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With their easy upkeep, affordable price, and classic midcentury style, ranch-style homes have long been a popular choice for first-time homeowners and people looking to downsize—and are now attracting attention from buyers seeking a more minimalistic lifestyle. Also called a rambler house, a ranch house is a single-story, no-frills home frequently boasting an open concept layout and low-pitched room.
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 roof, and a devoted patio space. Though the house is single-story, it often features a garage and finished basement space.
Even though there’s plenty of different styles of ranch-style homes, they all share a few iconic elements, and we're diving into everything you should know about ranch-style homes including their history and defining features.
What Makes a House Ranch-Style?
Though not every ranch-style home is laid out in the same way, all share a few common characteristics that define the style. Nearly all ranch homes are laid out on a single-story floor plan with open flow between rooms and easy access to all areas of the house from the main living area.
No matter the size of the plot, ranch houses always have some sort of outdoor space, be it a deck, patio, or lawn, and in keeping with their low-profile look, ranch roofs are low-pitched with wide eaves that extend past the exterior walls of the house.
In short, here are the common features of a ranch-style house.
- Large windows throughout
- A mix of exterior materials, including brick and siding
- Deep overhanging eaves
- Low-pitched roofline
- Sliding doors that extend to a back patio
- Often features an attached basement and/or garage
- Single-story living space
- Open concept floorplan
- Separated bedrooms
- Functional basement as a living space
- Simplistic design elements
With easy access to the backyard from the kitchen, ranch houses are excellent choices for people who love outdoor entertaining.
The History of Ranch-Style Homes
The origins of the ranch-style home can be dated back to 1930s California, which was home to several architectural movements at the time, including the rising popularity of Spanish Colonial-style homes and Craftsman-style homes. As these two styles embraced a more sectioned-off layout, the ranch house came along to challenge them with an emphasis on an open floor plan and ease of indoor/outdoor living.
The house style was coined as a ranch or "rambler" home thanks to all this open space and became a booming style built in the suburbs as soldiers returned home to their families post World War II. Today, ranch-style houses can still be easily found across the country and are still a popular house choice.
The Different Types of Ranch Houses
There are many styles of ranch houses that put different spins on similar themes or merge them with similar architectural styles. When searching for a new ranch home, there are five major styles you’ll likely come across.
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 architecture. California ranches are Spanish-influenced with decorative exteriors that can range from subtle to flashy.
This style was also popular in the 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.
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 concrete slab foundations.
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.
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 asymmetrical exteriors which, like suburban ranches, are extremely simple and designed for function over form.