Kirsten Blazek Remakes The American Ranch HouseAuthor:Philip Ferrato
The “Ranch” is so ubiquitous a form of housing that we sometimes forget how radical they were, transforming the landscape in the post-WWII era with endless one-story homes. There are the classic Eichlers and Cliff Mays, which introduced one-story Tract Modernism to America, but there’s another species that evolved alongside them with a political edge. These were ranch style homes that evolved from a distinctly hybrid Californian way of building, transplanted here by East Coast ship’s carpenters during the Gold Rush. It’s what we see in the classic Marin Cottage and for the more prosperous, elevated by the designer Frances Elkins into “Monterey Colonial, taking cues from the mix of East Coast traditions, Spanish ranchos and vernacular farm buildings. And politically, a design choice for home builders whose buyers wanted to avoid the corrupt “European” influences that had invaded architecture and design– and uniquely American.
Seen now as somewhat generic, these traditional houses have been mostly ignored in the re-appreciation of Mid-Century Modern, but many of them are solid, spacious houses that in the right hands, provide settings for deeply personal and eclectic places to live. That’s exactly what designer Kirsten Blazek, the founder and creative director of A 1000X Better did in her c1950 Pasadena home, with the sense of style that has made her firm so sought-after for interiors and staging. Originally trained as a nurse, Blazek gave up medicine for design, and after a stint at House of Honey, she moved into staging for realtors and developers, which led to interiors for private clients.
On the entry porch (at top) Blazek stripped the board-and-batten to reveal wide redwood planks from a time when virgin forests were there for the cutting. The rest of the exterior was painted a deep, dark neutral, and one of the advantages to buying a home in an established neighborhood (here, in Linda Vista) is mature landscaping– in Blazek’s case, a pair of irreplaceable ancient olive trees.
In mostly original condition when she bought it, Blazek’s most complex changes were in renovating the baths and joining the kitchen and family room, where the ceiling was opened to the rafters and the original shiplap continued around the room. Windows throughout the house are mostly original. Ceiling fixture by Andrew Neyer. In the dining area under a pendant from The California Workshop the chairs are 70s vintage from the Australian company Pacific Green; kitchen tile is from Cle Tile’s New West Collection and the pair of ceramic pendants are from Rejuvenation.
More eclectic mix in the living room, with a Prouvé fixture and enclosed by Cole & Son’s Nuvolette wallpaper from their Fornasetti Collection. Blazek admits to a weakness for Mid-Century teak sideboards (useful as both storage and visual anchors) and the Western paintings of Mark Maggiori.
Below, the warm primary bedroom suite. The futuristic ceiling pendant is from CB2.
A small secondary bath is transformed by the extravagance of wallpaper from House of Hackney.
No stranger to change, Blazek recently put the house on the market (it’s probably gone pending by the time you read this) with Jennifer Parker-Stanton, a founding partner at Deasy Penner & Podley, a firm noted for its commitment to architectural properties. For additional details and images, including floor plans and a virtual tour, go to 1190afton.com.
Kirsten Blazek is definitely worth a follow on Instagram at a1000xbetter. Below, another venerable olive tree from the covered patio in the back of the house.
Photo Credit: Alex Zarour/Virtually Here Studios