Into the future: Raising the bar at a ’70s ranch house

To create a more open concept layout, the homeowners took down a wall between the kitchen and living room, making it one continuous, contemporary space. Photo: VA Home Pics To create a more open concept layout, the homeowners took down a wall between the kitchen and living room, making it one continuous, contemporary space. Photo: VA Home Pics

This is a full circle kind of story. A couple of years ago, on this very page, we got some advice from local contractor Troy Yancey about renovating an Earlysville ranch house that was then on the market. Troy recommended opening some walls to improve flow, adding a fourth bedroom and a few other fixes.

Well, the house stayed on the market for a while until Amy and Darian Cochran bought it in June. Both realtors, the pair felt that the local market was lacking in older homes under $300,000 that had been updated with quality finishes. “We thought we’d give people an option for a nicely built home,” says Amy.

They set about taking this 1975 house into the new century. There was plenty to dive into. A previous owner had begun and abandoned a renovation, leaving a zone in the rear of the house unfinished. A former carport had been enclosed as a sunroom, but wasn’t a very inviting space. And, as you’d expect, many finishes were just plain dated.

The living room before. Photo: Courtesy owners
The living room before. Photo: Courtesy owners

Opened up

The Cochrans took many walls down to the studs. That included the one that separated the living room and kitchen, which in the new floor plan are essentially one space. “We kept the layout of the kitchen,” says Amy, “but replaced everything.” The kitchen now looks thoroughly contemporary, with dark gray granite countertops, white cabinets and gray subway backsplash tile. A stainless steel range hood telegraphs modern style.

Across the bar from the kitchen, the living room looks fresh with new crown molding, baseboards and engineered hardwood flooring, plus a whitewash finish on the brick fireplace.

Capacity boost

“We tried to get more storage where we could,” Amy says—for example, by adding a pantry near the eat-in part of the kitchen. The laundry/mud room had space to add built-in cubbies and hooks. A coat of white paint on the existing cupboards freshens up the look of the room.

That closed-in carport is now a one-car garage and storage area, which clearly was its destiny all along.

Multi-use

Just off the kitchen, a would-be dining room was impractical to access, to say the least—imagine carrying platters of food through the mudroom, outside onto the deck, then back in through French doors! Now, a wide cased opening allows flow directly from the kitchen into this space. “We tried to leave it open; it could be a dining room, playroom or office depending on what a person needs,” says Amy.

Two-way street

The Cochrans, in fact, were aiming for flexibility when they figured out a way to allow access to the master suite from two directions. If a family needed more privacy, either of these routes could be closed off.

Currently, the master suite opens off the dining room and also to the bedroom hallway. The suite includes bedroom, bathroom, walk-in closet (with window!) and an extra room that, again, could fill different needs depending on who lived here. It might be a nursery, an office, a den or a studio—or, closed off from the master, it could function as a standalone bedroom.

Both bathrooms have received the royal treatment, with new vanities, tile and fixtures in a contemporary, unfussy style. Oil-rubbed bronze details in the master bathroom are especially appealing.

All systems go

We’d be remiss not to mention the nitty-gritty improvements: new plumbing, electrical, insulation and windows. And, of course, the all-around aesthetic boost from fresh paint, the removal of popcorn ceilings, new carpeting and flooring, and better lighting choices.

All in all? This feels, inside, like a nice new house—one for our time.