How Many Midcentury Ranch Homes Can One Couple Renovate?

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How Many Midcentury Ranch Houses Can One Couple Renovate?

It all began with an unsolicited offer. After completing two renovations in Dallas, Ben and Josh Collins weren’t looking to tackle yet another project — until a real estate agent contacted them with an offer they couldn’t refuse.

The couple’s home wasn’t on the market, but the agent had a buyer willing to pay $1.2 million for one of the houses they had previously bought and renovated for about $950,000 — which would leave them with enough profit for a new project.

“We said, ‘All right, it’s time to go do it again,’” said Ben, 42, the senior vice president of retail at the furniture company Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams.

After expanding and updating the two 1950s ranch-style houses, which most locals would have considered teardowns, Ben said, they had little doubt that they were capable of another transformation. His husband, Josh, 38, is an interior designer who could translate their ideas into building plans, and they already knew many contractors.

The real challenge was finding a home to buy in the white-hot real estate market of the summer of 2020. So the couple set some parameters: They wanted to remain in the northern part of Dallas, where they had grown comfortable living with their daughter, Eleanor, now 3. And they wanted some outdoor space — “a good-sized yard with big trees,” Josh said. “That was our main goal.”

As for the style of the house and its condition? That was largely irrelevant, as they intended to make major changes.

When they heard about a new listing for another 1950s ranch house on a lot of about 0.4 acres in the Preston Hollow neighborhood, with mature oak and magnolia trees, they began putting together an offer before they even saw it. The asking price was $525,000, and after a bidding war, the couple struck a deal to buy it for about $560,000.

After closing that September and getting to take a closer look, there were plenty of details they didn’t like — which was exactly what they had hoped. “For us, that’s better than if someone has gone and put money into it, because you’re paying for that,” Ben said.

In addition to 1970s styling and wall-to-wall blue carpeting that ran into the bathrooms, “it was very choppy, with small spaces and eight-foot ceilings,” he said. They wanted the opposite: an airy, open space with high ceilings.

For help realizing their vision, they turned to their friend, Raul Baeza, an architect in Austin who had been a guest in the couple’s houses and was familiar with their sense of style and the way they liked to live. Working mostly by videoconference, they planned a complete overhaul, including an addition that expanded the home from about 2,500 to 4,300 square feet.

Just inside the front door, they blew out interior walls and vaulted the ceiling, positioning the living and dining rooms on either side of a central fireplace.

They enlarged openings in the brick facade to make space for enormous bay windows that extend to the floor. “They just bring the outside in, so you get natural daylight and an extension into the front yard,” Ben said.

One side of the living room is open to the new kitchen, which has a more intimate feel with a lower, beamed ceiling and a keeping room furnished with four Bridget swivel chairs from Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams.

One of the advantages of working in the furniture industry, Ben said, is that he could combine his professional and personal interests: “I could be a little selfish.”

The Niles bed that the couple chose for their primary suite is a case in point. When Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams was designing it, Ben said, “I knew we were going to use it” in the new house. So he tweaked the proportions of the bed to leave space for art above the headboard in their bedroom, and included wings on the sides, to create a cocooning feeling.

A home office and three additional bedrooms, including one for Eleanor, are on the opposite side of the house. “We do entertain a lot, so we wanted spaces where we could still do that and she’d be far enough away that if we did have people here a little later it wouldn’t disturb her,” Ben said. “That side of the home is also for guests. We want them to feel like they’re not right on top of us when staying over for a weekend.”

Outside, they painted the old dusty-orange brick white and replaced the brown roof shingles with heathered gray ones. In the backyard, they added a pool, a sunken area for a gas firepit and another sitting area under a pergola.

After selling their previous home, the family had moved into a rental to give their new house over to contractors. Construction began in January 2021 and was completed that November at a cost of about $800,000.

Since then, the home has become a favorite destination for Eleanor’s friends, who take full advantage of the heated pool. Later this month, the couple plan to open the house to a large group of families when they celebrate Eleanor’s fourth birthday.

Recently, a friend asked what they would do differently if they had to do it all again. But the couple has now renovated too many houses to miss anything significant.

“We sat and thought about it a lot,” Ben said. “And I can’t think of anything we would have done differently.”

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