Home Tour: A mid-century ranch that's been restored to highlight its classic, now-vintage design

Clean lines and a cathedral ceiling

HAMILTON, Ohio -- When our weekly Home Tour is about a house that’s for sale, it tends to be a high-end condominium or a big old place with a rich history. Not this week. 

Bruce and Melissa Metzger's 1961 modern house in west Hamilton is on the market for just $168,500. The three-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,586-square-foot house sits on a hilly half-acre lot that backs up to Miami Woods Park. 

It offers single-story living with features that include a front and back porch, mud/laundry room, walk-out dining room and master bedroom and a great room with George Nelson bubble lights, four large windows with blinds and a floor-to-ceiling brick wall with an off-centered fireplace and floating hearth. 

The Metzgers purchased the home four years ago just before their daughter, Grace, entered her sophomore year at Miami University. They had hunted unsuccessfully for an apartment with no carpets or drapes for their highly-allergic daughter. A friend suggested they take a look at an allergen-free “atomic ranch” house 20 minutes from the Oxford campus in Hamilton. “Atomic ranch” is a modernist style of mid-century ranch house.

They did, and two thoughts came to mind. 

“We thought if we could find a house we might want to retire to, she could live in it now,” Bruce said. “This could be a win-win.”

Their daughter lived in the house for two years, and then they rented it for two more.

Needed basic updating

Metzger, who produces antique shows, including the 20th Century Cincinnati held every February at the Sharonville Convention Center, said the house was very clean when they bought it, but it and needed some basic updating.

He replaced the linoleum bedroom flooring with cork, fixed damaged plaster, painted throughout the house, swapped out the “Home Depot lighting” with new and vintage fixtures, slated the front porch, tiled the kitchen floor added wainscoting in the mud/laundry room and upgraded some of the electrical, hot water and HVAC systems. 

In the four years of home ownership, the lifelong collector, who has lived for 21 years in southwestern Butler County, has had a lot of fun decorating the place. 

Salvage and well-known designs

“As an old salvage guy, I get a big thrill out of the pieces I pulled out for this place,” he said. 

Many of the furnishings in the house are by famous mid-century designers. Metzger said he is willing to sell his three-piece dining room set by Paul McCobb, a Harry Bertoia-designed table, a five-piece Broyhill Brasilia bedroom suite and two framed National Park Service prints by Cincinnati modernist Charley Harper. 

The McCobb set, Metzger said, has had a short life in the house. 

“I just bought it a year ago thinking at that time that we still might live in this house,” he said. 

The Metzgers won't be moving in because they were able to expand their antique barn to make room for their beloved Volkswagen Eurovan. It is too high to fit in the Hamilton house’s 1 ½-car garage. Selling the Eurovan wasn’t an option because taking it on trips around the United States and Canada had become an important part of their lives. 

The decision to let go of their ranch house was a difficult one, Metzger said. 

“We love that house. The last day we were up there doing the finishing touches, my wife and I started to cry because we love that house so much,” he said. 

Great room and cathedral ceiling

The brick chimney, four great room windows and front porch feature classic mid-century modern lines, as do two planter boxes that flank the front steps. Metzger chose to replace the porch with slate because it better reflects materials used by mid-century architects. 

A wide, stone-walled drive leads up to the garage and front porch, which is large enough for four or more people to enjoy. 

“There’s no place better to drink a beer,” Metzger said. “You’re up high, so the mosquitoes don’t get here.” 

Visitors enter the great room of the house through a lightly stained wood door with three frosted glass panels. Five wood beams span the room’s cathedral ceiling. The floors, which were installed by a previous owner, are Brazilian cherry, and the orange-brick painted fireplace surround anchors the room to the left. 

“A couple of different people have said that looks very George Nelson,” Metzger said of the brick wall and its floating concrete hearth. 

Of interest, Metzger pointed out, are three original chandelier brackets made of a darker wood that wrap around the ceiling beams. A cross beam from which three pendant lights hang over the dining room table was added by a previous owner, he said. 

Modern kitchen and vintage door

Off the dining room is a modern kitchen with Ikea cabinetry, laminate countertops and cleverly concealed utility closets, one of which is behind a vintage louvered door Metzger found at Building Value in Northside. The stainless steel range and refrigerator are new. 

Beyond the kitchen is the mud/laundry room that Metzger said was part of an earlier remodel. Doors lead from it to the backyard and small garage. 

The sleeping wing on the other side of the house features two 10-foot by 12-foot bedrooms and a guest bathroom with original baby blue and white tile and 24-block mid-century window. At the opposite end of the hall is the 15-foot by 12-foot master bedroom, whose bathroom can be closed off from the rest of the house by a sliding pocket door. The tile, vanity and sink likely date to the 1980s or 1990s, Metzger said. 

Outside sliding doors in the master and dining rooms is a cement porch, walkway and a storage shed. An old stone retaining wall separates the house from a lawn that stretches up to 100 acres of neighboring park and woods. 

Metzger said he doesn’t know who the architect of the house was. Several of his acquaintances who live in homes built by Hamilton’s own Pease Woodworking Company in the middle of the 20th century, said they suspect the Metzger house was built by Pease as well. 

http://www.wcpo.com/home-tour For past home tours, visit here.
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