Friday, February 1, 2013

History Lesson: Revenge of the Ranch
Raise your hand if you grew up in a ranch house.  Like many of my generation, I spent my formative years in a one-story, low-slung ranch in suburbia. 

For better or for worse, the ranch has been called ugly, unwanted, an architectural stepchild and a tear-down target; but lately it has become the darling of the real estate and preservation world. A new generation of young families have come to appreciate the lowly ranch for its simple, open concept of living.
While the ranch home can seem bland, historians point out the original concept was downright radical for its time. According to Slate’s architecture critic, Witold Rybczynisk, the ranch house represented a revolutionary departure from America’s love affair with nostalgic “domestic status symbols” like formal entryways, dormers, pitched roofs and porticos.  

The ranch house format can be traced back to 19th century Spanish Colonial adobes; but the concept really took off in post World War II California. By 1950, the ranch was so popular it accounted for nine out of every 10 new homes being built.

Developers cashed in on the demand by embarking on a suburban building boom of unprecedented size and scope – the suburban subdivision was born!

So what makes a ranch, a ranch? While there are many variations of the classic ranch style, the typical ranch usually features many of the following characteristics:

  • Single story
  • Low pitched roof
  • Deep-set eaves
  • Horizontal, rambling layout
  • Rectangular, L or U shaped
  • Attached garage or car port
  • Simple, open floor plans
  • Lack of ornate decorative details
  • Open concept kitchen/living spaces
  • Large "walls of windows"
  • Integration with outdoor spaces
SportSuburban on Flickr

A simple idea, affordable unpretentious  homes built for young families. So, why did the ranch fall out of favor? Easy, with the proliferation of ranch homes, buyers simply started seeking out other styles.

In addition, the ranch was perceived as being too small, especially compared to the super-sized "McMansions" that became the norm in the mid-1980's. But as with all things, tastes change and "everything old is new again." Such is the case for the ranch house. As a new generation seeks out these mid century gems, and preservation societies around the country begin designating the ranch home as historically significant, the ranch is enjoying a well deserved renaissance - long live the ranch!


Niftic Vintage said...

You my friend always bring us such awesome reads!

HilltopTimes said...

Yes, I grew up in a ranch house, and in a neighborhood surrounded by more ranch houses- all lovely, all practical, as you say, and still loved today. Your post gives insight and detail- just enough take us back in time,and to set in the current trend! Fabulous!

Anonymous said...

so many great memories of my childhood growing up in a ranch...thanks for the wonderful (and informative)trip down memory lane!

BeeJayKay said...

I live in a ranch house now. So glad to hear they are becoming fashionable again. Great post!

Miss Magpies Shoppe said...

I grew up in a ranch, and I am "mighty proud of it." Great post!

linda dacey said...

in great britain this would be called a bungalow.
i didn't grow up in anything like this:
a 1930's terraced house in London was home
intriguing post - every dog has it's day
and in the end nothing is new and nostalgia rules
cheers x ... ***

please pop by my new etsy shop showcasing my art if bored and if you like what you see i'd be mighty honored if you shared! {sorry for the plug - desperate is as desperate does}

Mary Elizabeth said...

Bryan, excellent post!

Elise said...

oh my gosh! awesome post, and wonderful photos!

ace faced said...

Bryan, this is stellar, I did not grow up in a rancher but would actually love one now! We recently started subscribing to an inspiring Mid Century ranch magazine - Atomic Ranch. Check it out!

Story Tellers Vintage said...

Raising my hand here!
One story, large window walls..and integration with outdoor spaces..sounds eco- and gardener-friendly to me!
If I could just find one in turquoise blue :)

shaun mohr said...

We are currently house shopping and have decided a ranch is THE way to go :) Awesome read Bryan!!


Elm Place said...

Once again, a fabulous piece of history and orgins. I'm feeling a Mid Century ranch treasury coming on!

Anonymous said...

My favorite post yet! Keep up the GREAT posts!

Wicked Darling said...

Raising my hand!! This is wonderful, Bryan!! Brings back so many memories.
Thanks so much for the awesome post!! :)

gazaboo said...

Great retro feel to the ranch style...I can picture the mid century interior colors, home furnishings and fashion that are also making a come back. Great blog post!

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