October 10th, 2014
The ranch architectural style is also known as California ranch, rambler, American ranch or rancher. It’s as American as apple pie and Chevrolet.
The style is known for its long, close-to-the-ground profile, and minimal use of exterior and interior decoration. The houses fuse modernist ideas and styles with the idea of a work ranches creating a very informal and casual living style.
They were first built in the 1920 but took off after World War II housing boom from approximately the 1940s through the 1970s. When people thought of tract homes, they usually meant ranchers.
The roots of the architecture were Spanish Colonial with a single floor, simple styling and using native materials. Roofs were low and simple, and usually had wide eaves to help shade the windows from the Southwestern heat (or Southern California). Buildings often had interior courtyards which were surrounded by a U shaped floor plan. Often the California homes would have pools in the back. Large front porches were also common.
All ranch homes have some of these, but few have all. In typical tract home style, these houses were varied in certain areas but consistent in others. If you ever lived in a tract, you’d understand immediately. Often, the homes would vary by placement of the front door or garage.
And because architecture styles evolve over time, a two-story ranch was created, but it didn’t have the standard second floor. Instead, the second level would be slightly elevated and to the side and the architecture was a split-level. These were often built into hills.
Another interesting phenomenon that came out of the ranch style were strip-malls. Someone decided to use the open and elongated style to have drive-up malls rather then the standard enclosed malls with parking structures. They fit in well with the tract subdivisions. And people liked being able to go to the store they needed directly rather than having to park and walk. Supermarkets quickly followed. They commonly used the residential style with simple rustic trim, stucco or board and batten siding, exposed brick and shake roofs, and large windows.
By the late 1970s, the ranch house was no longer the home of choice, and had been eclipsed by the neo-eclectic styles of the late 20th century. Very late custom ranch homes of the later 1970s begin to exhibit features of the neo-eclectics, such as dramatically elevated rooflines, grand entryways, and traditional detailing. These neo-eclectic homes typically continue many of the lifestyle interior features of the ranch house, such as open floor plans, attached garages, eat-in kitchens, and built-in patios. The neo-eclectic left behind the casual feel of the ranch in place of a more formal atmosphere.
There’s been a great renewed interest in ranch homes over the last fifteen years. People aren’t building new ones but looking at remodeling existing ones. Younger house buyers find that ranch houses are affordable entry level homes in many markets, and the single story living of the house attracts older buyers looking for a house they can navigate easily as they age. Additionally, there will always be people attracted to a more casual atmosphere rather than the more formal ones of the neo-eclectic.
And yes, Eichler’s are a branch of ranch homes.
Did you grow up in a subdivision of tract homes?