Ranch-Rambler Home Architecture Style


The Ranch-style dwelling comes in three versions: American Ranch, Western Ranch or California Rambler. They are characterized by being low-to-the-ground, long or L-shaped houses that bear little decoration. They are often high in ground-level square footage. This standard feature changed slightly when the split-level, or “raised ranch” style provided a two-story option to its shorter sibling. Some of these taller houses were built into hillsides to maintain, at least partially, the look of the traditional ranch. Inevitably, commercial offshoots to versions of the Ranch/Rambler home were developed. Most notable was the birth of expansive supermarkets and strip malls, their exteriors mimicking those of their residential cousins. Today, ranch remodeling Minneapolis homes are considered the fully realized ‘American dream,’ Ranch style.

The Ranch/Rambler style originated in San Diego, California, with architect Cliff May creating the first one in 1932. Though influenced by the Spanish Colonials of the Southwest, his vision was nonetheless revolutionary, and would forever change the American landscape.

May believed a home should encompass three ideals: 1) livability. This meant an open floor plan, which translated to little — save for maybe a credenza — separating the living and dining rooms. And often there was an attached garage; 2) flexibility. The basic nature of the interiors meant they could be adorned in a variety of ways. Moreover, the simple layout made it easy to remodel or add on rooms as the children aged or departed from the nest; and 3) unpretentious character. More than anything else, the appeal of their simplicity of Ranch/Rambler-style homes is the reason millions of them were built across the country in the 20th century.

Ranches were the housing fad in the United States from the 1940s on into the 1970s. They went out of vogue briefly, but the love affair with the Ranch was rekindled in the 1990s, with the elderly finding the stair-free domiciles easy to get around in, and young homebuyers finding them to be affordable first homes. “Informal” is the operative word. One-stories usually had low-pitched front or side gables. They had large picture windows in the front, sometimes complemented by sliding-glass patio doors in the back. Regarding the interior, the only distinctive feature was that there was plenty of open space to get creative with.

Post World War II, consumer confidence boosted automobile purchases, which allowed families to make that classic exodus to suburbia. Developers also saw Ranch-style homes as being the perfect fit for returning veterans and their loved ones, and they sectioned off large swaths of land to allow the dwellings to “ramble” across big lots.

By the Fifties, there was a 90 percent chance that a new home was a Ranch. Still, the style has had its critics, who see it as boring, bland and conformist. Alan Hess of Architectural Digest pronounced the ranch house the “poor stepchild of American architecture,” massively and hurriedly produced like “Big Macs.”

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