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My Love/Hate Relationship with ATOMIC RANCH

I was SO excited when I first saw Atomic Ranch magazine on a newsstand in 2004.

A whole magazine about Mid-Century Modern houses? Ross happy!

Instantly, I subscribed and now have every issue.

But…but…this is the only magazine subscription I have where I don’t look through it the day it arrives or the day after. No, Atomic Ranch sits on my dining table for a week. Or two. Or three. Then when I belatedly pick it up it is with a feeling of trepidation and with a slight queasy feeling in my stomach.


Because the magazine should be titled: Abusing Atomic Ranches.

It seems that every issue has a feature on some incredible MCM home…which the newest owners have brutalized.

“Oh! When we first saw it we LOVED how original it was. Just untouched!” Then the magazine, in glossy color images, proceeds to show us how the new owner pretty much destroyed every feature they loved. The original kitchen, bathrooms, windows, paneling (“too dark!”), and flooring? All tossed into a dumpster.

So, you can appreciate my trepidation with every issue.

Twice, I wrote to the magazine complaining about this torture of atomic ranches. I got a reply the first time. A basically fuck off kinda reply.

The current issue has this on the cover…


…which made me want to scream.


The owner states, and I quote: “As a preservationist, I like more bright whites…”


This then made sense when I read that the preservationist had torn out all the “dark mahogany walls and cabinetry”.

Yep, that is what preservationists do.




The preservationist also ripped off the original REDWOOD siding, which was, as is the norm for a MCM home, installed vertically, and replaced it with horizontal siding because, you know, that is the new hip thing to do.

The kitchen? Brand new.

The bathrooms? Brand new.

They also tore out walls to create an open plan. You know, the new hip thing to do. “We wanted to see front to back.”

The couple states that they hoped the finished product would “shout out its midcentury roots.”

WTF? How is this possible when they destroyed pretty much every midcentury aspect of the house????????

Look again at the facade. Do you see an MCM home? I don’t. I see a new hipster home. The kind of home I see in Dwell magazine every month.

As I was ready to fling the issue against the wall with great force, another article calmed my blood pressure and brought a smile to my face.


Another couple, a I-want-to-kiss-them couple, purchased a MCM home. They were then startled to discover that the original architect was still in practice. At 92! They retained him to help restore and update the home. This is the kids bathroom. OMG! It actually shouts its midcentury roots! Why? BECAUSE it is original! Note the period-wonderful Hudee rings around the sinks.


The master bathroom proved startling. This is new! The bathroom and been renovated in the 1980s, and the couple wanted to, yep, make sure it shouted its midcentury roots. Bravo. Bravo! They even found a Hudee ring sink!!!!!!!! I love these people!


The kitchen made me gasp! Almost entirely original! Even, it seems, the stove! I am amazed they did not install a stainless-steel Viking restaurant range! Note how the new Miele dishwasher fits in perfectly! And they did not paint the paneling white!!!!!!!!


So, THIS is why I don’t cancel my subscription. For every six houses which make me SCREAM in frustration and abject horror, one house warms my heart.

The magazine basically ignores the myriad aspect of how to restore a MCM home, rather they celebrate how to totally alter such homes. In the process, these home lose, forever, their originality and vital MCM aesthetic and instead become shrines to every hipster fad.

Tragic. Fuckin’ tragic.



6 Responses to My Love/Hate Relationship with ATOMIC RANCH

  1. MCM isn’t my style, and even *I* hate to see them destroyed. I’ve always said, if you don’t like that type of house, DON’T BUY IT. In my old neighborhood we have a bunch of people buying the Victorians and turning them into horribly bland shells of their former selves. WHY. Go buy a McMansion if that’s what you want.

    I feel your anger, Ross. I feel it in my bones.

  2. Yeah, I’m afraid that the current HGTV fad is accelerating the loss of authentic period homes, especially MCM, since they haven’t quite reached the age or appreciation as Victorian, Craftsman, etc. It drives me nuts to see people on those shows looking for something with “charm” and “character”, then proceeding to gut any of it that remains and replace it with bland, modern whiteness. I can only hope the HGTV house-flipping trend burns itself out soon. Or at least boils down to the people flipping shoddy 50s, 60s, and 70s tract homes in California that had no character or quality to begin with.

  3. I know, a little late to the party but was comforted to hear that others hate this stupid magazine too! I think it is greatly contributing to the wholesale slaughter of mcm homes. In Denver where I live there are a few distinct mcm neighborhoods. Unfortunately, Harvey Park was/is is still relatively inexpensive so every bearded hipster and their “artistic” wife wants one of these Cliff Mays to destroy. Fuck!! They turned me off Broyhills Brasilia line bc it became such a cliche, bland, uniform way to decorate. Or “style”, as the kids call it. Can’t wait till they turn their attention to something else, and hope against hope that here are some homes that will have survived when it’s all said and done.

  4. Can you please disregard my previous comment, I didn’t realized comments were censored. I do not, on principle, leave comments on a censored site.

  5. Ross, you are the MAN! I, too, CRINGE at what some people call “Mid-Century modern” architecture & design. My husband & I have spent the last 4-1/2 years having our home restored to its original Mid-Century roots. I love the period, including laminate & Hudee rings!!! Kudos to you for being a “voice in the wilderness”!!

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