If you are in the market for a new home, you’ve no doubt seen ranch-style homes for sale. Ranch-style homes first appeared in the United States in the 1920s and ’30s and have remained one of the most popular architectural styles ever since. Today, they still dominate the market, ranking as the most popular home style in 34 states.
Let’s take a look at how the ranch came about and the features that make it such an enduring home style.
The History of Ranch-Style Homes
This home style is based, of course, on houses of working ranches in the American West. The design incorporated aspects of 19th century Spanish Colonial architecture, which features long, low, sprawling, U-shaped homes with pitched roofs, open interiors and large eaves to contend with the warm Southwest climate. Suburban ranches eliminated the U-shape, but maintained the single-story, open living space, pitched roofline and easy access to the outdoors.
You may hear a ranch-style home referred to as a California ranch. That’s because the style was popularized in California in the early 1930s thanks to the self-taught architect Clifford May of San Diego. He is considered the father of the ranch house and once said of building what is considered the first ranch home: “I rebelled against the boxy houses being built then. The ranch house was everything a California house should be — it had cross-ventilation, the floor was level with the ground, and with its courtyard and the exterior corridor, it was about sunshine and informal outdoor living.”
The concept proved popular with home buyers and developers, and the construction of ranch-style homes exploded after World War II, particularly in the suburbs. As it turned out, ranch homes were quick and affordable to build, and developers embraced the trend with open arms, not slowing their production of ranch homes until the 1970s when the two-story home became popular once again.
Features of Ranch Homes
Ranch homes have a distinctive style; once you see one, there is no question that it is a ranch. The first thing you’ll notice is that the home is long and low. Ranches are one-story, rambling homes (earning them the nickname of ”rambler”), often with charming yards and landscaping. The traditional U-shape is hard to find these days, unless the home has a large lot or is out in the country. Most ranches are simple rectangles, though you will sometimes find the occasional L-shaped design.
Outside, you’ll notice:
- Long, low-pitched roofs
- A mix of materials, such as wood and brick, stucco or stone
- Deep, overhanging eaves
- A patio or porch (sometimes both!)
- Large windows and sliding-glass doors
- Attached garages, making the home look even longer
Inside, ranches often feature:
- Single-story living
- Open floor plan living areas consisting of the kitchen, dining room and living room
- Bedrooms situated at the opposite end of the houses, away from the living area
- A full basement
- Simple details and architectural elements
Why We Love Ranch-Style Homes
Ranch-style homes remain popular for many of the same reasons they first caught our attention:
- The open floor plan provides plenty of space and flexibility.
- One-level living is appropriate for all ages, making the home ideal for long-term livability.
- The low-slung design, large windows and passive cooling features of the home make it comfortable and energy-efficient.
- The open design and access to the outdoors make ranches perfect for socializing and entertaining.
- The relaxed and casual design appeals to a wide range of buyers.
Beyond these factors, ranches can be found in many different architectural styles, in square footage options that range from small and compact to large and spacious.
Andrew Schmeerbauch, director of marketing at Clever Real Estate, writes, “The ranch’s popularity began to wane in the late 1960s but has been experiencing a revival since the late 1990s. Today, they are popular among first-time homeowners for their affordability, great design, and ubiquity across the country. Senior citizens and those with reduced mobility also appreciate their flat layout as it doesn’t require them to go up and down the stairs often, if ever.”
He further explains that the term “ranch” encompasses many different variations and is no longer limited to just one iteration. “The ranch has evolved since its birth in the 1920s. Now, homeowners can choose between many variations like California ranches, split-level ranches, raised ranches, and more.”
As you browse homes, don’t be surprised to see the following descriptions:
The traditional ranch, these homes tend to be sprawling L- or U-shapes that blend in with the landscape. These may feature elements of the Arts and Crafts movement or Spanish Colonial architecture, and you may find a courtyard in the middle of the L- or U-shape.
Most commonly seen after World War II, these homes are similar to the California ranch, but smaller and simpler, without the L- or U-shape. They may be built on a concrete slab or have a basement. Like the California ranch, they have an open floor plan and strong connection with the outdoors.
These ranches fool the eye. They look like a traditional suburban ranch from the street, but walk inside and you’ll find three levels of living. The front door leads into the main living area, including the dining room and the kitchen. Off to one side of the home is a half-stair that leads to the bedrooms and another half-stair that leads to a lower-level living space that usually includes a walkout to the backyard.
Also called a split-entry home, this ranch features an entryway with two sets of stairs — one that leads up and one that leads down. Upstairs includes the common areas and bedrooms. Downstairs is a more utilitarian space that can be used as a rec or bonus room and usually includes access to the attached garage.
These homes are traditional ranches that radiate charm. You’ll see more architectural detailing on these homes than on other ranch designs. Examples include exposed beams, ornamental trim and unique window shapes.
Find Your Ranch at NewHomeSource
Ranches are a quintessentially American home. Although the basic design remains consistent across all models, that design can be adapted to reflect just about any architectural style, including farmhouse, country, Spanish, Craftsman and modern.
No matter the aesthetics of the home, a ranch evokes an easy-living, carefree, flexible and casual feel. Modern ranches often incorporate in-law suites, walkout basements and bonus rooms above the garage. Outside, you will find wraparound porches, pools and patios, and several entry/exit points between the home and the yard, blurring the lines between indoor and outdoor living.
If you have not yet considered the ranch in your home search, it’s time to give them a second look. Get started today by browsing New Home Source.
Liyya Hassanali is a Project Manager and Content Strategist for Kinship Design Marketing, a boutique agency that provides marketing strategies and content for architects, interior designers, and landscape designers. She is a 15+ year veteran of the marketing and advertising industry, working closely with her clients to provide written content that meets their marketing goals and gets results.
Liyya is passionate about home design and décor and is a confessed HGTV and Pinterest addict. When not providing content writing services for her clients, she can be found browsing home décor sites or spending time with her family.