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California Ranch 1932–1970

Also called the Western Ranch or the early Ranch, these modern houses were architect-designed, built for casual family living and an outdoors lifestyle.
Ranch house style

A new style of residential architecture was created in the twentieth century: The Ranch.

We’re talking here about a deliberate new style of residential architecture—not the tract houses of a generation later. California architect Cliff May (1909–1989) is credited with the first modern Ranch, built in an Diego in 1932. Consciously interpreting the ranchos of the mid-19th century, May was one of many notable post-Arts and Crafts architects.

Ranch house interior

A typical early Ranch interior.

A prolific designer and promoter, May sold the style that he himself called “the early California ranch house” throughout the West. He spoke not only about the architectural form, but also about the casual, family-oriented culture of the early (Mexican) Californians, whose gallant hospitality was legendary. Working in tandem with landscape architects, May designed low houses that followed the contours of the land, enclosing a courtyard or patio with carefully planned views of nature. Floor plans were open, always with a family room. By the mid-‘30s, his ranch houses had been published by Sunset magazine and nationally.

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