What Is a Ranch Style House? And More Interesting Facts You Should Know

Ranch-style houses peaked in the 1940s to the 1970s, but they’re coming back as America’s most popular home style.

Ranch Style House

And since they suit so many design aesthetics, it’s easy to see why. They can be sleek and modern, traditional, or fitted for a more rustic country style.

Many styles of ranch homes aren’t the only thing that draws in buyers. They’re also one-story, easy to maintain, and available at various price points.

If you’re considering purchasing a house, here’s a breakdown of typical ranch-style homes and their features.

What is a Ranch Style House?

Ranch Style House Plans

Ranch-style houses originated in the 1920s in the United States. They combine modern living with the idea of wide-open spaces, giving them their casual, laid-back style.

Ranch houses are one story, usually in a rectangle shape, although you can also find them in L and U-shapes. Common features are a low roofline, brick or siding exterior, large windows in the front of the house, and an open concept floor plan.

It’s also common for ranch homes to have an attached garage, devoted patio space with sliding glass doors, and a basement, depending on the area.

Ranch Style House Plans

When you think of a ranch house, you’re probably picturing a simple brick rectangle built in the 1950s or 1960s.

But the truth is, ranch plans vary wildly. While most feature simplistic design details, each style has a slightly different architectural influence.

Here’s a look at different ranch house plans.

Suburban Ranch

Suburban Ranch

Suburban ranches are the most minimal of all the ranch home styles. Most of these houses were built in suburbia during a housing shortage in World War II. 

They are small, single-story, usually with a concrete slab foundation rather than a basement and a low-pitched roof.

They feature open-concept spaces and straightforward design aesthetics. They are a traditional ranch-style house.

California Ranch

California Ranch

The California ranch style is the original ranch home in the United States. Its influence is Spanish architecture, so the exterior is much more unique even though it has a simple open concept layout.

Many California-style ramblers have an L or U shape design.

Storybook Ranch

Storybook Ranch

If you love rereading childhood fairytales, a storybook ranch is a right style for you. These homes started popping up in the 1930s, replacing the Spanish influence of California ranch homes with fairytale-inspired designs.

A storybook ranch usually has a mix of exterior materials, low-pitched and steep roofs, tall windows, decorative chimneys, and whimsical detailing. Most also have an attached garage.

Raised Ranch

Raised Ranch

A raised ranch is the big exception to the one-story rule. Instead, these homes feature two stories and a unique layout.

When you walk into a raised ranch, you’ll see a set of stairs. Upstairs are the living quarters, including the bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen, and living room. Downstairs is a garage and finished basement area.

Split Level Ranch

Split Level Ranch

The split-level ranch house style is a combination of the suburban ranch and raised ranch. Its design is about practicality and not beauty.

It features three levels. The first is the main living area with the kitchen and living room. Then there is half a flight of stairs leading to the bedrooms and another half a flight of stairs leading to additional living spaces, like a finished basement.

Ranch Style House Landscaping: Popular Ideas

If you’re having trouble nailing down landscaping for your ranch, there are lots of ideas you can implement. But, of course, the exact plants will depend on the hardy zone you live in.

Here are the basics of landscaping around a ranch home.

Don’t Use Tall Trees or Shrubs

Don’t Use Tall Trees or Shrubs

Since ranch homes are low to the ground, using tall shrubs or trees doesn’t look right. Plus, towering trees and shrubbery will obstruct your windows.

Try using boxwood shrubs clipped into round or oval shapes. If you want trees near your house for privacy, use small varieties like a Japanese red maple, redbud tree, or a sand cherry tree.

Create Interest Plants of Mixed Heights

Create Interest Plants of Mixed Heights

Ranch homes have straight, harsh lines. While this look is perfect if you love mid-century modern, it’s best to soften it with your landscaping.

Use a mixture of plants to do this. For example, if you have a large flower bed or want to landscape against a sidewalk, try taller plants in the back and low to-the-ground plants in the front. 

You can use perennials, which will come back every year, and a mix of vibrant colors.

Avoid Square Bushes

Avoid Square Bushes

If you’ll be adding bushes to the front of your ranch house, get a circular or oval juniper or boxwood. Large square bushes intensify the harsh lines of ranches and don’t look as good as those molded into softer shapes.

Plant for Your Area

Plant for Your Area

If you live in a desert area, you’re not going to do well with plants that thrive in the midwest. Instead, you need to customize your ranch landscaping ideas and consider a southwest garden full of succulents and grasses.

Likewise, don’t expect a southwest-style ranch garden to work if you live in Ohio. Customize your landscaping based on the plants that grow the best where you live. You can use the plant hardiness zone map to figure that out.

Ranch Style Front Porches 

Ranch Style Front Porches 

Since ranch-style homes are low to the ground and usually in a rectangle shape, their porches are often concrete slabs. Some have a roof overhang that covers them, while many are exposed.

It’s uncommon to see large wrap-around porches on ranch-style homes. Instead, they’re very basic and often small. 

The best way to customize a ranch porch is with front door choice, landscaping, and accessories.

The Top Advantages of Ranch Style House

Ranch-style homes are quickly becoming the most popular architectural style in America. And it’s easy to see why – a lot of today’s younger generation are interested in a minimal, easy-to-maintain lifestyle, and ranch homes check that box.

The Top Advantages of Ranch Style House

Here’s a quick rundown of the top advantages of ranch-style homes.


Since ranch-style houses are much smaller than other types of architecture, they’re easier to maintain. They feature simple yet sturdy materials like brick or stucco, which means they don’t need constant repairs.

And with the smaller square footage also comes less cleaning.


For first-time homebuyers or those looking to downsize, price is important. Since ranch houses are smaller and often not chock full of custom features, they’re usually affordable.

Plus, with the smaller square footage comes lower heating and cooling bills, adding to the affordability of ranch homes.

Great Family Floor Plans

A ranch house appeals to many families for its convenient floor plans. In a typical ranch, all living spaces are easily accessible. However, bedrooms are closed off, so everyone still has privacy when they need it.

Easier to Navigate

Ranch houses are a top pick for anyone who doesn’t want to go up and down the stairs constantly.

Since they’re one story, families with babies or toddlers don’t have to worry about stair access. And anyone with bad knees or trouble getting around can easily access all living areas on the first floor. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

What is modern ranch style?

Unlike a traditional ranch home, modern ranch styles are typically a U or L-shape. They are one story and feature a mix of material and colors on the exterior. They usually have a back patio or deck with sliding glass doors.

What’s the difference between a rambler and a ranch-style house?

Most people use ranch and rambler interchangeably. However, while all ramblers fit into the ranch-style category, not all ranches are ramblers. Ramblers are one story and a rectangle or square shape, without a basement.

Can ranch houses have two stories?

While most ranch style houses are one-story, split and raised level ranches have multiple levels. However, the levels are often choppy, using half a set of stairs leading into a second story and half a flight of stairs leading into a basement and garage area.

Ranch-style house: Conclusion

While the popularity of ranch-style houses peaked in the 1970s, they’re coming back as America’s favorite architectural style. They typically feature one story, low rooflines, and a large set of windows in the front of the home.

If you’re considering purchasing a ranch house style, you’ll love the open concept living and basic design. Because of the simple style, it’s easy to fix up a ranch and make it your own.