Kirsten Blazek Remakes The American Ranch House

By 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.

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