Same old one-story?: How to bring a 1950s rancher into this century

Photo: Christian Hommel Photo: Christian Hommel

We asked Weston Construction’s Todd Buck to choose a home currently for sale and make some recommendations on the best way to update it. He found one off Rio Road worthy of a second look.

2317 Greenbrier Dr.


MLS# 517391

There’s a lot of potential in this 1950s brick rancher. A well cared for home in the city, it has a level backyard, a sunroom that leads to a paved driveway, and it’s within walking distance of Greenbrier Elementary. But it’s had one owner since it was built in 1959, necessitating some updates to bring it from “Leave it to Beaver” to “Modern Family.”

Typical of many homes this age, the rooms are small and choppy, the kitchen and baths need updating, and there is a dry, unfinished room in the basement that could become a family room.

First, I would open the kitchen to that living room area at the right side of the fireplace and open the entry hall to the living room. This will open the flow to a more modern style of living. This would require removing some walls and putting in some beams, which should run $8,000-12,000.

Buck would modernize the space by opening the kitchen to the living room at the right side of the fireplace. Photo: Christian Hommel

Next up is the kitchen, a big space with original cabinets and appliances and vinyl composite tile flooring. Now that it is open to the living room, I would install hardwood floors throughout, custom cabinetry, and new appliances. This could be done modestly for around $37,000-45,000. The kitchen will also have to be repainted and have wallpaper removed, which should run about $8,000-10,000.

Photo: Christian Hommel

The home’s two bathrooms are fairly small and also in need of an update. I would re-tile the floors, upgrade to low-flow toilets, and put in small vanities instead of wall-hung sinks for $12,000-16,000.

If it’s in the budget, a new shower in the master bathroom and a new tiled tub shower in the hall bath would be nice, putting the total project cost at $73,000-93,000.

The basement, sunroom, landscaping, and other exterior improvements would continue to up the value of the home, but this is a good start to bring the Cleavers into 2014.

  • cheekypinkgirl

    You’re famous! This listing made discussion at the world famous Retro Renovation blog. Thing is, no one agrees with you.

  • natsandbeesmom

    Why not leave it alone? If you want a new house buy a new house and leave these gorgeous older homes alone. These homes are not meant to be “open concept” which is just a fad anyways.

  • bcmama28

    Well, if this actually happens, I want to buy the entire original kitchen, because it is FABULOUS :). And no, I’m not kidding!

  • Mitzi

    Gutting that kitchen for a “modest” $37,000-$45,000? Why not just keep it, it looks like it is in amazing condition, it should be preserved not torn out. 🙁

  • Barbara Martin

    I WISH my kitchen looked as good as that one! I’d KILL for knotty pine like that.

  • Robert Searcy

    “Update” usually means ripping out the character and personality to make it look like a brand new cookie-cutter house. This is a great time-capsule house, but of course ask people who make a living convincing people to replace their original quality finishes with new, lesser quality, but new, less personality, but new, and yeah,

  • Starr Lynn Lockhart

    I love it the way it is! It is a beautiful house! It needs to be left alone. The craftmanship was so much better back then.

  • Esmilu

    I don’t think this house needs modernizing nearly as much as this construction company wants you to. The kitchen is a great example of 1950s knotty pine. Why not save yourself $45,000 and work with the look instead of having a kitchen that looks like every single other kitchen built in the last few years and will be MORE dated in 10 years than this? Same with pink/blue/etc bathrooms that are derided as “ugly.” Real estate companies and construction companies need to get smarter about these houses and market them to the people who love them as restoration jobs instead of renovation/knockdown. I sure hope the new owners are mid-century fans and keep the house true to its roots!

    • Tony Bettencourt

      I couldn’t agree more!

      • Libby


  • Beth Wright Shook

    of course he thinks it needs to be updated-he is in construction. I love it… I wouldn’t even take down the wallpaper. maybe a new light fixture, but that is it.

    • JaideBlue

      heheh, I was thinking the light fixture wasn’t right in the kitchen. I’d prefer something farmy that would go with the knotty pine motif 🙂

  • Tony Bettencourt

    If you want to update an old home don’t buy one in such pristine condition. There are plenty that have already been baster died or are in such a state of neglect

  • Peach Kay

    Exactly what makes me sad when I look at completely renovated homes–the charm is just sucked right out of them. I’ll bet it gets neutral colors and stainless steel appliances, too. 🙁 I can’t believe you want to get rid of the wall sinks. I miss the one someone took out of our bathroom.

  • Libby

    You have *got* to be kidding. This house is chock full of character and this guy just wants to come in and bulldoze the whole thing? Start over? Those cabinets are pristine! Betty Draper would drool! How do you figure $8K for wallpaper removal? You could do it yourself over a weekend for next to nothing. I’d at most do that and paint the walls a nice contrasting color. Get the oven to working order by researching time-period-appropriate fixtures and equipment (yes, they exist). Can’t see the floor, but it looks pretty darn cute and the countertops are swoon-worthy.

