Ranch Style Homes Have Iconic, Modern Appeal

Ranch-style homes often evoke feelings of home and familiarity, and with good reason. Many people grew up in a ranch home and the thought of a suburban ranch is steeped in memories.

ranch style houses

Nowadays, ranch homes are again at the top of the popularity list for homebuyers. While these low-slung homes might seem like nothing special, they do deserve a moment in the spotlight.

History of ranch-style houses

The ranch-style architecture first made its appearance in America in the 1920s in California. Inspired by the Spanish styles of the 19th Century, these homes were found on the working ranches of the West.

ranch style housesView in gallery

With sprawling open floor plan layouts, stucco walls and wide eaves, people could easily modify these styles to fit their surroundings, creating a comfortable home. The Arts and Crafts movement also influenced this type of home, which is also called a California ranch or rambler house.

ranch style housesView in gallery

Come the 1950s after World War II, ranch-style houses took the US by storm, accounting for nine out of ten new houses. While some had mixed styles based on region, like Colonial or Craftsman, they always kept the same basic common characteristics.

ranch style housesView in gallery

By the late 1960s, American architectural tastes moved toward more traditional styles. Thus, ranch homes became cheap boring housing and by the 70s, no one was building ranch-style houses anymore.

ranch style housesView in gallery

However, more recently, interest in ranch homes began to increase. The younger generation, interested in preserving and maintaining history, is acquiring the ranch houses of the 50s and updating them. They are even taking the classic features of ranch homes and creating completely different styles, showing it’s possible to preserve history and upgrade it at the same time.

Key features of ranch-style homes

Sprawling layout

ranch style housesView in gallery

One of the most noticeable features of ranch house style is the sprawling layout. These houses are by no means compact. The interior boasts large open floor plans and the sleeping areas are usually in a separate part of the house. With all that square footage on one level, you need wide-open spaces.

Just one floor

ranch style housesView in gallery

While there are a few examples of a ranch home with two floors, almost all are a single story. When you live in a hot climate, the last thing you want is a two-story house home that collects heat upstairs in the bedrooms. So a single story makes sense.

Sometimes, there’s an added partial level underneath, creating a split-level house ranch style that some people call a raised ranch home. This style often has a finished basement set partially into the ground, adding more living space on the additional floor and giving it the split-level term

L or U shaped layout

ranch style housesView in gallery

Often, a ranch house layout has a U shape or an L shape. This creates a protected backyard area for hosting and relaxing. You’ll definitely want to hire a landscape designer for this feature because it will be the view from many windows.

Great outdoor spaces

ranch style housesView in gallery

When the weather is as stunning as the view, it makes sense to splurge on your outdoor space. Ranch homes know how to use the outdoors fully and often have devoted patio space connecting to the house. Add a pergola to make it really stand out.

ranch style housesView in gallery

If the ranch is more custom, your backyard might even be able to boast a pool. It’s really the perfect yard for it because the long house will protect your pool and adjacent patio from view of the street. Your backyard will become the gathering place.

ranch style housesView in gallery

Not only will your ranch probably have a patio and possibly a pool, but many suburban ranches also have multiple back doors that all lead to the same place. A door from the kitchen, sliding glass doors from the living room and even maybe a door from the bedroom will all look out onto the patio.

ranch style housesView in gallery

A patio isn’t the only feature you’ll find on ranch-style houses. So many of them have large porches, that provide in the rocking chairs and drinking lemonade.

Attached garage

ranch style housesView in gallery

It’s lucky for you that ranch-style houses enjoy the luxury of attached garages. Some older ranch-style homes have a front-facing garage but recently, newer ones feature a side-load garage.

Large driveway

ranch style housesView in gallery

To accompany your attached garage, it’s likely that you’ll also find a large driveway with your suburban ranch. This is one of the great features for families with children. There is lots of open space for biking, chalk drawing and playing.

Mixed exterior materials

ranch style housesView in gallery

Since original ranches were modeled after Spanish-style houses, the ranches of the West will probably be covered in stucco. Being a natural material, it shouldn’t be expensive to maintain and it will give the exterior of a ranch-style house a calm look.

ranch style housesView in gallery

Of course, like many other homes, ranch houses are rarely just one material. Usually, you’ll find two or more materials on the exterior of a ranch. Brick is always popular and if you’re lucky, it might already be painted. Wood shingles are one of the newer features but no less welcome.

ranch style housesView in gallery

For a more modern look with the same rustic charm, consider using concrete on the exterior of your ranch-style house rather than brick. Paired with wood, it contrasts nicely with the dual tones and will stay in style for a long long time.

Large windows

ranch style housesView in gallery

Say hello to large windows because your ranch-style house will have them. When the landscape around you is so beautiful, it’s a crime to cover up the view with wall space. Embrace the glass, even if you might need to replace a window or two in your updating process.

ranch style housesView in gallery

When the hot sun is beating through those big windows, you’ll want little shade. Lots of ranch-style houses have deep eaves that provide some respite from those rays. Or, you might have a porch by the largest windows to protect them from the sun entirely.

