Modern Ranch Home Plays With Color

Creative family transforms their mid-century modern rancher into a play space packed with color


Photo by: Photographer: Christina Wedge

Photographer: Christina Wedge

When house-hunting in 2007, color-loving creative professionals Justine Rubin and Robin Finch found almost exactly what they were looking for: a 2,200-square-foot mid-century-modern ranch in the Toco Hills neighborhood of Atlanta, Ga. At the time, the newlyweds were excited to have a space to start a family and enough room to tackle their creative endeavors at home. Robin, a video editor and musician, needed an expansive area to store and display his collection of vinyl albums and books. Justine, a designer, artist and stylist, longed for an open area with natural light where she could experiment with materials, textures and her favorite element, color.

"We love color, our kids love color, our jobs have a lot to do with using color, we love playing with color, our kids love playing with color, and we love playing with our kids," Justine says. "I pretty much dreamed of our house becoming one big, colorful, happy play-space."

Colorful, Mid-Century Rancher

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Stark Beginnings

When Justine and Robin first bought their 1954 mid-century modern home, they liked its open galley kitchen layout, yet wanted to replace the cabinets, countertops and appliances. They also replaced the kitchen's lackluster beige color scheme with bold, high-energy pops of color.

Functional Necessity

In its original condition, the dining room led to a screened-in porch that was unsafe due to its proximity to the driveway. They planned to increase their outdoor living space by turning the screened-in porch into a finished room where sons Felix and Reyn could play, and Justine and Robin, both creative professionals, could tackle their own artistic projects.

Modern Style

The galley-style kitchen was transformed with modern design that opens up onto their dining space. Since the couple does a lot of cooking, they opted for butcher block countertops that offer ample space for food preparation. The back wall was painted charcoal to give the colorful accent elements a backdrop to stand out.

Angular Windows Showcase Architecture

To showcase the mid-century modern architecture, Justine and Robin opted to leave their angled windows in the kitchen bare. By keeping the windows free of blinds or draperies, the asymmetrical lines and interesting shapes stayed in view.

High-Energy Hues

To add color throughout the house without an overwhelming effect, Justine and Robin opted for smaller furniture pieces, such as dining chairs, in high-energy hues.

Keep It Crafty

From the beginning of the home's remodel, the family made it a point to add touches of fun and kid-friendliness to each space. Since the kids spend a lot of time in the dining area, Justine keeps a roll of craft paper on the table that functions as an easy clean-up solution after meals and craft station for Reyn and Felix.

Open Shelving

Open floating shelving gives Justine and Robin instant access to bowls, cups and glasses in their galley kitchen. Before installing floating shelves for kitchen items, first check the weight capacity that each shelf can handle. While glasses are lightweight and easy to display, heavier items such as ceramic bowls can cause shelves to sag or bow.

Subdued Walls and Bold-Hued Accents

Justine took advantage of the wall above the most utilized spot in her kitchen, the prep area, to display her growing collection of artistic family photos. Justine chose a backdrop of white subway tile, then incorporated colorful countertop appliances that pop, such as this tangerine orange mixer.

Ready to Read

Since reading is something Felix and Reyn are certain to be doing at just about any time on any day, Robin incorporated book niches into the side of the kitchen half wall. To give the space her artistic touch, Justine applied cut paper appliqués to the wall in the form of trees and leaves.

Charcoal Plays Well With Other Colors

Justine and Robin used charcoal throughout the home since it's gender neutral, works well with other colors, and complements the mid-century modern style of the house. While white is often suggested as the best color to paint walls meant for showcasing art, charcoal works just as well.

Playful Pieces

Determined to keep every room in the house kid-friendly and open for play, Justine and Robin packed their living room with cushy, comfortable furniture. The generous-sized coffee table was chosen to accommodate one of Felix's most prized possessions, his train set. To capitalize on the natural light streaming in from the 8 foot window, the couple opted to keep the walls painted white.

Artful Touches

Known for her artistic style that is imperfect and raw, yet colorful and texture-packed, Justine incorporated some of her own art into the design of the living room. This piece was made by adding simple, random strokes of crayon onto basic white art paper.

