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It’s still the mid-century era in the East End’s Ranchos

By Tim Grobaty,


It’s Ranchos Redux in Long Beach’s East End, where some 700 Cliff May-designed mid-century modern homes are found north of Spring Street and east of Studebaker Road.

The homes, built in 1953 and 1954, have waxed and waned in popularity over the past 70 years. Initially, when they were too new to be classics and retro wasn’t a thing yet, they were favored for their relative affordability, which was a key factor in May’s design, using inexpensive materials laid out in what appeared at the time to be a relatively no-frills manner.

For years the homes sold for about the same price as the tract homes in the neighborhood and in the areas to its west on the other side of Studebaker. The houses, selling initially for $11,700 and $12,800 for three- or four-bedroom models, weren’t for everyone. With virtually no insulation and an abundance of floor-to-ceiling windows and sliding glass doors, the homes were cold in the winter and sweltering in the summer, though the later additions of fire pits and swimming pools eased those extremes to an extent and furthered the notion that the homes were built for living both indoors and outdoors.

Another downside, perhaps, is the fact that the homes encouraged or even demanded a fairly minimalist lifestyle. Messiness or clutter was magnified by the fact that it would be highly visible both from the outside and inside.

A couple of decades back, the Ranchos began their ascendancy as the mid-mod look, riding on the stylistic backs of such notable architects specializing in the design—Ed Killingsworth, Richard Nuetra, Paul Tay and others whose works rose beyond mere residences to works of inhabitable art. And while those architects’ works are expensive, the Cliff May Ranchos, though not cheap, nevertheless sell today for between $1 million and $1.6 million, according to Rancho resident and Realtor Doug Kramer, who, with his wife Rochelle, writes about the mid-mod style and specialize in listing the Cliff Mays in their area as well as some pricier mid-century models in Naples and Park Estates.

Kramer currently has three Cliff Mays on the market, as the style is experiencing a bit of a boom in terms of inventory as well as popularity.

His highest-priced offering at the moment, at $1.375 million, is a three-bed, two-bath 1,573-square-foot model that’s larger than most Cliff Mays, at 3274 Stevely Ave. Its patio and outdoors area are so stunning and comfortable you can practically throw away the house. It’s difficult to distinguish what kind of yard it is, front or back, because the Cliff May homes tend to feature the main yard up front without giving up any privacy thanks to a tall fence and foliage. However you term it, this one features a beautifully illuminated pool with a spa and Cabo shelf. There’s a poolside bar and kitchen with built-in seating as well as a conversation area around a built-in gas fire pit.

A $1.375 million Cliff May at 3274 Stevely Ave. Listing photo.

Inside, it’s everything you want in a Rancho—lots of light (you can make one of these homes dark with some work, but what’s the point?), a wide-open floor plan, a centrally located kitchen, multiple dining areas and attractive wall coverings that include brick, stone and wood. And, of course, the combination of attractive outdoor landscaping with the liberal use of glass makes the interior and exterior virtually indistinguishable.

A similarly outstanding of Cliff May architecture at its best is offered by Nate Cole of Modern California House. Cole is pretty choosey about his properties, and this house at 3356 Lees Ave. fits well into his portfolio of offerings.

Offered at $1.55 million, it’s a more luxe version of the more standard Cliff Mays. It’s got a larger than usual living area created by the addition to the rear of the house and the relocation of the kitchen with its alderwood cabinets and Wolf and Sub Zero appliances. It also has a second fireplace at the rear of the property.

A $1.55 million Cliff May at 3356 Lees Ave. Listing photo.

The 1,568-square-foot home has had several system upgrades including owned solar panels with Tesla home backup battery, newer air-conditioning and heating, a 200-amp electrical panel and tankless water heater. The home also has a new garage in front, while the old one has been transformed into a 400-square-foot office or studio, with that additional room not included in the listed square footage.

For the more adventurous buyer who would prefer to do their own upgrading and save a couple of hundred K on the purchase price, roll up your sleeves and make an offer on this 1,434-square-foot three-bed, two-bath home at 3141 Kallin Ave. offered by Kim Crisler for under a million dollars at $998,000, about as inexpensive as you can find in the area, where even tear-downs can fetch a million dollars.

An inside look at a Cliff May home on Kallin Ave., listed at less than a million dollars. Listing photo.

The home doesn’t appear to have been upgraded much, and the listing photos show a pool table standing alone in the primary bedroom. That’s gotta go. Cliff May homes are a lot of things, but they aren’t built for billiards. Upgrading is going to have to entail paint, flooring, a good overall cleaning, thorough modernizing, landscaping and whatever else a good home inspector will find for you to do after they have a good look under the hood.

The post It’s still the mid-century era in the East End’s Ranchos appeared first on Long Beach Post .

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