1. Home

1945 - 1980: Ranch Style

An Economical Style For Suburban Tract Homes


One-story Ranch Style homes are so simple, some critics say they have no style. But there's more than meets the eye to the classic suburban Ranch Style house.
Uncomplicated and informal Ranch houses evolved from several 20th century styles

Uncomplicated and informal Ranch houses evolved from several 20th century styles

Photo © iStockPhoto.com/Anne Kitzman
Known as American Ranch, Western Ranch, or California Rambler, Ranch Style houses can be found in nearly every part of the United States.

Ranch Style houses have many of these features:

  • Single story
  • Low pitched gable roof
  • Deep-set eaves
  • Horizontal, rambling layout: Long, narrow, and low to the ground
  • Rectangular, L-shaped, or U-shaped design
  • Large windows: double-hung, sliding, and picture
  • Sliding glass doors leading out to patio
  • Attached garage
  • Simple floor plans
  • Emphasis on openness (few interior walls) and efficient use of space
  • Built from natural materials: Oak floors, wood or brick exterior
  • Lack decorative detailing, aside from decorative shutters

Variations on the Ranch Style:

Although Ranch Style homes are traditionally one-story, Raised Ranch and Split-Level Ranch homes have several levels of living space. Contemporary Ranch Style homes are often accented with details borrowed from Mediterranean or Colonial styles.

History of the Ranch Style:

The earth-hugging Prairie Style houses pioneered by Frank Lloyd Wright and the informal Bungalow styles of the early 20th century paved the way for the popular Ranch Style. Architect Cliff May is credited with building the first Ranch Style house in San Diego, California in 1932.

After World War II, real estate developers turned to the simple, economical Ranch Style to meet the housing needs of returning soldiers and their families. The briefly popular Lustron Homes were essentially Ranch houses made of metal. Real estate developers Abraham Levitt and Sons turned to the Ranch Style for their planned community, Levittown, Pennsylvania. See: Ranch House Plans for 1950s America.

Because so many Ranch houses were built quickly according to a cookie-cutter formula, the Ranch Style later became known as ordinary and and, at times, slipshod. However, during the late 1950s and 1960s, a few real estate developers re-invented the style, giving the conventional one-story Ranch House a modernist flair. Sophisticated Eichler Homes by California developer Joseph Eichler were imitated across the United States. In Palm Springs, California, the Alexander Construction Company set a new standard for one-story suburban housing with stylish Alexander Homes.


  1. About.com
  2. Home
  3. Architecture

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.