Though the earliest ranch style homes date to the 1930s in California and reflect a relaxed Western lifestyle, they didn’t become popular until after World War II. Developers such as architect-builders like Joe Eichler were instrumental in developing huge housing tracts for WWII vets taking advantage of the GI Bill.
Some ranches echo the low profile of the earth-hugging Craftsman bungalows and wide overhanging eaves and hip roofs of the Prairie style. Others are an extension of the Minimal Traditional with the wrapped corner windows of the Modern style. As with all 20th-century American architecture, the Ranch style is eclectic and individual houses may incorporate elements of any of its antecedents.
The typical ranch style home is a single, often rambling, story with either a hipped or gabled roof. At first glance, it may appear bereft of style, but that first impression can be deceptive. Shape ranged from an unadorned box to various L- or U-shaped configurations. Where preceding styles were more cubic, the ranch was long and horizontal with an asymmetrical facade. New distinctive features found homes of the 1950s and 60s included attached garages, sliding glass doors, and huge picture windows.
- Spreading, horizontal orientation
- Hipped or gabled roof often with wide eaves
- Logical, open floor plan in a rectangular, L-, or U-shaped configuration
- Minimal ornamentation
- Good quality construction using natural materials
- Attached garages
- New design elements such as sliding glass doors, large plate glass picture windows, and Formica countertops