what’s the most popular house style in america? steve jobs developed thefirst apple computers in one. the brady bunch, golden girls, and breaking bad take place in one. and according to the thereal estate site, trulia, it’s the number one home in 34 states. say hello to the practicaland popular ranch house. no, it’s not as stately as a craftsman, not as sleek as a mid-century modern,
and definitely not asdramatic as a victorian. but the style has flooded the country. so why is it so common? let’s first dissect the style. ranch houses stand one story tall and their footprint stretches long. on the outside, theysport a low-pitched roof, a sheltered front doorthat’s usually off-center, a picture window, and an attached garage.
inside expect to find an open floor plan and a living room that opens to a patio, often through a sliding glass door. ranch houses embrace privacy. socializing happens in thebackyard, not on the street. historians have called theranch house hospitable modernism for its emphasis on family life. surprisingly, it wasn’ta famous modern architect who invented this style.
it was a rebellious lasangeles furniture designer named cliff may. in 1931, cliff may designedthe first ranch house, a simple, one-storycourtyard home in san diego. it nodded to his familyhome in rural california, spanish-style haciendas found in the west, and frank lloyd wright’sprairie and usonian homes. soon after, may began selling ranch house plans to developers,
and even became a developer himself, constructing over 20,000 ranch houses. then after the war years,builders devised low-cost designs to help make housing affordable during a time of increased demand. the federal governmentjump-started new construction through subsidies and policiesthat guaranteed financing for materially andspatially efficient homes. meanwhile, it launched mortgage programs
to make buying new homes a breeze. people went nuts for ranch houses. residents were drawn to its layout, which emphasizedtogetherness and clean lines. builders loved how massproduction and prefabrication sped up construction tofill ravenous demand. by the 1950s, nine out of ten new houses built in california were ranches. over the years, ranch houses morphed
as developers cherry-pickeddetails from other styles, a tactical move to attract buyers. this house decorated in clapboards isn’t a cape cod, it’s a ranch. this design wrapped inbricks isn’t a prairie house, it’s a ranch. this house capped by a shingleroof isn’t a craftsman, it’s a ranch too. and this stucco homeisn’t a spanish revival.
it’s also a ranch. the ranch house’s golden age extended from the 1950s through the 1960s. by the 1970s, its popularity plummeted, and it was regarded as boring. buyers wanted more space, so developers built bigger and taller, effectively sunsetting the ranch. today, however, realtorsreport a ranch house comeback.
aging boomers are drawn to the stair-free, single-story layout. lovers of vintage re-modernismare drawn to its aesthetic. and these homes are generally affordable for first-time home buyers. so when you spy a ranch housein a real estate listing, on hgtv, or on yourblock, thank cliff may.