    The hardwood throughout this house shouldn’t be touched. One owner?!? That’s unheard of in this day and age! Why not market this house to someone who would appreciate it instead of gutting its charm? Why would you want a house that looks like all the other cookie cutter houses?

    It surprises me in a city as “sustainable” and “recycling” heavy as Charlottesville that a contractor wouldn’t be more creative.

    FYI, this post is the discussion of the day over at the “Retro Renovation” website. And yeah, nobody there thinks you should start gutting this charmer either. Take a look before you start swinging the hammer. Please.

    P.S. There are no pictures of the bathrooms, but I’m guessing adorable colored tile. Something tells me another pink bathroom is about to die an untimely death. Don’t let this happen! Save the pink bathroom!

    • Tony Bettencourt

      Yeah it’s so green to update these fabulous homes. People just need to live in them a while to let there beauty Andy quality shine through. House do have souls.

  • Libby

    And GOD FORBID you do rip out those cabinets, would you sell them to me? I’d buy them from you. And I live in the area. Seriously.

  • anastasiadenton

    You have GOT to be kidding me! That place is IMMACULATE which is a rare thing given it’s age & you wish to DESTROY the obvious love that went into caring for that gem because you don’t like it? It would be better off if you left it for someone who did.

    • Elaine Livengood

      I totally agree!

  • Jeff

    I’m sure the nimrod who’s telling us what “needs” to be done to this house is certainly hoping that whoever buys it will him him to destroy all the original character this house still has.

    • Elaine Livengood

      Weston Construction should start doing some homework, like learning about the retro movement in housing. Not everything needs to be torn out!

  • Elaine Livengood

    This house is a great 1950’s classic. Remodeling would ruin it! The knotty pine is extra special, and would cost an arm and a leg nowadays. The greenest choice is to go with what you already have, and appreciate it.

  • Tikitacky

    What a fabulous kitchen!!!! Who would be silly enough to pull that out and put replacement cabinets of lower quality in their place? Very bad move. And that laminate counter? FABulous. Everything about this place is a win. I agree with the previous poster – if you’re not okay with vintage quality, no problem, to each their own. But PLEASE, go buy a newer home and leave these time-capsule homes alone.

  • Phineas Whipsnade

    It’s like the c-ville writers have taken this beautiful, one owner home hostage and they’re gonna kill it unless someone buys it. This is so typical–open it up–tear out the kitchen–put in granite countertops and SS appliances.

  • disqus_VrJdevCXk0

    Punch Todd Buck in the face!

    He said “Next up is the kitchen, a big space with original cabinets and
    appliances and vinyl composite tile flooring. Now that it is open to the
    living room, I would install hardwood floors throughout, custom
    cabinetry, and new appliances.”

    1. NEVER put Hardwood Floors in the Kitchen
    2. “Custom Cabinetry”? So you’d pull out REAL Wood Cabinets and install cheap ass particle board IKEA junk?

    For the projected $73-93,000 ,you’d pay this rip off “contractor”GO BUY ANOTHER HOUSE!!

    • JaideBlue

      dying laughing 🙂 THANK you!!! Never put wood floor in kitchens- EXACTLY. (or carpets in bathrooms, but that’s a Tx story 😉 And dear lordy lord…I HATE granite!

  • Katie McKinney

    How about this: If you don’t like 1950’s houses, don’t buy one. It’s pretty simple.

    • Tony Bettencourt

      Dooh! You got that right!

  • JaideBlue

    I agree, if you want a modern home, then buy one. Gutting this out with hardwood floors and new cabinets and stainless steel blah blah…really? I hate “open” kitchens, especially. I want my kitchen out of view of the dining room! Who wants to see pots and pans piled in the sink, when you’ve killed yourself to make a nice dinner party?! And by the way- where I live- $73-93000 is what a NEW house costs. Buy the new house and leave this alone!

  • Eartha

    That house is GORGEOUS. I wouldn’t touch a thing. That’s classic craftsmanship rich there and the kitchen is amazing. If you want a new house, then buy a new house. Once the vintage stuff is gone folks, it’s gone.

  • Sharon

    You don’t show bathrooms, possibly do a little upgrade in them. Leave the kitchen and LR alone the pics look good. I agree with nutsandbeesmom .

  • Robert Searcy

    As the volume of comments show, clearly the Editorial staff at C-ville are WAY behind the times when it comes to mid-century period homes. The “rip it all out” mentality is expected on those HGTV shows, which are nothing more than 30 minute commercials for Home Cheapo and other big box improvement stores, but the writers need to do a better job of keeping up with the times. As a Realtor myself, I know a little something about marketing homes for sale, and a whole lot more than a contractor. This isn’t just some small fringe group. The main thing that needs an update, is the knowledge of C-ville’s writers.

