Skip to main content

Hallmarks of California Ranch Style

The early Ranch maintained integrity even as the idea spread to other cities and to suburban lots. These traits make a true desirable Ranch:
Kidney shaped pool ranch house

A "California Ranch" outside Needles, Arizona, with an amoeba-shaped pool.

GROUND-HUGGING with a low roof and deep eaves

VERNACULAR: built of local materials (wood, stucco, brick, or stone)

Harwell Hamilton Harris Ranch House 1956

The 1956 Antrim House in Fresno, California.

ANONYMOUS to the street (with a flat façade, covered entry at grade, and few streetside windows), but open to gardens in back

ONE ROOM DEEP, shaped like an L or U (or splayed) to surround a patio and landscape features

Ranch house mid-century Cliff May pool house

Seminal California builder Cliff May designed the Eshelman-Bemis House in 1963.

EXPANSES OF GLASS and horizontal windows, sliding glass doors

FRANK INCLUSION of cars, children’s yard equipment, etc.

Texas ranch house atrium pool

The 1958 Rhodes House in Big Springs, Texas, designed by Harwell Hamilton Harris.

The Ranch and its associated lifestyle received a great deal of press during the late 1940s. The buzz caught the attention of builders and buyers in the post-war boom. Many suburban Ranches of the 1940s and 1950s are true to form, but adaptation for small lots and cold climates eliminated some salient characteristics. By 1954 critics were decrying the use of the word “ranch” for all manner of fast-built tract housing.

ranch interior

1956 Hanley House living room, Dallas, Texas.

Like the Bungalow, the Ranch suffered a period of ridicule. A second look at history—and at these functional homes, now with mature landscape in established neighborhoods—is changing the way we see the American Ranch house. The ranch house is back!

Art + Craft - this week's picks