‘This Old House’ to feature Kettering woman’s pergola project

1950s ranch update inspired by magazine story

A tiny home in Kettering is about to get some national attention.

In May, This Old House magazine will run a photo of Marjo van Patten’s ranch as its “Reader Project” feature.

“This is my 15 minutes of fame,” van Patten said.

The retired reference librarian lives in an 840-square-foot ranch house built in 1951, just south of the Fraze Pavilion.

“It’s one of the first Huber homes (named for legendary local developer Charles Huber), designed as a starter home for World War II vets,” she said.

It’s a bit of shift from her former residence, a five-acre estate in Bellbrook called Thunderbolt Hill that she shared with her late husband, Robert van Patten. But it’s exactly what she’d been looking for.

Marjo van Patten found the Kettering site on a foreclosure listings website in June 2010, while looking for a smaller place to enjoy during retirement.

“This house was the first one that popped up,” she said, “and I thought – that’s perfect! This is the house that I want.”


The single-story ranch required a complete overhaul, she said, from replacing the roof, floors, doorways and windows to gutting the bathroom and kitchen. After renovations, the van Pattens rented it to another family.

“The idea was to rent this until it was my turn to live here,” she said. “It was a lot shorter time than I’d hoped.”

Robert died in August of 2011. Three months later, Marjo moved to her new home – after making a few additional improvements to the house, including a German-inspired, tile-backed living room wall that holds a gas fireplace, media center and pantry.

“It makes me feel really urban and urbane, like I live in a New York City loft,” she said.

But one area of the house still needed help – the front. Its plain, flat, sparsely landscaped exterior was, well…

“So ugly,” van Patten said, flipping through a “before and after” photo album. In 2012, she finally found inspiration in one of her favorite magazines, This Old House. One of its “Photoshop Redo” entries featured a similar ranch house in the Midwest.

“They added a pergola, landscaping and some paint,” she said, “and I thought, ‘Bingo!’”

Wait pays off

Soon, her Kettering house had a new, fully accessible concrete walkup and driveway, fresh landscaping and an eye-catching white aluminum pergola from Buschurs Home Improvement Center in Dayton.

That Christmas, van Patten snapped a photo of the completed project and sent it to This Old House, thanking the magazine for its inspiration. They requested additional photos.

“Then I heard nothing for well over a year,” she said. Then, on March 5, she received an email:

“I know you’ve probably given up hope by now,” a This Old House magazine editor wrote, “but we in fact will be running your ranch pergola as the Reader Project in the May 2014 issue.”

Buschurs owner Terry Paxton said some of the company’s proprietary products have been featured in This Old House in the past, “but this is the first time we’ve had a customer (submit one) on her own. It’s really nice of her to do it — and really nice of them to run it.”

As for van Patten, she’s delighted to get to share the project and the news.

“I was so excited, I had to send (the email) to 50 of my friends,” van Patten said.

Let the 15 minutes of fame begin.

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