‘Cinderella homes’ brought storybook whimsy to LA’s postwar suburbs

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    Sprinkled throughout Southern California—on cul de sacs, suburban streets, and even major boulevards—are homey ranch houses that at first glance might appear straight out of a storybook.

    Found in the San Fernando Valley, Orange County, Santa Barbara, and beyond, these “Cinderella homes” were designed in the 1950s by homebuilder Jean Vandruff, who studied architecture at USC in the 1940s.

    The houses have shake shingle roofs, swooping gables, and friendly brick chimneys. Often they are equipped with diamond-paned windows, whimsically decorated shutters, and cartoonish lances crossed across the garage door.

    “They’re very charming,” says Chris Lukather, author of The Cinderella Homes of Jean Vandruff, published earlier this year. “They’re sort of like European cottages, but they’re tract homes. They’re really not like any other homes built at the time.”

    Just as modernist home designers like William Krisel and Joseph Eichler were mass-developing sleek homes of the future on the suburban edges of Los Angeles, Vandruff’s homes appeared on the market—offering cheery nostalgia at the dawn of the Space Age.

    Vandruff stands in front of the first Cinderella home in Downey.

    “Jean didn’t like modern,” says Lukather. “He didn’t like the glass and steel; he wanted a warm homey environment for families to live in.”


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