Ranch Style

Ranch-style housing (also known as American ranch, California ranch, rambler or rancher) is a domestic architectural style originating in the United States. Fusing modernist ideas and styles with notions of the American West working ranches, a unique, very informal, and casual living style was created. Architect Cliff May is credited with building the first Ranch style house in San Diego, California in 1932.

The Ranch style was extremely popular with the booming post-war middle class of the 1940’s to 1970’s, and developers cashed in on this demand by embarking on a suburban building boom of unprecedented size and scope. By the 1950’s, the California ranch house accounted for nine out of every ten new houses, and the style is often associated with tract housing built at this time. As the automobile became king in America, homebuyers could live further out and on bigger chunks of land, making the Ranch style home an attractive commodity. By combining modern building developments, simplicity of design, and the seemingly endless ability of the style to accommodate the individual needs of the owner/occupant, “ranchers” satisfied the needs of the time.

The Features of Ranch Style Architecture:

  • Horizontal, sprawling footprint and large lots
  • Close-to-the-ground profile
  • Asymmetrical plan – rectangular, L-shaped, or U-shaped
  • Typically single-story – but variations include split-level and split-foyer designs
  • Ranch style homes of the 1940’s and 1950’s are typically more rustic in design than those of their later counterparts
  • Architectural Features: low-pitched side gable or hipped roof, deep-set eaves, occasional front-facing gable, small portico or recessed porch
  • Exterior Features: dovecotes, Swiss board edging on trim, western trim styling
  • Attached garages – integrating the car into modern life
  • Incorporation of technological advances (telephone wiring in every room, central heating and cooling, full-house vacuums)
  • Exteriors of no-nonsense siding, stucco, brick and wood, and glass
  • Back Patios – private semi-enclosed patios and exterior corridors, making “sunshine and informal outdoor living” a lifestyle choice
  • Window Features: Large picture windows, sliding glass doors (leading out to patio), “walls of windows” (double-hung, sliding, and picture windows) – allowing for lots of light, outdoor shutters, aluminum windows

The Features of Ranch Style Interior Design:

  • Simple floor plans creating an informal and seamless flow between rooms – (few interior walls)
  • Open, informal, and casual – few interior walls and an efficient use of space
  • Combined living and ever-shrinking dining area with kitchen that open up to dining areas
  • Family and recreational areas paramount, with an emphasis on flexibility – multi-purpose rooms could be adapted as children aged and the family’s needs changed
  • Multiple bedrooms and baths – with a hallway leading to the bedrooms on the other side of the home (Living areas separate from the bedroom areas)
  • Ample storage
  • Lack of decorative elements, unadorned style – (aside from decorative shutters)
  • Simple and/or rustic interior and exterior trim
  • Post-and-beam construction, vaulted ceilings
  • Integration with the outdoors – large windows and easy access to patios and courtyards, cross-ventilation
  • Antechambers replaced the formal foyer
  • Natural materials – oak floors
  • Flexibility accommodates all manner of styles and décor
  • Layout allows easily tacked-on additions
  • Forward-thinking – using the latest in home appliances and technology