Storage Solution

Robin created an open storage system for his collection of vinyl albums on the wall that divides the living room from Reyn's nursery. By choosing basic stain-grade plywood, Robin was able to have this built affordably. For now, the couple enjoys the unfinished look of the raw plywood; however, they can change it up in the future if they decide to stain it or paint it a glossy color.

Dark Tones to Counterbalance

Charcoal was the couple’s color of choice for Reyn's nursery. Since the space is meant for sleeping, this moody, dark tone was an excellent way to counterbalance the abundance of natural light that streams in from the home’s windows.

Color Takes Center Stage

The walls in Felix's room are painted chocolate brown so that the brightly-colored art and striped rug can take center stage. Similar to white and charcoal, chocolate brown is an unexpected neutral that works well with almost any color.

Porch to Playroom

What used to be a screened-in porch became a clean, modern playroom for Felix and Reyn that doubles as a creative space for Justine. A new skylight was installed to let natural light flood the space and allow colors to read correctly.

A Walk on the Creative Side

Justine and Robin work hard to encourage their sons' creative sides. The family turned shipping boxes into sculptures of a robot and an elephant by reconfiguring the cardboard, then embellishing it with paint and bottle caps.

Glance Through the Glass Door

A sliding glass door leads to a fenced-in deck, allowing Felix and Reyn to easily access the outdoors and play while being supervised from almost any spot in the dining area or kitchen. Justine utilizes the charcoal wall of the playroom to experiment with new art ideas, such as this simple installation of bird sketches.

Playful Yet Practical

Thanks to 250-square-feet of elevated deck added to the area just outside the master bedroom, Justine and Robin have a place where Felix and Reyn can play as the couple keeps an eye on them from their bed. This is especially helpful on weekend mornings when the couple wants to lay around a while longer before starting their busy days.

View From the Master Bedroom

Justine and Robin installed sliding glass doors in the master bedroom that lead out to the new deck inorder to keep an unobstructed view of the kids. In choosing color for their bedroom, the couple opted to paint the wall opposite their bed a bold shade of turquoise, then pop fire engine red furniture against it.

Style-Savvy Stairwell

To keep with the home's mid-century modern style, Justine and Robin created a knee wall out of drywall instead of using traditional-style railing for the stairwell that leads down to the basement. This relatively inexpensive material provides a safer alternative to balusters.

Industrial Chic

The basement was finished with drywall and the concrete floors were stained and sealed for a polished, industrial-chic look. White walls reflect the natural light throughout the space. This helps Justine experiment with colors and textures as she creates backdrops and handmade elements for her own art and her clients' storefront displays.

Inspired by Natural Light

Positioned in front of a window which overlooks the lush green landscape behind the house, Justine is surrounded by natural light and inspiring colors from the outdoors as she works inside her studio's craft space.









In order to outfit the house, which was built in 1954, Justine and Robin decided to embark on a remodel before moving in. With their hopes of soon expanding their family, they knew they would need more living space. "Though it's always fitting to have a nice screened-in porch with an old couch in the South, we needed more interior room with lots of light, which would work great as a dining room, or a playroom for our kids with direct views from the kitchen," Robin says.

Something else that wasn't working for the couple was the home's lack of color. "We fell in love with the house because of all the angles," Justine says. "I immediately saw the need for more color everywhere, and the house design allowed for great accent walls and unexpected color spaces everywhere."

After thinking long and hard about how they'd best utilize every square foot of the house, the couple was able to identify all the necessary changes needed.

  • Framing and drywalling the porch to become a full-fledged playroom and creative space.
  • Remodeling the kitchen
  • Adding skylights
  • Incorporating book alcoves into walls
  • Building an entire wall of record album storage and display
  • Finishing the basement as a studio for Justine and a band practice space for Robin
  • Adding decks to the front and back of the house and painting the exterior

To accomplish everything, they gave the project a timeline of 12 weeks and a budget of $30,000.

Tackling the Kitchen

To keep the kitchen open and airy, the couple stuck with the original galley-style layout, updating it with a modern kitchen system. For the design of the kitchen, Justine and Robin installed butcher-block countertop and glossy white cabinet door fronts. Since the family is so active and the kids eat freshly prepared meals several times a day, Justine chose open shelving for easy access to bowls and cups.

