A “Vintage Survivor” Home with Light—and Space—to Spare


Named for the Penninger family, who custom-built the home in 1958 and remained its sole owner until 2015, the Penninger house is a sprawling atomic ranch with much of its original character and features lovingly maintained or restored by its 2015 to 2019 owners, Cameron and Suzie Thiessen.

“The house had been lived in, but it had not been neglected,” said Cameron. “It had been cared for.”

The Thiessen family went to creative lengths to preserve the home’s 50s charm while modernizing it for today’s standards of living. Instead of removing the original sink and vanity when expanding the master bath, they turned to the Internet to find a second matching sink all the way from Pennsylvania; they sourced vintage silver pulls similar to the kitchen’s hardware from an atomic ranch home in Springfield’s Southern Hills neighborhood; and a pair of former family room pendant lamps now hang in the home office.

Though the Thiessen family put the house on the market in 2019 to pursue their dream home renovation, they’ve seen themselves as stewards of the Penninger home—and that stewardship came through in the smallest ways. In fact, after moving in, the Thiessen family unearthed the original owners’ long lost wedding ring near a rosebush that she had planted and loved during her decades in the home. The Thiessen family immediately returned it to the owners’ children, much to their surprise and joy.

And a modern abstract painting by Strafford, Mo.-based artist Catherine Latham hangs in the dining room, which was a gift by Latham to Dr. Penninger, her orthopedic surgeon. In appreciation of Dr. Penninger’s work on her broken leg, the artist painted a picture for him and the art still hangs on the dining room wall to this day.


A Painting To Say “Thank You”

The abstract painting hanging in the dining room was a gift from Catherine Latham, a patient of the late Dr. Penninger.

The Kitchen

The original honey-colored wood paneling, yellowed linoleum, and closed-off floor plan in the kitchen and family room made it feel dark and cramped. To make the home’s epicenter more family-friendly and welcoming, the Thiessen family replaced the paneling with sheetrock painted a clean, crisp white; they traded the linoleum for modern gray tile; and they replaced the door leading off the kitchen with a glass swing door that lets afternoon and evening shine through.

They also added a sliding glass door that opens out onto the backyard. Along with rows of original Pella roller shade windows flanking the family room and kitchen, the effect is of one continuous wall of windows that invites visitors outside.

The kitchen itself still retains the majority of its original features—like a bread box complete with a dial-controlled warmer, quite a luxury for its day—along with some welcomed upgrades. The original countertop was replaced with Cambria natural stone counters, and the appliances were swapped for sleek, modern stainless steel ones that look right at home with the silver tiled backsplash.

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Feature Highlight

The Penninger Home’s kitchen cabinetry still has the original stovetop’s operating buttons. The stovetop itself was recently replaced with a modern glass unit.

The Bedrooms and Bathrooms

The upstairs bedrooms and bathrooms are enormously spacious. Each bedroom’s original oak floors—which were meticulously installed so that grain patterns match up wherever possible—have been refinished. The Thiessens converted two of the original bedrooms into one master suite with a master closet that features a dresser storage island. On the other end of the master bedroom, the master bathroom has been expanded to add a second vanity and a larger shower with dual shower heads.

The hall bathroom is still decked out in its original pink-and-gray design, and every feature—even the boomerang countertops—look as new as if they had been installed yesterday.

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Feature Highlight

In addition to two closets, the first bedroom has a one-of-a-kind vanity room with a pocket door plus the original vanity desk and counter. The room was designed for the original homeowners’ daughter.

The Basement

It’s not standard for atomic ranch-style homes to have full basements, but thanks to the Thiessen family’s efforts, the Penninger Home has one that turns older houses’ reputation for damp, dark basement spaces on its head. This basement space is bright, fresh, and multi-purpose. In addition to a full bedroom and bathroom, it features a modern kitchenette with a Phenix Marble countertop, soft close cabinets, a beverage cooler, and a wine fridge. In a basement that accommodating, the weather-conscious won’t mind using it to wait out Missouri’s signature storms.

The Thiessen family is preparing to pass the Penninger House baton to another faithful homeowner, but they said they’ll miss the very mid century blurring of indoor and outdoor space more than anything else.

Historical Photos & Documents

  • SLIDE 1: An original sketch of the furniture layout in the den (located off the kitchen) on wax paper

  • SLIDE 2: The home as it looked in 1958

  • SLIDE 3: Page one of a Statement of Account that listed pricing for the home’s custom appliances and building materials

  • SLIDE 4: Page two of a Statement of Account

The Penninger House could be yours! It’s for sale by owner.