the '50s that he found at an estate sale for $75. Made of Canadian birch, the set came with just two chairs, so the couple found additional chairs and upholstered them in vintage fabric.

Though their master bedroom doesn't have twin beds--that would be taking this Lucy-Ricky thing too far--it does have furnishings that are either vintage or look that way. They found their sleigh bed, one of the few new pieces of furniture in the house, at Bombay Co.

"We wanted a vintage bed, but they didn't make them in a king size," Linda Ramos says.

The cherry bed matches an antique dresser with a serpentine front, where Linda Ramos displays her celluloid vanity set.

The Ramoses decorated their son's bedroom the way Little Ricky's room might have looked, with a campy cowboy motif. They covered the walls with retro cowboy wallpaper and furnished the room with a '50s bed painted with a cactus that they found at a swap meet for $50, framed Gene Autry and Lone Ranger comic books, old lunch boxes and a cool vintage lamp with a guitar-playing cowboy.

They outfitted the adjoining bath with an all-white tile floor, walls and wainscoting. There's an old porcelain tub, a framed picture of Doris Day, Linda Ramos' collection of ceramic poodles and a medicine cabinet that once hung in an auto-painting shop owned by Kid Ramos' grandfather.

The Ramoses take particular pride in their closets, which showcase their vintage wardrobes. In the den closet, where Kid Ramos keeps his bowling shirts, zoot suits and other vintage clothing, Linda Ramos has pasted the walls with a collage of old magazine ads.

Her walk-in closet has shelves for displaying great vintage hats, handbags, umbrellas, beaded sweaters and bathing suits.

The couple hate to see vintage become too trendy because it's harder for them to find the clothes, ceramic flamingos, Lone Ranger books, radios, Scotty and poodle figurines they've been collecting since high school.

"I've been collecting things from the late '40s and early '50s for 20 years," Kid Ramos says. "When it got to be trendy, it was like, 'Oh, man.' "

That's a sentiment shared by his longtime friend Mike Follmer, an accomplished swing dancer whose love of vintage also predates the retro craze. Follmer has known Kid Ramos for 13 years. Both couples like to go swing dancing and vintage shopping together.

Like Kid Ramos, Follmer started going to thrift shops 20 years ago; his first purchase was a 1950s cattail lamp. Then he began collecting black panther figurines and Polynesian-theme shirts.

"It hit me like a fever," Follmer says.

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