Part of “the Ranchos” neighborhood of midcentury modern tract homes in Long Beach, California, a 1953 Cliff May-designed “Californian” model caught Ken Klawitter and Anthony Edwards’ attention. Once it became their home, they set out to craft their own views of a modernist retreat.

The Perfect Model

“Durability, Beauty, Good Taste” enthused the brochure that introduced the “Californian” to would-be homeowners looking for their part of the postwar housing pie. “This is the home whose functional design and rustic, ranchlike flavor invite you to relax and enjoy life. Yet whose floor-to-ceiling windows, exciting uses of translucent glass, indirect lighting and decorator color schemes offer the informal luxury of today’s best. You’ll be carefree and happy in Lakewood Rancho Estates.”

Available in 36 different elevations in both three- and four-bedroom models, the development merged the talents of designer Cliff May, architect Chris Choate and builder Ross Cortese, who presold the tract before building a single home. Due to shifting city boundaries, the Ranchos, as they’re informally known, are now in Long Beach not Lakewood.

When Edwards, who works in the financial arena, and Klawitter found their four-bedroom “lanai” model, the fence surrounding the pool was falling down, the whole house needed painting, and heavy drapes made it a dark dungeon. It had a Dutch door at the front entrance, which had been relocated from the floor plan’s original location. Previous owners had added on two additional bedrooms at the back and bumped the kitchen out five feet.

Letting the Light In

“I kept fantasizing about going in and taking down the curtains,” Klawitter, a community college teacher, says. “Two days before escrow closed I got in and started pulling them down. The light just came flooding in.”

The previous residents’ gold-veined mirror squares, painted brick fireplace and frightening wall-to-wall carpet didn’t deter the partners from their vision: finding affordable, inventive ways to create a clean, modern—but not austere— environment to come home to.

“Going in I was thinking about consistency and a color palette, design rules, but it didn’t happen that way,” Klawitter says.

 

The Ranchos, Refined

Find out how it did happen as Klawitter and Edwards continue to refine their midcentury May in Part 2.