By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon
Rounding out our tour of popular 20th-century home styles, we make a stop on the West Coast where one of the first truly American housing styles was born — the California Ranch (also referred to as American ranch, rambler, or rancher).
Ranch home remodel: The classic Ranch home is one of the first truly American house styles. Born in California, the Ranch spread across the nation from 1935 to 1975.
Drawing on the style of Frank Lloyd Wright and the modernists of the 1900s, the Ranch or Rambler was originated by several creative California architects and had its original run from 1935 to 1975. While the design is distinct in its simplicity, the Rambler represents a major shift in American home building. It became popular at the time when building changed from a craft to an industry.
These homes were constructed by developers and builders after World War II who employed assembly-line techniques. The focus was on economy and efficiency in construction. The Rambler is a family home, highlighting the everyday values of pragmatism and modesty that resonated with a post-World War II America.
The Ranch’s exterior style is typically asymmetrical with a one-story rectangular or L-shape. The Ranch is long, narrow and low to the ground with a strong horizontal emphasis. It has strip or ribbon windows, a low but visible chimney, a very visible garage, a recessed entry door with flanking sidelight, and a low roof with projecting eaves. Hearkening back to its California indoor/outdoor roots, the Ranch often has partially enclosed courtyards and patios.
Inside you’ll find an open, free-flowing floor plan. The Rambler interior typically includes wood paneling, a stone fireplace and hearth, built-in storage, and floor-to-ceiling views of the back yard for more of that indoor/outdoor living. Throughout the typical Rambler home you’ll find connections of major living spaces to the outdoors.
Ranch home remodel: Many of the original Ranch houses are ready for renovation. When remodeling you can add flare to its simplicity by varying the materials, such as combining brick and wood siding. Simple ranch home additions can make a big differnce in the look of the home.
The beauty of the ranch lies in the simple details which are not ornamental but essential. When the Ranch was en vogue, applied decoration — like you would see on a Tudor, for instance — was considered old-fashioned. Rather, the details are only those required to finish the house, such as door trim, baseboards, crown molding, and cabinets.
These required finishing touches are simple and not elaborate — like using a pipe railing rather than twisted iron with floral patterns or leaving a structural beam exposed rather then wrapping it in decorative wood.
If you have one of these American originals in need of remodeling, we recommend capitalizing on its simple features and clean design. While the essential details are not ornamental, they do not need to be boring either. Today we have a variety of materials to choose from, like metals or woods, to add flare — not decoration — to your Rambler. We also recommend embracing the indoor/outdoor elements unique to this design. We live in an area famed for its amazing outdoors, and this home style allows you to connect to them every day. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.