After the kids were born, Robin incorporated a niche into the side of the kitchen wall to house the books of sons Felix and Reyn. "We wanted elements of play throughout, especially books," Robin says. "We love books and our kids love books and having book storage in kid-accessible locations throughout the house integrates books into our daily play. They can grab colorful kids' books by themselves and read in the playroom while Justine cooks dinner."



Creating a Playroom

The couple's focus was on transforming the screened-in porch into a playroom and creative space. Capitalizing on the position of the room in relation to the sun, Justine and Robin incorporated skylights that make the space inviting and allow the colors from Justine's art to read correctly. "I design storefront window displays which are usually exposed to all-natural light, and it makes a huge difference in how colors appear," Justine says. "That same idea works well in a creative space where someone is painting, because natural light makes everything look a million times better." Toward the end of the play-space's build-out, Justine and Robin added a fenced-in wraparound deck to give Felix and Reyn ample room to play outdoors with supervision. To access the deck, a sliding glass door was added on the left-hand wall just off the kitchen.

Colors that Pop

In making color choices for interiors, Justine and Robin decided to use color sparingly on walls, sticking mostly with accent walls in larger rooms. They introduced color abundantly with accessories, accent furniture and art. The main wall of the great room was painted charcoal. The dark color acted as an excellent backdrop for which to showcase bold hues. "I especially love how it works in the dining room behind the wood table with red and white chairs; they really pop against it," Justine says. "In fact, we liked it so much, we also painted the exterior of the house charcoal." Many areas of the house also have walls painted ultra-white, which Justine finds ideal for showcasing art.

The bedrooms offered the creative mom and dad a place to experiment a bit more with color. In Felix's room, they used chocolate brown on the walls. For Reyn's nursery, they went with an almost-black shade of charcoal that is both moody and masculine. "I guess a lot of people may choose more juvenile colors for their kids' rooms, but we liked how dark, dramatic hues really allowed the kids' things to pop more," Robin says. "Even though the walls are dark, everything else in their rooms is bold and bright."

For their bedroom, Justine and Robin chose a color scheme of turquoise and fire engine red, incorporating the same colors on the new deck they built just outside the bedroom. "Adding a deck off our master bedroom was probably my favorite part of the home's redesign," Robin says. "The backyard is all trees, so standing out on the deck makes you feel like you are in the forest; the inside flows outside so easily." The open floor plan allowed the entire main level to be fully utilized, inside and out.

On weekend mornings, the family gathers outside for breakfast. The kids can play out on the deck, and Justine and Robin can easily keep an eye on them whether it’s from their bed or in a rocking chair.



Basic stain-grade plywood is a great building material for custom shelving. For a casual, rustic look, lightly sand the wood but leave it un-stained.

Basic stain-grade plywood is a great building material for custom shelving. For a casual, rustic look, lightly sand the wood but leave it un-stained.

To ensure proper space for creative endeavors, Robin has his own music-centric wall upstairs in the living room. "Robin is a video editor and music is a huge part of his job, plus he’s a musician at heart, although it's more of a hobby," Justine says. "Having that one wall where his collection of vintage albums is on display was something we both knew we wanted from the start.” To keep it budget-friendly, Robin’s wall of display shelves and storage was made from paint-grade plywood and finished with 1x2 pine trim as fascia.

With the home's remodel complete, Justine and Robin are successfully hosting weekend breakfasts, lunches, dinners and parties for their entire extended family. The ample deck spaces keep the kids safe and allow many options for dining alfresco, whether just outside the playroom, outside the master suite or in the front of the house.

When asked if there was anything they may have done differently, Justine notes, "With all the new deck space, I wish we would have opted for a higher-grade wood. Basic decking tends to fade quickly and we often have to have it re-sealed or re-stained."

The Rubin-Finch house is now undoubtedly the coolest house on the block, and is quickly becoming the house with the most kids. After daycare each day, Felix's friends are constantly asking to go to his house for play time. Justine and her family's wish for a house-sized play space has come true.

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