Everything You Need to Know About a Ranch Style House

Ranch style house with pool and greenery.

Stocksy/Trinette Reed

With their easy upkeep, affordable price, and classic midcentury style, ranch-style homes have long been a popular choice for first-time home owners and people looking to downsize—and are now attracting attention from buyers seeking a more minimalistic lifestyle.

Even though there’s plenty of different styles of ranch-style homes, they all share a few iconic elements. 

What Is a Ranch Style House?

A traditional ranch style house is a single-story house frequently built with an open-concept layout, large windows, a low-pitched room, and a devoted patio space. Though the house is single-story, many feature a garage and finished basement space.

Architectural Characteristics of Ranch Homes

Ranch-style house with lush green lawn featuring two adirondack chairs and tree

Jumping Rocks/Getty Images

Single Story 

Nearly all ranch homes are laid out on one floor, with the exception of raised and split-level styles—we’ll get to those in a bit. They are laid out in a U-shaped, L-shaped, or asymmetrical rectangular floor plan.

Open Concept

Ranch style architecture prizes an open flow between rooms with easy access to all areas of the house from the main living area. The living room, dining room, and kitchen are usually combined into one large, single space with bedrooms, bathrooms, and, often, attached garages connected via short hallways. 

Sliding Glass Patio Doors

Open concept kitchen that lead to outdoor patio.

Design: Pure Salt Interiors (@puresaltinteriors); Photo: Vanessa Lentine (@vlentine)

No matter the size of the plot, ranch houses always have some sort of outdoor space, be it a deck, patio, or lawn. The yard is considered just as much a part of the open floor plan as the rooms are. Large sliding doors are meant to let the outside in, flooding the house with natural light and creating easy, seamless transitions between indoor and outdoor areas.

When the weather is nice, these doors can be kept open to fill the house with fresh, clean air. With easy access to the backyard from the kitchen, ranch houses are excellent choices for people who love outdoor entertaining. 

Low-Pitched Roofs

In keeping with their low-profile look, ranch roofs are low-pitched with wide eaves that extend past the exterior walls of the house. Ranch houses have little or no attic space, but what they lack in storage, the gain in lower heating and cooling costs. Another eco-friendly asset, low-pitched roofs are also ideal for solar panel installation. 

The Different Styles of Ranch Houses

There are many styles of ranch houses that put different spins on similar themes or merge them with like architectural styles, such as craftsman houses. When searching for a new ranch home, there are five major styles you’ll likely come across. 

California Ranch 

All ranch houses can trace their roots to the homes that sprung up in California in the 1920s and 30s, which, in turn, can trace their roots to Spanish and Mexican architecture. California ranches are Spanish influenced, with decorative exteriors that can range from subtle to flashy. 

Storybook Ranch 

This style was also popular in 1920s and 30s California, replacing the Spanish-influenced designs with ornate, baroque designs inspired by fairytales and cozy cottages. Storybook ranch homes might eschew low-pitched roofs for steep gabled ones covered in thatched shingles, brick or stone exteriors, decorative chimneys, and tall, narrow windows. 

Suburban Ranch 

As the name implies, these houses essentially invented suburbia during the housing shortage of post-World War II America, since their clean, simple designs were easy to replicate. These are normally the smallest of the ranch homes, with a simple, minimalist exterior, an open concept interior, and built on concrete slab foundations. 

Raised Ranch

These may also be called split-entry ranches—not to be confused with split-level ranches—and almost always have two floors. The entryway features a staircase that connects the two levels, with the kitchen, living area, bathroom, and bedrooms on the upstairs level, plus a garage and finished basement on the lower floor. 

Split-Level Ranch  

Like raised ranch homes, split-level ranch homes also have multiple floors linked by an entryway staircase, but with three levels instead of two. They have an asymmetrical exterior which, like suburban ranches, are extremely simple, designed for function over form.

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