New Book Examines the Life and Work of Jean Vandruff — Designer and Builder of Magical Cinderella Ranch Homes of the 1950s and '60s
Chris Lukather, founder and editor of the literary journal, The Writing Disorder, has released his latest book, The Cinderella Homes of Jean Vandruff – Fairy Tale Tracts in the Suburbs. In the 1950s, Southern California tract housing developments filled the need of a burgeoning population, but they often lacked innovation, imagination and quality. The ubiquitous, plain box-style home tracts featuring little ornamentation came to define the term “cookie cutter.” It’s no wonder that designer and builder Jean Vandruff’s charming homes skyrocketed to popularity, since they exemplified a visionary translation of storybook magic into appealing new homes most buyers could afford. Eventually, over 6,000 Cinderella Homes were built throughout Southern California and the United States.
Mr. Vandruff began building houses in Southern California in the early 1950s, after serving as a decorated pilot in WWII. He enrolled in the USC School of Architecture, but eventually left the program to build custom homes with his brother, Shannon. His first Cinderella Home was a custom home built in Downey, CA, in 1953, creating a prototype for his wildly popular model home that was featured at the 1956 Los Angeles Home Show. The success and interest this model generated initiated his venture into tract home building and a subsequent franchise deal that facilitated his Cinderella Homes being built around the country. The style became an iconic mid-century design.
Today at 97 years old, Jean Vandruff still lives near Anaheim, CA. He is proud of the legacy of his work as a designer and builder, and remains active in the community that still today celebrates his Cinderella homes. The book contains information that Chris Lukather compiled from interviews with Vandruff and family members, and from several fields trips to original Cinderella tracts in Anaheim, Tustin, Placentia, and the San Fernando Valley that Chris took with Mr. Vandruff.
Although nearly everyone who resides in Southern California has at some point seen a Cinderella home, until now there has been very little information published about the life of the man who imagined and built these whimsical homes. After releasing his book on William Mellenthin and his “Birdhouse” ranch homes, author, Chris Lukather knew his next project had to be finding out and documenting information about the Cinderella homes. He searched for information on the builder of these nostalgic storybook-style homes that he had seen growing up in the San Fernando Valley. After speaking with homeowners and realtors, Chris learned of Jean Vandruff and was dismayed by the lack of substantial material and biography of the builder. The Cinderella Homes of Jean Vandruff features facts, stories and historical information gathered from Cinderella homeowners and realtors, articles and brochures from the Cinderella home’s heyday, as well as interviews with Mr. Vandruff and the Vandruff family. Along with the biography of this interesting, industrious and influential man, the elegantly printed book also features rare (many never seen before) photographs and documents that illustrate the creative marketing used to promote the unique Cinderella tracts, as well as model floorplans, and photographs of the designer and builder.
Alan Hess, noted author, historian and architect remarks that “It was a very innovative time—a growing industry for mass produced/mass marketed houses with a lot of money to be made in a competitive market of homebuyers in Southern California. The innovations ranged from the Case Study Houses and Eichlers (which are very well known), to Palmer and Krisel who integrated prefab elements to cut costs, to these features and franchising ideas by Vandruff (which are not as well-known but should be part of the story of innovation).”
Anyone interested in architecture, home design, mid-century trends and lifestyles, and Southern California history should pick up a copy of The Cinderella Homes of Jean Vandruff to learn about the life and work of this remarkable designer.
Chris Lukather is a Cal Arts graduate whose books are guided by his passion for art and design, California subculture and obscure Los Angeles history. A fifth generation Californian, Chris has discovered tidbits of local history through his own family’s long-time residence, and has developed his passion into projects like this, memorializing iconic homes through the published record. His previous book on William Mellenthin’s San Fernando Valley “Birdhouse” ranch homes is available on Amazon. Chris is currently editor/publisher of The Writing Disorder, a quarterly literary journal established in 2010.
Format: 120 pages, 10x10 inches, color and black & white photographs, softcover, perfect bound
Book review here: ARCHPAPER.COM
Article here: OC REGISTER
The Cinderella Homes of Jean Vandruff: Fairy Tale Tracts in the Suburbs
by Chris Lukather; introduction by Jean Vandruff
Lukather expresses his passion for quirky and obscure California architectural styles with in-depth research, field work, and interviews. The follow-up to his book on Birdhouse ranch homes by William Mellenthin is on Jean Vandruff’s fanciful Cinderella Homes. At 97, Vandruff proved to be an informative, amiable interview and tour guide into “this long overdue revolution in home design trends,” as the designer states in the opening text. Coined “Cinderella Homes” after an offhand remark by Vandruff’s wife, Eleanor, while observing the first design, the mid-1950s marketing of the product stressed wishes coming true for suburban families. The exhaustive research, access to the Vandruff family and its archives, along with realtor and homeowner interviews pays off with a very personal look at an easily overlooked part of Southern California’s residential architectural history.
The Writing Disorder, 2019, 120 pages, softcover, $35
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