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!