Ranch style house plans were first built in the United States in the 1920’s, and became very popular in the post-World War II era when GI loans, and Americans taking to automobiles and commuting to work, fueled a building explosion in the suburbs. This style was particularly associated with inexpensive tract housing developments since these homes are cheap to build and maintain. The house is marked by a long, low profile, and the minimal use of interior and exterior decoration. These houses fuse modernist styles and ideas with the romantic image of American western working ranches, which creates a very casual and informal living style.
The popularity of it waned in the latter part of the twentieth century with the rise of neo-eclectic architectural styles and a return to using traditional and historical decoration. Recently the ranch style has undergone a revitalization of popularity, with preservationist movements in some ranch style house neighborhoods, and also with a renewed interest in this style by a younger generation which did not grow up in ranch style homes. The style revival is similar to that experienced by other styles such as bungalow and Queen Anne architecture, which were quite popular at one time. It faded as a desired style of housing resulting in teardowns due to disinterest and decay and then resurged with a renewal of interest and the gentrification of surviving houses.
Basically, ranch home plans have a number of common features. These include a single story dwelling with a low, long roofline; large, overhanging eaves beneath a side-gabled, cross-gabled, or hip roof; asymmetrical, open L-shape, U-shape, or rectangular floor plan; brick, stucco, or wood exterior; simple or rustic exterior and interior trim; an attached garage; sliding glass doors in the dining or living area which open onto a patio; large windows often decorated with shutters; and ceilings which are vaulted and show exposed beams. Other variations on the basic ranch style include the raised ranch, in which a furnished basement – often used as a recreational or hobby area – is partially or completely above the ground foundation and thus serves as a separate floor. This style often takes advantage of a hillside location, so that the full dimensions of the house are not evident from curbside.
The idea is to create open spaces sweeping from the garage through kitchen through dining and living areas to the bedrooms at one end and to allow the outdoors to come inside with large windows and ready access to a back patio area – often with barbecue and recreational facilities -where much living and entertaining takes place. Thus, the typical ranch home plan is best suited to summer living, and to areas with mild climates. Long and low structures are not as economical to heat as are tall, compact buildings, thus the ranch style has been criticized as being wasteful of energy.