Ranch Style Houses – Characteristics, Examples & Photos

Since the beginning of 1920s, ranch style houses have gained roots in the US. Today, they are just as popular and desirable as they have always been thanks to their ease of access and open floor plans. These types of homes take their similarities from bungalow style houses with ground hugging structures and one story living spaces.

Let’s take a closer look at exactly what a ranch style house is, its history, the most distinguishing characteristics, its advantages and drawbacks as well as the different styles that can be found in the US.

What is a Ranch Style House?

A ranch style house has been designed to be as close to the ground as possible, with an open interior and floor plan. This design is meant to provide a casual living environment for the occupants, and especially those with mobility issues.

A typical ranch style home often features a garage attached to the property. Most of these types of homes are L or U shaped with sliding glass doors that open onto the porch.

The History of Ranch Style Homes

Ranch Style Houses

Ranch homes first appeared in the early 20s and were inspired by Spanish Colonial architecture. The Same architects designed houses that were huge in size and included everything a family needs in one place. Ranch homes typically featured one story with low or wide eaves.

The most traditional ranch homes were known as ramblers, and their style soon took off after World War II. Due to their ease of customization and construction, they became a favorite for families and their returning soldiers. Today, most of these homes aren’t much different in appearance to the post world war ramblers. With slight modifications, homeowners can easily add their own features to these ranch homes.

What are the Distinguishing Features of Ranch Style Houses

  • Single story
  • Hipped or low-pitched roof
  • Wide eaves
  • L or U-shaped floor plans
  • Sliding glass patio doors
  • Large windows that are double-hung with sliding varieties
  • Local materials
  • Attached garages
  • Long profiles that are extremely close to the ground
  • Minimal interior and exterior decorations
  • Inspired by the Spanish Colonial-style homes
  • The flooring is usually made from oak or other natural materials
  • A simple and open floor plan that surrounds a patio
  • Not as many interior walls as the general theme is openness for easier maneuverability from one room to another
  • The exterior material is generally made from natural materials, such as bricks
  • The dining room is always combined with the living room. The kitchen is separate, and there is a hallway with 2 or 3 bedrooms
  • Horizontal layout with a long and narrow hallway.
  • The children’s play area is attached to the house just like the carport or garage.
  • A fully functional basement is often used as a laundry room or storage area.
  • Simple adornments throughout the interior.

The Advantages of Ranch-Style Homes

Ideal for the elderly or people with mobility problems: since these homes usually consist of a single floor without a staircase, they make the perfect choice for elderly occupants and those with mobility issues, as they can easily maneuver from one room to another without having to open doors.

Easy to escape in the event of a fire: in times of emergencies, such as a fire, the single-story design of the ranch home means escaping through the window will be very easy as the house is built very low to the ground.

Ample interior space: since there is no staircase to take up the space, hundreds of square feet are saved in these homes.

More outdoor space: aside from benefiting from plenty of indoor space, there is also ample outdoor space for those who love gardening. With a ranch home, the flowers and plants are literally at your doorstep on the patio or the yard.

Naturally bright interiors: there is nothing more uplifting than a bright home with plenty of natural light to raise your spirits. The design of ranch homes is based on the airflow principle and natural light. The huge windows and the sliding glass patio doors contribute to the flow of natural light into the house, thus making it possible to combine the interiors with the exteriors.

Easy to maintain: without the existence of a second floor, you don’t have to worry about cleaning additional rooms or painting the upper part of the house. With everything being on one floor, maintaining the house becomes much easier.

Easy and inexpensive to repair: repairing a ranch-style house is surprisingly easier and cheaper as there are no load-bearing partition walls to knock down. Even if you fancy adding an extension to the house, you’ll be pleased to know that the materials will be cheaper and the design will be simple in line with the rest of the house.

Safe for children: ranch-style homes are perfect for families with young children. There is no staircase for the children to fall down, and the play area where you can keep an eye on your children is open and attached to the house.

The Drawbacks of Ranch-Style Homes

Less privacy: since all the rooms are at street level, any passersby can see inside the house as soon as you open the curtains of your bedroom. This isn’t the case with two-story houses as the bedrooms are located on the upper floors and away from prying eyes.

Can only build horizontally, not vertically: because ranch homes are at one level, you can only build an extension horizontally. Even if you want to add more square footage to your property, you’d need to buy more land. This is unlike a two-story house, where you can easily add to the upper floors rather than the sides.

Smaller backyards: ranch-style homes have smaller yards because of their large interior space requirements. This can often pose a problem for growing families.

Best Examples of Ranch-Style Homes

California Ranch

California Ranch 

The California ranch was originally designed by the Californian architect Cliff May, and built in 1932. The inspiration behind the design of the California ranch was taken from the Arts and Crafts Movement. In fact, similar aspects can be seen in these homes that were borrowed from bungalow-style homes.

The main features include:

  • One story
  • Very low ground-level structure
  • Integrated with nature
  • Always with a patio
  • L or U shape
  • The yard is always located at the center of the property
  • Casual and informal interior layout

Split-level Ranch

Split-level Ranch

The Split-level ranch is similar to the Suburban style ranch in terms of its exterior design. The split-level ranch features three stories, with the front door leading directly to the open living room. The staircase leads to the bedrooms as well as the third floor.

The main features include:

  • Three levels of living space
  • Deep eaves
  • Low pitched roof
  • L-shaped or rectangular orientation
  • Asymmetrical exterior
  • A large window as the focal point and additional double hung windows
  • Built-in garage
  • Multiple attics with ample storage space

Suburban Ranch

Suburban Ranch

The Suburban ranch became popular by the end of World War II. This ranch style is somewhat smaller than the typical ranch homes, with a more simplified design than the California ranch. The Suburban ranch is usually constructed on concrete slabs. It features an open floor plan and smaller exterior space.

The main features include:

  • Open plan layout
  • Not many interior walls
  • Single story
  • A backyard and patio
  • Asymmetrical design
  • L or U shape
  • Attached garage at the front of the property
  • Low-lying gabled roof
  • Dutch  doors and diamond-shaped window panes

Raised Ranch

Raised Ranch

The Raised ranch style is designed on the concept of upstairs and downstairs living areas. The front door opens directly to the staircase, where you have the option of either going upstairs or downstairs.

The garage and basement are usually located on the lower floor underneath the kitchen and living room. The Raised ranch consists of multiple rooms in one small space over several floors.

The main features include:

  • A low-lying pitched roof
  • Larger windows on the top part of the house
  • Small hallway with a staircase located between two floors
  • Bright and airy spaces with side windows and a large main window above the entrance door
  • The upper floor consists of a living room, a small kitchen, and a dining room
  • Usually 3 bedrooms with 2 bathrooms

Storybook or Fairytale Ranch

Fairytale Ranch

The Storybook ranch is a true Cinderella-like home that you will have mostly seen in fairytale books. Unlike the basic exteriors of other ranch-style homes, the Storybook ranch is full of character. It consists of diamond-shaped window panes, decorative trims, and exposed rafters, just to name some of this ranch style’s most prominent characteristics.

The main features include:

  • One or two stories
  • Asymmetrical
  • Steep, gabled roof with rolled eaves and thatched shingles
  • Towers that are cozy and small rooms
  • Decorative chimneys made of stone or bricks with clay pots on top
  • Tall and narrow windows with diamond paned or leaded casements
  • Brick or stone exterior
Understanding Ranch Style Houses and Their Characteristics