A remarkable makeover of a 1960s ranch

Transforming a 1960s ranch into a home suited to today’s lifestyle was not as easy as it first appeared.

Once she saw it, Laura Ludes knew this sprawling Portsmouth ranch house, built in 1966, had potential. Although the structure of the original home (lower photo) remained mostly intact, it was completely remodeled inside. Exterior changes included landscaping, cedar shingle siding, a new roof, and all new windows and doors.

Two of the things needed to transform a house are vision and commitment to see a project through. 

That’s what the Ludes family discovered when they purchased a dated, 1960s ranch-style home overlooking Portsmouth’s Little Harbor. “I felt the house had potential,” Laura Ludes says. “I just had to convince my husband of that.”

Laura is no stranger to home renovations; she enjoys the challenge of updating older homes. She and her husband, Greg, have renovated four homes in Portsmouth, one in New Castle and a one-hundred-year-old barn. This is the only home the family of four owned that was fewer than seventy years old. “Remodeling a contemporary home was not necessarily easier (than remodeling an older home), but it was very different,” she says. “Choices for fixtures, paint colors, hardware, etc., were selected with a different mind set.”

A house transformed

With architectural guidance from Manypenny| Murphy Architecture of Portsmouth, Laura and Portsmouth builder Iain Moodie mapped out a design that completely transformed the house, inside and out. The original three-bedroom, three-bathroom structure had a white-clapboard exterior and dated, oddly sized interior spaces separated by walls and doors. Laura’s vision was a clutter-free home that was light, serene and suited to its coastal environment. “We moved every single wall,” Moodie says. And the further they got into the project, the more it grew.

Removing walls and raising the ceiling in the kitchen and dining areas created an open floor plan that allows for easy movement between spaces. The fixture over dining table is by Hubbardton Forge in Castleton, Vermont; kitchen cabinetry is by Advanced Custom Cabinets in Brentwood; and wall color is Natural Choice by Sherwin Williams.

The house expanded from 2,700 square feet to 3,000 by finishing unused attic space, creating room for four bedrooms and four bathrooms. There are all new windows and doors; new ceilings and floors; newly painted interiors; and a partially new foundation. The result is a contemporary home with a sunny, open floor plan that allows for easy movement and entertaining.

Originally separated by a wall from the home’s front entrance, the kitchen, dining and family rooms were small and dark. Removing the wall and two doors, and raising and pitching the ceiling, dramatically opened up the layout. The spacious new kitchen and dining area (Laura’s favorite spaces) integrate seamlessly with a bright family room with views of an outdoor patio and saltwater pool, where the family’s two daughters enjoy relaxing on sunny days. Furnishings and wall colors in quiet neutrals help create the soothing environment the family was seeking. Family and guests can gather around a large granite-topped island, which initially reminded Laura of a ping-pong table (she even bought a clip-on net in case the family was inspired to play).

Also in the kitchen, new windows overlooking the driveway and front walk enable the family to see visitors arriving. Painted maple cabinetry, stainless-steel appliances and an induction cook top are designed to be unobtrusive. “When you’re sitting in the living room and looking at the kitchen, you don’t notice it’s a kitchen,” Moodie says.

A curved staircase, with a hand-built railing and balustrade, doubles as a convenient bookshelf.

Updating interiors

Across from the kitchen/dining area is a two-story living room. Originally painted harvest orange and brown, the room had plenty of natural light but, with its shag carpeting and curved stairway to the second floor, looked dated. New windows and a neutral color palette updated the space, and a new fireplace with a soapstone surround became a focal point for the room. The stairs were redesigned and rebuilt as a curved, wooden staircase, a challenge because the oak handrail and balustrade are all curves and ellipses. A bookcase built into the side of the stairs adds storage and display space.

Other details helped update the home’s interior. An energy-efficient heating and air conditioning system (challenging to install because the home is spread out) keeps the house cool in summer and warm in winter. Wall-to-wall carpeting throughout the house was replaced with white oak floors. And installing pocket doors (salvaged from an old carriage house)—instead of conventional swinging doors—cuts down on wasted space.

Updating the exterior

The home’s exterior changed as dramatically as the interior. A cupola on top of the garage, accessed through a large walk-in closet, was removed. White clapboards were replaced with custom-colored green cedar shingles and copper flashing, and the front entrance was re-oriented to the center of the house. Thomas Berger of Green Art in Kittery, Maine, developed a new, low-maintenance landscaping plan for the property.

“The whole house was hidden behind big evergreens, and the entrance was practically inaccessible,” Berger says. “The plantings were overgrown.”

Berger and Ludes removed all the plantings as well as a berm in front of the house, lowering the lawn to street level and raising the home’s façade. Berger redesigned the landscape and stonework, working closely with Serdar Sahin of Sahin Stonework in Kittery. Now, the home is terraced from the driveway to the front door, incorporating bluestone from the original front walkway; the bluestone comes from Portsmouth’s former Frank Jones Brewery. The landscape design focuses on soft foliage rather than flowers, with perennials such as Biokovo and Rozanne geraniums adding color and contrast to native grasses, dwarf conifers and Japanese maples. Behind the house, Berger landscaped around the swimming pool and created a small outdoor wall and stone walkway through the back yard. Laura added the final touch: a gold ceramic fish hung on the home’s front wall—she and Greg have incorporated this element on each house the family has owned.

Of the homes they’ve renovated (so far), this is the Ludeses’ favorite, Laura says. Moodie credits her with having the vision to see the project through. “It takes momentum and commitment to take walls down,” he says. “She has it.” 


Advanced Custom Cabinets  
(603) 772-6211

Benjamin Moore 

Green Art 
(207) 439-7700

Hubbardton Forge 
(800) 826-4766

Laura Ludes  
(603) 498-4685

Manypenny|Murphy Architecture
(603) 319-8199

Iain Moodie 
(603) 436-0392

Portico Fine Tile & Design 
(603) 964-3383

Catherine Raines 

Sahin Stonework  
(207) 439-2626


Summer House Furnishings
(603) 319-1655

Tall windows add natural light to the airy, two- story living room. A new fireplace became the room’s focal point. Lighting over the fireplace is by Hubbardton Forge; artwork above the fireplace is from Summer House Furnishing in Rye; and the wall color is Quiet Moments by Benjamin Moore.

The kitchen and dining area integrate seamlessly with a bright family room. The room looks out to a swimming pool and outdoor patio.

The bright outdoor patio (right) and saltwater pool (below) are favorite spots for the Ludes daughters, family and friends on sunny days. Patio furnishings and accessories are from Summer House Furnishings in Rye.

Categories: Renovation, Renovation & Restoration