Flor Creative Director, Chip DeGrace, Creates a Modern Family Home from an Elmhurst Ranch House
MODERN FAMILY: Elmhurst's Chip and Cynthia DeGrace put the finishing touches on a mid-century house built for the way people live today
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A video tour of the ranch house, narrated by Chip and Cynthia DeGrace. See more photos in the gallery below.
Even if there had been a glimmer of doubt about making an offer on the low-slung four-bedroom, three-bath house they call home, it was immediately erased when, three years ago, Chip and Cynthia DeGrace walked into the kitchen and saw the decades-old turquoise GE stove.
“We were like, ‘Uh-oh,’” recalls Chip, the creative director at Flor, the modular carpet tile company. “What were the chances that it would be a vintage stove and that it would be turquoise?” Not to mention, adds Cynthia, a freelance stylist, that it was in perfect working order.
Sold!—to the couple who love old stoves and ranch houses. This flagstone beauty, built in the late 1940s, is the third ranch—all in Elmhurst—they’ve shared with their three boys and a boxer (four-legged) named Mabyl. No wall-to-wall burgundy carpeting, bright blue walls, or “aggressive” wallpaper (remnants of the previous owner’s spirited decorating vision) could put them off.
“Despite all that cosmetic stuff, we immediately loved that it had an open floor plan with connecting entry, living room, and dining room,” says Chip. “It was clear an architect had thought about the flow, about the size of the windows, about how the inside opened to the backyard—a lot of the same things we would think about.”
The only major renovation the DeGraces undertook was the removal of a couple of walls that divided the original eat-in kitchen from the dining area. They replaced a pass-through window with a peninsula and stools and framed the entry to the kitchen with an arch mirroring one that separates the house’s front vestibule from the main living space.
Other interior fixes were purely superficial. The DeGraces kept the original metal kitchen cabinets but had them electrostatically spray-painted. Peach laminate countertops were replaced with granite. The homeowners painted all the walls themselves—white, except for the master bedroom, which is dark gray, and the boys’ rooms, which are light blue. “We prefer neutral walls with color and pattern in the furniture and on the floor,” Chip says.
Furnishings are predominantly mid-century modern, with pieces by Eames, Bertoia, and Risom. Fittingly, the floors (which the couple had redone in cork after stripped carpet revealed plain old plywood) are covered in an array of vibrant carpet tiles from Flor’s catalog.
The DeGraces’ outdoor space didn’t get short shrift, either. The house is on a corner lot and has a long, narrow backyard; mature trees meant nice shade but not much grass. So the DeGraces went with the flow, fencing in a courtyard and finishing it with crushed slate underfoot and a slate-clad raised koi trough built along one edge of the house.
Where do the fishies go in the wintertime? “They come inside and live with us,” says Cynthia. Apparently, everyone in this family loves ranches.