Architectural Profile: Ranch Style Homes


In my newest architectural profile we will delve into the history and key aspects of the popular home style: Ranch

The ranch style home is a distinctly American design.  It’s airy, modern and includes an open floor plan that allows residents to enjoy their backyards and the balmy summer weather we get in California.

Ranch style homes were first built in the 1920’s, but grew in popularity in the 1940’s when, post-World War II, American families were fleeing the density of the cities for the spaciousness of the suburbs.  Like today’s families, the families of the mid-century wanted flexible, functional, and less formal living space. They wanted to feel connected to the outdoors and because they were no longer in a walkable city, they wanted space for two cars.

So California architect Cliff May pioneered a design that borrowed from Spanish colonial architecture and the low-ceiling, one-story Western ranches.  Most of his homes were unfussy and modern as well one-room deep so each room could open to the outside. Later homes took on elements of Frank Lloyd-Wright and the Craftsmen with exposed beams and then Joseph Eichler’s designs elevated the ranch style home to a work of art.

Here’s a look at the ranch style homes classic elements:

  1. Single Story. Classic ranch style homes are one story with a low a roof. But more and more, people are customizing this design to create split-level ranchers, where they add a second story to give the family more space.

  2. Open floor plan. The open floorplan where the kitchen, dining, living and outside areas all flow into one another, makes ranchers great for families and people who like to entertain. People move easily from one room to another and parents can keep an eye on their kids while cooking or taking care of things in the house.

  3. Lots of large windows and a sliding glass door. To incorporate the outdoors as well as take advantage of the great California sun, ranchers have lots of windows (including at least one picture window in the living area) as well as sliding glass doors that connect the backyard to the rest of the house.

  4. Wide or medium-sized eaves. Architects incorporated these eaves in order to keep the house cool in the summertime while also allowing the maximum amount of sunlight through.

  5. “L” or “U” shaped. The ranch style home is traditionally built in an “L” or “U” shape so that it wraps around the backyard. This maximizes your enjoyment of the outside area from inside the house, as well as gives you privacy while you’re in your backyard.

  6. Family-friendly backyard. As you can see, the rancher is all about the backyard and incorporating it as part of the house. The house will traditionally have a flat patio accessed by a sliding glass door from the kitchen and dining area.

  7. Easily incorporates any kind of interior design. Whether you like an eclectic look or sleek, modern lines, the minimalist style of most ranchers, gives families a lot of room to customize to their own personal taste.

  8. Attached, two-car garage. The ranch style home became popular at the start of car-culture in America and as such, an attached two-car garage was a must-have for mid-century families. Today, most families have at least two cars and appreciate this feature.