The Ranch House

American Ranch Houses
The American ranch house style first appeared in the 1930s and even to some extent, the 1920s but as a design trend, really hit its stride in the late 40, 50s  and 60s post-war period. It was an architectural style that combined modernist minimalism with  elements of the American Western period to produce an open, easy and casual style of living. The style proved to be so popular with the baby boomers, it moved beyond the US into places as far afield as Australia and Europe.

In a radical move away from the traditional box-like double-storey home, ranch houses were single-storey and built low to the ground, giving them a spacious, elongated feel and eliminating the pokiness of small enclosed rooms. Separate spaces were created with room dividers rather than walls and the porch gave way to the open patio.

An ultra-modern 1950s ranch house

Key features included an "L" or "U" shape, open-plan living, wide patios accessed via large glass sliding doors, big picture windows, low roof profiles, wide overhangs, rustic accents such as large, exposed beams; attached garages to accommodate the rise of the automobile and exteriors clad with wood, brick, stucco, stone or sometimes a combination of materials. In the 1950s, the split level home appeared as a development on the ranch house, created originally as a solution to building on sloping land.

As a 'lifestyle' house, the ranch style was suited to the rising affluence and greater leisure time of the post war population and in various parts of the world, newly emerging suburbs were  dotted with versions of the American style. Advertisers utilised the way of living they conjured- barbeques on the patio, cars in the garage and modern, spacious living indoors.

A peek into the interior of a 1960s ranch house.

Spanish Colonial Influence
Ranch houses were also known variously as ramblers, ranchers and the California ranch - the concept drew some of its roots from the pale, single storey 17th to 19th century Spanish Colonial houses and their rustic adobe walls and board and batten profiling. The hacienda  house was commonly built by landowners in the Southwestern states of America as they suited both the climate and the needs of the ranchers.
1930s San Diego architect Clifford May, who was highly influential in the development of the ranch house, was impressed with the Spanish Colonial style which he believed, when combined with the functionality and comfort of modern building,  incorporated the three basic tents of good home architectural design:
The clean and simple design lines of the ranch house represented a concentrated departure from the ornateness and semi-grandeur of  pre-war period homes. Eventually, home-buyers would become over-saturated with the expansive ranch house and from the 70s on, there was a move back toward a more traditional style. Higher density living also meant less space for sprawling homes on large blocks. However, the concept has never vanished from the landscape and there are still homes being built in the American ranch style.

A contemporary version of the Ranch house. From  The PlanCollection  house plans website.
The 1950s House