Ranch-Style House: Everything You Need to Know

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If the words “ranch-style house” make you think of a single-story residence with a low, long profile perched relatively close to ground level and with outdoor space devoted to a patio or porch, then you’re on the money, because that is a basic but accurate definition of the ranch-style house. But stopping there sells this oh-so very American home style quite short. While all ranch-style homes have several things in common, there is actually a world of possibility and variety offered by these single-story ranch homes so popular with first-time homeowners, renovators, young families, and seniors alike. Let’s take a deep dive into what makes the ranch-style house a home style that, now nearing its hundredth birthday, is sure to continue populating American suburbs for generations to come.

What is a ranch-style house?

Ranch homes are always single-story residences. There may be a loft or a semi-finished attic or a basement, but for a house to be considered a ranch, the main floor is the ground floor, there is no real “upstairs,” and that’s that, it’s one story. This is the most important feature of the style of home. And within most ranch-style houses, you will find a largely open floor plan with the living room, dining room, and kitchen essentially a connected living area, though that’s not a requisite of this architectural style; some ranch style homes do have fully defined rooms and still meet the home-design metrics to be called a ranch-style house.

Other common aspects of ranch home plans are an L-shape or a U-shape, large windows, a long and shallowly pitched roofline, a low overall profile, and deep eaves. Often house plans include an attached garage. You will also almost always find, as briefly noted, a decent amount of outdoor living space adjacent to a ranch house that is finished for active use, as in a patio or large front porch. And the home and outdoor living space usually flow well together, with outdoor space used for dining and recreation. As for bathroom counts, that varies based on square foot count, but it’s common to find a master suite with bath and all other bathrooms opening to hallways.

ranch style house

Architectural floor plan of a house. The drawing of the cottage. One-storey building on the land. Vector illustrationIllustration: Getty Images

What is the history of the ranch home?

“The ranch home was designed not just as a building but as a way to foster a relaxed lifestyle,” says Greg Forest, senior global real estate advisor for Sotheby’s International Realty. “Post-WWII, the ranch home became a symbol of family intimacy and suburban dreams, reflecting the era’s desire for togetherness and larger, more open living spaces.”

The look of the ranch home and that inclusion of outdoor space makes since given the fact that ranch style homes trace their roots to California in the 1920s. The houses are indeed partially inspired by the type of home you’d find perched on the wide expanse of a cattle ranch, and the outdoor space makes sense because the California climate begs to be enjoyed al fresco.

“Key architects like Cliff May, John Lautner, and Joseph Eichler were instrumental in popularizing what became known as the symbol of the American suburban dream,” says Forest, adding: “Their designs combined affordability, practicality, and casual elegance, appealing to modern families seeking comfort.” While no one architect can be credited with the inception of the style, by those years after World War II it hardly mattered exactly how this style of home got started; what mattered was that it was unstoppable, spreading across America quickly. Veterans looking to settle down and start families flocked to the suburbs, and the ranch house proved to be the perfect home to accommodate the so-called baby boom. Ranch-style houses were affordable, manageable, and plentiful, and, per Country Living, even in our times they are the most popular type of home in a large majority of American states.

What materials are commonly used in ranch home construction?

We have talked about the single-story design, the commonality of open floor plans, the windows, the patios, and so forth. But what about the actual construction and materials used to make ranch homes, you ask? Traditionally, many of the first West Coast ranch homes were made of stone or brick covered with stucco.

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