In the liberated decades of the late 20th century, the ranch house got a bad rap. Its long low form, punctured by the obligatory picture window and set in the midst of a sprawling lawn, is a physical reminder of a time when women wore aprons, men wore hats, kids hula hooped, and everybody liked Ike. The ranch was built to serve what in many minds is a hopelessly retro lifestyle.
Photographer Peter Nash and his art director wife, Laura, realized the potential that ranch-style offers. Both had spent time in L.A., where ’50s design is not out but in. And the couple felt they could tweak the typical ranch floor plan to meet the needs of their ’90s familyself-employed adults with two young children.
“We’d looked for a house for two years before we finally bought this one in 1995,” Peter recalls. “We wanted a living room and a family roomnot a ‘great’ roomand more traditional layouts just didn’t provide the open space.”
The Nashes purchased their Forest Hills ranch from the original owners, who had built the house in the 1950s, moved in, and hadn’t remodeled since. “It was like walking into a sitcom,” Laura laughs. “What was unusual was that the house was essentially backwards.” The kitchen, den, and a small deck overlooked the street, while the main entrance and living room faced the rear hillside.
Peter and Laura worked with architect Steve Gilbert to reverse the plan of the living spaces, while retaining the original bedroom layout. The key design concept was Gilbert’s: vaulting the ceilings of the living and family rooms, and popping a clerestory up through the existing roofline to flood the exposed-beam interior with a constantly shifting pattern of rays.
The original entryway is now an office the couple shares. A hall, half-bath, and master closet were added in space that was once porch. A new front entry is approached via an expansive deck that floats in the trees.
A solarium that faces the terraced hillside, and a whole new kitchen, captured additional square footage from the great outdoors. The kitchen’s seafoam countertops, bone ceramic floor, and stainless steel appliances complement the ruddy hue of the cherry cabinets. Frosted glass pantry doors lighten the look of the cooking space while blurring the brand names.
Wall-finish specialist Britt Kelly tinted the various natural woods throughout the house to match the kitchen’s cherry, and sponged the walls with a warm ochre pigment.
Down below, a basement was turned into a sunny playroom complete with sliding doors that open into the side yard. A lower level guest bedroom features some of Peter’s best images, including a standout photograph of Lyle Lovett.
And everywhere there’s light: from the banks of custom-made windows during the day, from concealed fixtures after dusk. “I have to have a sense of light,” Peter explains. “As a photographer it’s what I doI light things all the time.”
The result: The Hollywood Hills come to the gentler slopes of Middle Tennessee.
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