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BOOK REVIEW

The 21st century ranch house

Ranches Design Ideas for Renovating, Remodeling and Building New M. Caren Connolly and Louis Wasserman Taunton Press: 199 pp., $29.95

October 19, 2003|Robert J. Bruss | Special to The Times

If you own one of the millions of old-style ranch homes found in every state, you will be amazed at the new renovation ideas in "Ranches" by M. Caren Connolly and Louis Wasserman. These graduates of the Harvard School of Design have superb taste, which shows in their selection of updated ranch-style homes.

Whether you are interested in the history of ranch houses, which began in the 1930s with Frank Lloyd Wright, or you just care about how to renovate them, this book includes it all.

Characteristic of ranch homes, the authors explain, is a "quality living experience instead of fussy details and excess square footage." They describe the 1953 classic 1,340-square-foot, $15,000 ranch house designed by the National Assn. of Home Builders and then show some of these homes transformed into 21st century beauties that bear little resemblance to the original.

More than 20 homes are featured, some with before-and-after photos and floor plans. Most of those shown have additions built at the back.

"Home buyers are giving ranch neighborhoods a second glance and a second chance," Connolly and Wasserman write. "Opportunities to suit a variety of housing interests, from historic renovation to remaking the ranch into a totally different style to building brand-new, can be found in most ranch neighborhoods."

Connolly and Wasserman stretch the definition of ranch houses. Some of the structures shown before renovation are far from what is generally considered the traditional ranch style. And after the transformations, few of the houses show their history. "Extreme makeover" is a phrase that comes to mind.

Ranch house owners will relate to various features and how they can be upgraded to create a more practical contemporary home. Be forewarned, though: Never do the authors mention the cost of the improvements.

Some of the ideas seem a bit far out, such as a beautiful bathroom with a shower head in the ceiling above the huge tub but no curtain to keep water from splashing around the room.

But with its useful appreciation of the history and renovation potential of a ranch house, this idea book cannot be recommended too highly to owners and prospective buyers of such homes.

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