The Ranch House Revisited


Given the current downsizing and one level living trends the Ranch House finds itself looking a bit more appealing these days. Originally, created for its efficient scale, floorplans and ease of living it may have a brighter future stoked by this gloomy time. In the past decades we have seen homes grow in size to where a master bedroom has become the size of what once would be sufficient for a living room. Do we ever ask ourselves why we need all this size?  Is bigger always better?

You will find that we are fans of the Ranch Home.  I am not sure if it is due to the fact that we grew up in Ranch Homes in the 60’s and 70’s or that today I have learned to downsize and have a simple home that allows more freedom for the rest of my life.  Either way we urge you to take another look at that understated  house you drive by everyday and consider what it might do for you.

Renovating A Ranch Style House

Thinking about how to renovate ranch style houses leads to all kinds of possibilities if you have the foresight to see the potential. Ranch style houses are not always seen as a historic style home worthy of restoration, yet they are integral to mid-century American style. Often these homes are remodeled; stories added, and the unique look of the structure is muddled beyond recognition. While they did have some negative design characteristics, overall the homes illustrated the love of sleek modernism that was the byword of the 1950s and 1960s. The best renovations will honor the style of the original home.

History of the Ranch Style

Ranch style architecture was not born in the tract homes of the late 1950s. It began far earlier than that, in San Diego, California. The first ranch style home was built in 1932 by a California architect named Cliff May. Born in 1909, May was fascinated by the homes that were built by the early Mexican settlers in California. These homes were horizontal in nature and seemed to pull the landscape into the home to create and integrated living area.

Characteristics of a Ranch Style Home

The homes wer meant to be sleek, easy to clean, and leave time for the owners to pursue their interests. Materials were natural. Stone and brick were often brought into the home as design elements. Home interiors were open and included glass doors to patios which allowed the patio to be used as another room.
Other design elements are:

  • – Horizontal lines
  • – Living areas at the front of the house
  • – Smooth surfaces
  • – Paneling
  • – Picture windows
  • – Kitchen peninsulas
  • – Flat or low pitched roofs
  • – Smooth, hollow core doors
  • – Narrow layout
  • – Simple floor plans
  • – Attached garage

Good Bones

Before you begin to renovate, ranch style houses should be inspected carefully by a professional housing inspector.  It is very important that the foundation and the structure of the home be solid.  Other areas that should be brought up to date are:

  • – Plumbing
  • – Wiring
  • – Insulation
  • – Heating/Cooling System
  • – Drainage
  • – Roof

If all of these are in good condition, then you can move on to the renovation of your home.  Before you do, you might want to consider the neighborhood.  Is it one you want to live in or continue to live in?  This is something to decide before you invest a lot of money to renovate a ranch style house.

Steps to Renovate Ranch Style Houses

  • Make a list of the characteristics of your home that you love.  These are things you will want to keep.
  • Make a list of your current needs.  More space?  Bigger Kitchen?
  • Figure out how much you can afford to spend on a renovation.
  • Decide how much you can realistically do yourself.
  • If you will be making major changes in structure then talk to an architect about your plans.
  • Find a general contractor to handle the things you will not be doing yourself.
  • Check with your city about permist and licenses.

Tips for Ranch Style Renovation

  1. Try to use building materials similar in looks to those used to construct the existing home when any additions that are made.  This helps create continuity.  For example, Victorian style trim would look silly on a sleek ranch style home, while chunky Craftsman details would weigh it down.
  2. Think carefully before you decide to add a second story.  You will lose the look of the ranch and you will also lose some of the convenience of one floor living.
  3. Using natural finish wood on the floors is a wise investment and seems to be attractive to buyers.  Wood floors go well with this style of home.
  4. Don’t underestimate the ability of landscaping to improve the curb appeal of your home.  This is especially tru of Ranch style homes.
  5. Changes should fit into the style of the home.  Many architects believe that changing the exterior look of the home should be avoided if at all possible.
  6. If the home has a basement this can be the perfect place to pick up extra space.  Finishing it off and turning it into an office, den , or bedrrom will get the addition you need with out the expense of changing the exterior.
  7. A garage is oftern another area that can be finished and turned into a room.
  8. Renovating kitchends and bathrooms is always a good investment, and while your’re at it, replace appliances with Energy Star rated aplliances to save money and gree your home. Take a look at some of our other blog post on remodeling ranch homes in our area.

Much of this article provided by “About.com’s Home Improvement”.

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