What is a Ranch Style House?

R. Anacan

A ranch style house is an architectural style of home originating in and found most commonly in the United States. It is typically a one story structure that appears low to the ground due to low gabled roofs and extended eaves, and features an open floor plan designed to maximize interior space. Many ranch style houses also come with attached garages, large windows and utilize a spread out, rectangular, L-shaped or U-shaped design.

A ranch style house usually has an open floor plan.
A ranch style house usually has an open floor plan.

Ranch houses are generally informal in appearance and are most commonly associated with minimal architectural detailing for both the interior and exterior of the home. This informality along with simplicity and efficiency are hallmarks of the ranch style house design.

Many ranch houses have an attached garage.
Many ranch houses have an attached garage.

While the ranch style house first appeared in the early 20th century, its popularity surged during the post World War II period, as the population migrated from urban areas to new suburbs built outside of cities. Mass quantities of homes were needed to fill the demand and many developers utilized a quick “cookie-cutter” approach when building these new suburban homes, with the ranch style design being one of the most popular.

Ranch houses are only one level.
Ranch houses are only one level.

The ranch home achieved its greatest popularity in the western United States and is also known as the American Ranch or California Ranch in some areas. Even with its predominantly western origins, the ranch style house is now found in many areas of the United States.

There are several variations on the ranch house theme, including a traditional ranch with a basement, a raised ranch and the split level ranch home. A traditional ranch home with a basement is simply a ranch style house with the main living and bedroom areas located on one main level with a lower basement floor. A raised ranch home is generally a two story design that has the main entry of the home on the first floor with an interior staircase that leads to the main living areas located on the second floor.

A split level ranch house is typically a three or four level design, most notable for the use of half floors dividing living spaces from bedroom spaces. One example of a split level ranch home may have the main entry on the center floor, on the same level as the garage. Off of the main entry is a small stairway that leads to the raised upper level and another stairway that leads to the lower level.

Raised ranch homes typically have an interior staircase that leads up to the main living areas on the second floor.
Raised ranch homes typically have an interior staircase that leads up to the main living areas on the second floor.

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Discussion Comments


I recently went on a home tour of modern ranch style houses. Lots of people have an image in their heads of post war ranch houses that are kind of dusty and smelly and really not conducive to living. Many of them had floor plans that made no sense.

But the newest generation of ranch style homes is really exciting. They make good use of the space, incorporate many modern amenities and use their single story format in clever ways. I saw one that actually had a rooftop deck.


My parents recently moved into a ranch style house. The house they lived in before had both an upstairs and an attic but they had to sell it.

My dad has a pretty bad case of rheumatoid arthritis and his mobility is not what it used to be. It is especially difficult for him to get up and down stairs.

Their bedroom was on the second floor and it was a nightly torture for him to get up the stairs at night and back don in the morning. Eventually they decided to move, even though they loved that old house. It was probably the right choice. My dad's health and comfort is more important than holding onto an old nostalgic house.


My grandparents had a ranch style house and for some reason I always hated it as a child. I really can't explain why. The lack of an upstairs or a basement really should have no effect at all on a child's mind but it did for me. I loved my grandparents but I would actually protest when my parents said we were going over there because I didn't want to be in their house.

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