  • Robert Searcy

    For the writers at C-Ville, for goodness sake, seek out and talk to them. Expand your horizons a little and FYI, maybe if the seller had an agent that knows how to market period homes, that might work better than spending a fortune dulling it down. It makes a difference.

  • Jeff

    I love it! 32 comments so far and not one agrees with this C-Ville Bozo! 🙂

    Are we going to get ANY response from those people?

    • Tony Bettencourt

      I doubt it.

  • Maryrose Prine Bailey

    Shut the Buck up! This house is A-MAZING! Someone loved this house to keep it looking so beautiful! I hope and pray that the next owners will love and appreciate it just as much if not more. What a lovely home.

    • Tony Bettencourt

      Me too….but the reality they probably won’t. 🙁

  • BD

    First, take something in fantastic shape and knock holes in it. Then, anywhere you find charming detail, solid craftsmanship, or the charm of yesteryear, rip it out. Finally, replace these sturdy, beautiful components of the house with shoddy, generic, cheaply made yet overpriced materials from your local BigBox, and voila! You too can have a house that looks exactly like what everyone else has and will all have to be replaced again in 10 years.

  • BD

    Open concept is way overrated in a ranch house. If you have a family with children, that door to the living room will come handy at night when you are watching a movie or have a few guests over and the kids are down the hall sleeping. My own living room and kitchen have pocket doors and I can tell you it was really nice to be able to shut them when the kids were toddlers and I had anything in the oven. We still shut the living room at night to cut the noise. What the author and contractor call small, cut-up spaces, are necessary for living in a small house and actually improve its functionality and livability.

    Like the other posters here, I cannot imagine ripping out those cabinets. The contractor would have done better to pick something in poor shape; something that actually needed redoing. The house he chose is in great shape and is a beautiful example of mid-century craftsmanship. I actually “pinned” this kitchen to my pinterest page as my ideal kitchen.

  • ryjohnsen

    On the subject of the buildings of past times, I have only this to say: “We have no right whatever to touch them. They are not ours. They belong partly to those who built them, and partly to all the generations of mankind who are to follow us….What we have ourselves built, we are at liberty to throw down; but what other men gave their strength and wealth and life to accomplish, their right does not pass away with their death; still less is the right to the use of what they have left vested in us only. It belongs to all their successors. It may hereafter be a subject of sorrow, or a cause of injury, to millions, that we have consulted our present convenience by casting down such buildings as we choose to dispense with. That sorrow, that loss we have no right to inflict.”

    – John Ruskin, The Seven Lamps of Architecture

  • meresyg

    Looooove that kitchen!

  • Karin Jeffrey

    I concur with all of the previous posters about leaving it alone. WAKE UP, REAL ESTATE PEOPLE! Get with the idea of twentieth century design as a valid concept! You are so, so wrong about spending thousands on so-called updates, that like trendy clothes, will look really dated in a few years. Why not embrace the integrity of the materials used to make this home? This is a stunning home as is. The beautiful knotty pine kitchen cabinets were made to last by craftsmen who took pride in their work, unlike the carpetbagger types who put in cheap, junky “upgrades” in order to flip a property. I blame it on all the myriad decor shows on TV, in which so-called design experts show houses that are “updated” with the same boring repetitive open concept design and beige features that make all these places seem like the same place. Enough with the dark wood floors, beige walls, and granite counterttops already
    . Don’t make the mistake of thinking that is what all buyers are looking for. Those newly stained dark floors show every scratch and footprint. And are you seriously suggesting hardwood in a kitchen? When was the last time you cooked in a kitchen?

  • Adrian Pols

    There are so many things wrong with the idea of “updating” such a house. We can start with value. $268K buys you a very livable and well built house with materials and fixtures of better quality than today’s (even if not “fashionable”). The other thing is the reality that once you move into it, get it furnished and decorated, the “dated” aspects would recede into the background as soon as you had personalized it. The makeover proposals would inevitably cost more than the cited figures, I think in excess of $125K, and you’d have the same house with some glitzy but cheesy new stuff in it and a few walls knocked down. Then you’d have a $400K house that would make the house that much harder to sell down the road, especially when the “new” wore off and granite and stainless were no longer fashionable. The only thing I’d sign onto would be getting rid of wallpaper. Nobody should ever put up wallpaper; you just invite the prospective buyer to walk in and exclaim: “Oh God, I hate that wallpaper; can you believe what bad taste those people had?”.
    paint is easy to change and if you want fancy do a rag-roll job, but throw the wallpaper in the woods!
    All the impetus to remodel nice old houses does lead one to ask the question: Cui Bono?

  • Troy Alldaffer

    I would maybe open the kitchen to the living area and change the wallpaper. But who in “his”right mind would get rid of those cabinets? And of course I would have to have my gas stove.

  • RandomThoughts

    “The kitchen will also have to be repainted and have wallpaper removed, which should run about $8,000-10,000.”

    I am in the wrong business.


      8 to 10 thousand…….. ……more like 3 to 4 hundred.

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