Posts tagged Ranch homes

The History & Architecture of Ranch Style Homes

Ranch style homes are built using a uniquely American style of architecture. These large, rambling 1-story houses are popular all over the country, but especially in the South and inland California. If you’ve ever wondered exactly which features make a Ranch style home special, or about the history of Ranch architecture, you’re in the right place. This is our look at the ins and outs of American Ranch style homes. 

Classic Features of Ranch Style Homes

Homes built in the Ranch style all share a few common features. The list of features that Ranch style homes share is a long one, but there are a few core ideas that were incorporated into most homes. Some of them were:

  • * Single story, often with a finished basement
  • * Square-footage in excess of 750’
  • * Open floor plans with a simple layout
  • * Large overhanging guttered eaves 
  • * Decorative shutters around a large front window
  • * Rustic and simple trim, interior and exterior
  • * An attached deck or patio with a sliding glass door
  • * L-Shaped or asymmetrical rectangular floor plan
  • * An attached garage with poured concrete floors

The extensive use of aluminum in the gutters, casements, and eaves were fueled by a post-war supply glut. Decks and patios were a way of staying social as people began to move more closely together in the suburbs, and many families hosted barbecues or dinner parties and invited their neighbors. 

Ranch Architecture Blends New and Old

Extremely large picture windows, along with cheap sliding glass doors, were a result of wartime engineering. More than a few improvements were made to the way that the United States manufactured glass during World War II.

The simple trim and faux-shutters were held over from earlier farmhouses, where both features were popularly used.

But one feature that was truly new, and found first in Ranch style homes of the era, was the attached one or two-car garage. Attached garages were rare until Ranch architecture introduced them, and with more American families owning cars than ever, they caught on fast. Today, attached garages aren’t commonly thought of as a feature exclusive to Ranch style homes. But at the time, they were a popular innovation. 

Features of Modern Ranch Style Homes

Times have changed though, and while most Ranch style homes include the features above, a lot of newer homes are found with a few differences. 

For instance, original homes made extensive use of aluminum, for both window casements and siding. Today, most Ranch homes have been retrofitted with vinyl siding and windows. Original homes also commonly had vaulted ceilings with exposed beams, although that’s fallen out of fashion with newer homes.

Aside from a few aesthetic changes, most modern Ranch style houses look a lot like the first wave, built in the post-war period of the 1950’s. In fact, the Ranch architectural movement is actually one of the hallmarks of post-war life, and an iconic symbol of the 1950’s as a whole. 

Born in the Post-War Period

In order to understand exactly why the American Ranch style evolved as an icon of the post-war period, you have to look closely at when and why most of these homes were built. The Ranch style really took off after World War II, when Americans had more disposable income and every family now owned at least one car. 

At the time, people were moving into suburbs, because land prices were low. Commutes to work and shopping centers were getting longer, because gasoline was cheap and everyone was driving. 

Room for the Whole Family

All of those economic changes made big houses, on larger lots, more affordable for families. The distance from city centers helped to keep land prices low, and the size of the lots, coupled with cheap building materials and growing families, made large homes possible. 

Prior to World War II, many American families lived in smaller homes with only a handful of bedrooms and one bathroom. After the war, the strength of the American dollar meant that families could afford a large house on a single salary.

So what Americans chose to build were big, open floor plan homes with plenty of bedrooms and bathrooms for the kids. The Ranch style evolved from that central fact. Stylistic touches like large windows started popping up in order to bring more light into bigger family and living rooms.

Decline of Ranch Architecture

By the 1980’s, the Ranch architectural style was decidedly dated. Minimalism was in, and older homes felt clunky and out of touch with the rapidly-evolving technology in the country. Ranch architecture had a very “Leave it to Beaver” feel, and that just wasn’t what people wanted. 

So by 1980, the Ranch architectural style was firmly on the decline. People were moving back to the cities again with the rising cost of gas, and many Ranch style homes were either abandoned or torn down. During the 1980’s and 1990’s, it became rare to find new Ranch style homes, and many older homes were put on the market for sale.

The Ranch Revival

By the late 1990’s, the cost of building new homes had risen to such an extent that people started reviving the old Ranch subdivisions. This was partially out of nostalgia, but a good argument can be made that it was mostly because of cost. 

Retrofitting Ranch style homes became a big business, especially in the West where land prices had begun to climb again. That was the period that many homes had their aluminum siding and windows replaced with vinyl, along with other retrofits to plumbing and electrical systems. 

Modern Ranch Style Homes

Today, modern Ranch homes are a popular choice for families with children. Their large size, simple layout, and attached garages make them convenient for growing families. 

The aesthetic has changed a bit in later years, such as carpeting and vinyl floors being replaced by hardwoods. But the core of Ranch architecture is still intact, and very popular in certain areas of the country. In the American Mountain West, for instance, it’s still common enough to find entire subdivisions of Ranch style homes being lived by young families in much the same way as they were in the 1950’s.

Although the country has changed a lot since they first became popular, Ranch style homes still exude the same wholesome warmth and comfort that they did when they were first built after World War II.