Long before the California Ranch came the Mexican Rancho - a style unique to the south west dating back all the way to Spanish colonization in the 1700’s.
Jump forward 200 years to a little town just a few minutes east of where I’m sitting. It was originally known as the Indiana Colony because it was settled by, yes, a bunch of Hoosiers who, after the nasty winter of 1872 said “Hell No! We’re moving to California!”
The settlement is now known as the City of Pasadena.
(BTW we Californians take our climate for granted. Every year after the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl real estate inquiries go up drastically.)
After WWII we were coming home from war, optimistic about the future, infatuated with Progress, and we embraced innovation as never before. Including, for the first time ever, in our homes. The hallmark of that period was the ranch house. Today it feels conservative, but at the time it represented a radical departure from tradition
Traits of a true Ranch (we owe a lot of modern life to the ranch):
• Low slung single-story houses that follow the contours of the land.
• Lv or U shaped.
• Low pitched roofs with deep set eaves for shade.
• Rustic simple materials, often locally sourced.
• Lack of ornamentation - modernism and minimalism
• Anonymous street appeal.
• Enclosed courtyard or patio (the ranch is exclusively responsible for backyard BBQ “patio living”).
• One room deep.
• Carefully planned views of nature throughout.
• Open floor plans (the ranch is almost wholly responsible for “:open plan”).
• Family rooms.
• Informality of kitchens open to dining rooms (.
• Walls of windows—fixed, picture, sliding glass doors (the ranch is almost exclusively responsible for the concept of the sliding glass door).
• Attached garage (but originally not pushed forward!)
• Integration of indoors and outdoors.
Amazing benefits and breakthroughs of the Ranch
• glass and light
• volume - vaulted ceilings
• rustic - exposed beams
• family rooms
• kitchen/dining room connection
• open spaces
• patio life
• your own little slice of nature
• single story aging in place
• the ranch is modern (even 1930’s ranches) which means they can continue to accept modern upgrades (ie: no house style so seamlessly accepts solar and moveable glass walls)
I say the California Ranch is quite possibly the most influential residential design in American history. Why? Because of the radical culture altering lifestyle changes it invited.
The Rules for Renovating a Ranch
The ranch went through many changes from its original designs as developers adapted it to smaller lots and builders compromised many of its features in order to mass produce it at lower and lower costs.
What can be done with a ranch has much to do with which of those iterations we’re dealing with.
Curb appeal shame!!!
The biggest problem people today have with the ranch style is that it’s not a house to show off from the street.
The Ranch is quiet and sedate. It doesn’t pop.
Adornments that work on other styles look garish on a ranch.
Ranch is all about a secret inner life, private family life, hospitality and entertaining. It hints at some magic happening inside but it doesn’t brag, doesn’t yell.
Like the functional ranchos they are based upon, ranches are really all about harmonious relationship with the land and the people. I swear, if Cliff May could have built a house of glass behind a private front wall, he would have.
Prediction: one day soon it will happen. I’d like to design it myself.
Ranch-Burgers were specifically designed without adornment.
Their color schemes should reflect the more subdued colors found to blend in with natural surroundings. Usually only one trim and one body color are warranted, with perhaps a third color used sparingly, if at all.
The front door steps back demurely from the view of the street. The end result should be a palette of ecologically inspired, low-key hues.
The elongated house is a quiet backdrop for artful landscaping. A longing for a greater connection to nature is what created the suburbs. So nature and people and lifestyle are the main characters in Ranch neighborhoods, NOT the houses themselves.
Listen to Dean's thoughts below: