Ridley Wills, founder of The Wills Company, spearheaded the design/build concept in Nashville decades ago. Always fascinated by the construction of homes, Ridley, a Nashville native, attended the University of Virginia to study architecture and architectural history. In 1984, while still a student at UVA, Ridley purchased his first home in East Nashville on Fatherland Street. The neighborhood was a far cry from the hip hub that it is today and was filled with many homes in need of repair and cosmetic improvements. With the help of his parents and colleagues, Ridley gathered the resources to transform the house, with a new layout for the circa 1900, shotgun style house, into a totally livable, updated and stylish space. That house sold for a record breaking high per square foot and thus completed the first project for The Wills Company. Since then, Ridley’s passion for home transformation and redesign has continued to grow and he now has hundreds of projects under his belt.
With an unparalleled ability to assess a space and see its potential, Ridley has turned countless homes throughout the Nashville area into incredible establishments that are modern, tasteful and perfectly suited to the owners. Notably, he has capitalized on the pervasiveness of ranch houses in Nashville. Though often perceived as outdated, ranch homes have the bones—and the spacious lots—to be beautiful residences with endless entertaining potential. Renovating an old ranch can be a task with a heavy price tag, but it doesn’t have to be. Using a design/build firm can significantly reduce costs by keeping the entire process—from the initial renderings to project management to the actual construction—in the hands of a single company. Most importably, the price remains fixed from start to finish, allowing the homeowner to plan and budget accordingly.
Knowing that ranch houses really do provide space that many families want (and most come with ample land for kids, dogs and gardens!) but that many need some updates, we’ve relied on Ridley’s experience today and asked him to provide three different renderings of a renovated ranch house, each at a different price point. See how each one successfully changes the house into a new and inspired home. We were excited about this project, and we think you’ll be wowed by these options, as well!
The existing house is representative of many 1950s- and ’60s-era ranch houses found in the Nashville area. I like to refer to them as “Southern ranches.”
Lowest-cost option: Change the driveway, sidewalk and landscaping.
The lowest-cost option embraces the ranch house style. It does not try to shy away from it, but rather welcomes it.
To make these changes:
- Don’t replace the decorative ironwork supports with painted columns, as is so often done in a weak attempt to make this type of house into a Georgian home. That is not nearly enough change to accomplish that classically designed look.
- Help your guests get to the front door. So many of our ranch houses, like this one, have driveways down the side of the house with only a long walkway leading to the front door. Therefore, this lovely entrance is wasted and never gets used. Plus, the focus for entering the home is almost always through the messiest and least welcoming entry to the house—the garage. In this option, and all subsequent ones, we create a sweeping, curved drive to the front door with parking space that allows guests to actually use the main entry.
- Remove the shutters and paint the window trim a darker color.
- Landscaping can make a huge difference. This expansive front yard needs a substantial, rather than ornamental, tree in its front yard. It will give interest and height to the home. A good oak or magnolia can grow for years and bring beauty for any family!
- Extend the front walkway to the new driveway with an attractive crab orchard or brick. Make it easy to access and beautiful for you and your guests.
Mid-cost option: Go for a contemporary look while incorporating the driveway and landscaping changes discussed in the lower-cost option.
The middle-cost option gives this house a contemporary feel, but remains true to the mid-century period during which this house was built.
- The driveway, landscaping and front walkway changes from the lowest-cost option all apply here, too.
- Remove the shutters.
- Paint the brick in a crisp white color (not cream) and give a punch to the window trim and doors with a dark, almost black color.
- Pull the front entry hall forward and have its doorway be accessed from the side underneath the porch. This will create a gable on the front façade, break the long linear line of the house and give interest to the property.
- Remove the iron supports of the remaining porch and wrap steps all the way across and around its side. This will create a cantilever design effect and give some dramatic, mid-century “umph” to the exterior.
- Consider replacing the large living room window with a steel one, and it will be a show stopper!
- Consider vaulting the ceiling in an interior room or two to raise what are predictably low ceilings. This will relieve the uniformity of the interior spaces and also provide needed panache. The exterior roofline, however, remains in place for cost reasons.
Highest-cost option: Change the look of the ranch house altogether.
The highest-cost option takes this house completely away from the ranch style and gives it a contemporary, yet traditional, feel that appeals to a wider audience.
- Again the driveway, landscaping and front walkway changes from the lowest-cost option apply here.
- Raise the center section of the house to give higher ceilings to its lower level and a full second floor above it.
- The side wings remain.
- Consider creating a first floor master suite on the left side of the house with the addition, as shown. The wrap-around, steel windows at the corner will add a contemporary edge, provide glorious natural light and create design interest for the exterior façade.
- Again, replacing the large living room window with a steel one will really be a terrific pop for the design.
- Over-scaled gas lanterns above the front entry door add balance on the opposite side and give a warm glow and elegant touch to the front of the house.
- Replace the aluminum guttering with copper and add leader boxes to catch the downspouts as they come off the deep, overhanging roof. This is a lovely detail that attests to the quality of design.
- As with the middle-cost option, paint the brick in a crisp white color (not cream) and give punch to the windows and doors with a dark, almost black color.
- The overall effect is of a completely up-to-date, modern home that is still traditional in feel.
A special thanks goes out to Ridley and the entire The Wills Company team for creating and sharing these sketches and lending their renovation expertise. To see more of Ridley’s work, see a video and learn more about The Wills Company, visit our SB Guide!