We are moving from the highly ornate Queen Anne home of our last blog to the simple ranch home, thought to be the most affordable and flexible option for families looking for their post-war haven. The ranch was an outgrowth of North American Spanish colonial architecture of the 17th to 19th centuries. Built from natural, native building materials, the simplicity of the design made it an ideal home for growing families. Ranch homes are known for their long and ground-hugging structure which combines an enduring open floor plan with a hint of Western flair to create a home that is both informal and functional.
As men returned from the war and married their sweethearts, they were eager to use their GI benefits to provide a home for their families. Ranch homes were closely associated with tract housing, the development of whole neighborhoods that had similar housing styles and were built quickly and cheaply as their developers took advantage of economies of scale with everything from plumbing to staircases. Starting in 1950, it is believed that nine out of every ten new homes built were ranches because of the simplicity of design, ease of customization and affordability which all served the new post-war family well. During this time, there were also house kits that the enterprising do-it-yourself enthusiast could purchase and build, with some of the most popular kits sold by Sears.
Some characteristics of ranch or rambler homes include a single story with a long, low roof line. Often the building is asymmetrical or in a “L” or “U” shape. The floor plans are generally open with three bedrooms grouped together, the living room opening into the dining room or the family room opening into the kitchen. There is usually an attached garage and a sliding glass door onto the patio. Large picture windows in the living room with generously sized windows in the other rooms provide a light and airy feel with the large overhanging eaves protecting the home from the sun, which was especially welcome in western states where the ranch home was born. The ranch home is often set up with four rooms along the front of the house and four rooms in the back.
As time went on, some builders created the raised ranch, a spin-off of the original. Here’s a piece of trivia. In order for a house to be a raised ranch, stairs are required to reach the main living floor. If stairs aren’t needed to reach the living space, the home is a bi-level and not a raised ranch.
Starting in 1960, tastes started to change and people wanted more formal and traditional styles. In the interests of economy, ranch homes became dull, identical boxes lining the streets of suburbia. Replacing the ranch were homes that had dramatically elevated roof lines, grand entryways and intricate detailing. These homes continued to feature the open floor plans, attached garages and eat-in kitchens, but also carried the flavor of northern Europe or Italian homes from the 18th and 19th centuries. Adding to the stylistic changes, land costs were increasing so it became more economical to build two story homes, instead of the sprawling ranch.
Ranch homes have experienced a revival due to the popularity of everything retro, and the fact that aging boomers are now looking for homes without stairs in hopes of aging in place. Young couples like the safety of a home without stairs and bedrooms that are close enough to keep an eye on the kids. The simple style and informal nature of the ranch house also offers an unlimited array of options to customize the home with minimal difficulty, so even the simplest ranch does not have to be like every other house on the block.
If you are interested in looking at ranch homes close to Elmhurst, contact a LW Reedy Realtor who will be able to help you find the home of your dreams.