Since falling from favor in the 1970s, the ranch house has languished on the bottom rung of the architectural food chain. Critics deride its small size, dated finishes and prosaic design. But if you’re able to see past such shortcomings, the ranch (or rambler, as it’s sometimes known) has a lot to offer potential home buyers — particularly those on a budget.
Popularized in the 1950s by architectural designer and developer Cliff May, the ranch celebrated the postwar profusion of cheap land and sprawling suburbs, with a horizontal footprint that turned its back on the streetscape to focus on backyard living.
While May’s original designs showed great finesse, the ranch was copied so often — and so poorly — that eventually the style became associated with cheap tract-house living. Which is a shame, because ranch houses can be an affordable, efficient option that’s compatible with today’s lifestyles and needs.Below you’ll find some of their advantages, along with ideas for working with ranch homes.
Advantages of the Ranch
1. Boomer friendly. The ranch’s single-story design is kind to baby boomers (and their knees), allowing them to age in place.
2. Not so big. Ranch houses align with current interests in living more lightly on the earth. They tend to be smaller than newer homes, although their original single-pane windows can place a greater demand on heating and cooling in certain climates.
3. Indoor-outdoor flow.
Ranches are usually built on slabs, so they’re level with the yard, and are often laid out in U or L shapes
, making them especially conducive to indoor-outdoor living. Take advantage of that by adding French doors, folding doors or retractable sliders.
Find the right glass door for your patio
4. Open plan. Original ranch houses embraced a less-formal lifestyle than previous housing types, so the floor plans tend to be more open and free flowing — although sometimes you have to do a bit of excavating to reveal them. (Dividers, peninsulas, pass-throughs and the like have a way of cluttering up the flow. Happily, they’re rarely structural and are easily removed.)
5. Simple addition.
Because of their horizontal layout, ranch houses are relatively easy to add on to. No need to worry about accommodating a stairwell or supporting another floor — just extend out.
And if you want to add another story, the ranch’s simple design makes it less challenging than, say, adding on to a Tudor or Craftsman, where you have to worry about blending with the style of the original.
6. Open up and say, ‘Ahhh …’
While the shallow slope of the ranch house’s gable roof
condemns it to a particular style and period, you can use this to your advantage. It’s comparatively easy to open up interior ceilings to the roofline or to add skylights.