Doors, windows and shutters

ranch style housesView in gallery

Custom windows can be expensive, especially if your home is older. Thankfully, if you live in a ranch-style house, there is nothing wrong with replacing the windows with doors, especially French doors.

ranch style housesView in gallery

You’ll find decorative shutters on many houses nowadays but you’ll almost always find them on original ranch-style homes. When the exterior is mostly brick and your windows hug the eaves, shutters are defining features that will add interest and provide personality.

ranch style housesView in gallery

Shutters also provide the perfect place to add a pop of color to your home. While landscaping will do that for part of the year, it’s helpful to have shutters in blue or green or even red to provide the brightness you’ll lack in the winter.

ranch style housesView in gallery

Don’t forget to look past your shutters and pay attention to other details. A red brick walk might look stunning against your stucco ranch-style house. Some detail around the eaves might help your rustic ranch house blend into your traditional neighborhood. And, you can’t say no to a bright front door.

ranch style housesView in gallery

If you really want to take hold of the traditional ranch style house, you’ll have to give a nod to the Spanish style as well. A terracotta roof will set the tone and all you have to do is add rustic wood elements like shutters and a big front door. Don’t forget to paint the exterior white to make all the Spanish elements stand out. These styles are always a good choice.

ranch style housesView in gallery

Obviously, when it’s your home, you don’t have to follow the classic styles. Upgrade however much you choose! A modern ranch like the one above has even more windows, black and gray accents and a boxy look. But, the long single-story layout still defines it as a ranch, making it a beautiful example of modern architecture mixed with classic ranch-style architecture.

Examples of beautiful ranch houses

Modern ranch-style house in Colorado

ranch style housesView in gallery

In case you’re wondering what a modern ranch-style house looks like, check out this beautiful one. Axial Art Architecture and rebaL Design built it in Granby, Colorado. Its overall aesthetic is a beautiful blend of rustic, modern and industrial elements.

From the outside, the rustic details are prominent but the large windows and openings emphasize the modern side of this design. Inside, the open concept layout features reclaimed wood, sliding barn doors and warm and comforting colors and textures.

Beautiful ranch remodel in the Rocky Mountains

ranch style housesView in gallery

A remodel or renovation can turn out to be ideal when you have ranch house plans. Studio Design Workshop worked on such a project a while ago. They reimagined a ranch house located in Snowmass in the Rocky Mountains.

It has a main house with garage, a pavilion, a storage barn and a caretaker house. The goal was to preserve its authenticity and rusticity while giving it an update.

Four Corners ranch house with a contemporary design

ranch style housesView in gallery

ranch style housesView in gallery

This 100-acre site is in the Four Corners region — between Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. It’s a remote country site without many neighbors, perfect for a vacation home. Surber Barber Choate + Hertlein Architects designed this modern ranch-style home with an open concept layout and exposed beams on the vaulted ceilings. In time, this became a permanent country home and evolved to contain more living spaces.

A rustic ranch house in Wyoming

ranch style housesView in gallery

ranch style housesView in gallery

ranch style housesView in gallery

This house sits on a big country property in Sheridan, Wyoming. The house plans aimed for a rustic look that blends into the landscape as much as possible. Faure Halvorsen Architects created the big house, measuring 3,000 square feet, with cathedral ceilings. It has three bedrooms and three bathrooms as well as lots of indoor and outdoor living space.

A classic ranch house style in Montana

ranch style housesView in gallery

This ranch house in Livingston, Montana has a classic look. It’s rustic and exactly what most of us imagine a ranch house would look like. Miller | Roodell Architects and Yellowstone Traditions preserved its charm and beauty and reinvigorated the property.

ranch style housesView in gallery

ranch style housesView in gallery

ranch style housesView in gallery

The plan was to retain the original building materials and to repurpose some of the annex buildings on the site. For example, the granary was transformed into a guest house with bedrooms and a barn became a gathering hall.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

What makes a home a ranch?

Common characteristics of ranch-style homes include a single-story structure, an open layout and a dedicated patio space. In addition to the open concept floor plan, common features in a ranch home generally include a low-pitched roof, big windows and wide eaves.

What makes a California ranch?

More than just ranch house style, a California ranch emerged from the Arts and Crafts movement and from Spanish colonial architecture. A California ranch generally has an L-shaped or U-shaped layout. This gives California ranches a courtyard area.

What is a raised ranch house?

Raised ranches sit on a foundation that creates living space below the main level. The space under a raised ranch is like a basement set partway into the ground. The lower part is usually a finished basement that includes a bathroom, laundry room, and a garage. These are also called split-level ranches or a split-level home.

Ranch-style house: Conclusion

The American ranch is a popular style for many reasons. They are simple to build and people can easily customize them to make an ideal dream home. From the open-concept interior to the sprawling layout, there’s so much to love about ranch homes.

US residential home styles vary across the country’s landscape. Here are other types of exterior house styles.