11 Ranch-Style Homes That Update the Western Classic

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By Jennifer Baum Lagdameo
As one of America’s most important contributions to residential architecture, ranch homes embody both modernist ideas and the casual spirit of West Coast living.

Uniquely American, ranch-style homes started to emerge during the early part of the 20th century. Originally based on real western ranches, the style that we are familiar with today—the California ranch—included modern updates that are commonly attributed to architect Clifford May, who created the design in 1932.

Popular with the booming, post-war middle class and the subsequent demand for increased housing options, ranch-style homes made a widespread appearance from the 1940s to the ’70s as they dotted the American landscape with their long, low-slung profile. Defined by their flexible floor plans and livability, ranch-style homes became immensely popular, only falling out of favor as styles shifted during the 1980s and ’90s. However, ranch-style homes are back—and ripe for exciting, contemporary renovations. 

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An existing pool at this Bel Air midcentury was made smaller and given a simpler shape, allowing for a larger deck area.

An existing pool at this Bel Air midcentury was made smaller and given a simpler shape, allowing for a larger deck area.

Although ranch-style homes tend to be synonymous with one-level living, and are usually built on concrete slab—especially in California and the Southwest—models that feature full or daylight basements are not uncommon. Most classic ranch-style floorplans have an L-shaped or U-shaped layout with sliding glass doors that lead to the backyard. The access provides a clear connection to the outdoors, whereas previously, American homes had focused on the importance of the front porch only. It is also important to note that culturally, the popularity of ranch-style homes coincided with the American expansion towards the suburbs, and with a growing dependency on cars—thus ranch-styles commonly feature an attached garage. 

Here, we have rounded up some of our favorite ranch-style homes that showcase why the style is so coveted and definitely here to stay.

A Revamped Midcentury in Bel Air

The architect kept the existing roof of this ranch-style house, streamlining it with Kynar-painted metal. The rest of the house is composed of white stucco.

The architect kept the existing roof of this ranch-style house, streamlining it with Kynar-painted metal. The rest of the house is composed of white stucco.

The owners of this 2,800-square-foot, remodeled ranch house in Del Mar wanted to incorporate the house’s original ranch vibes as well as Scandinavian elements. 

The owners of this 2,800-square-foot, remodeled ranch house in Del Mar wanted to incorporate the house’s original ranch vibes as well as Scandinavian elements. 

When the husband-and-wife team behind Austin-based Co(X)ist Studio set out to remodel their 1962 ranch-style house, they wanted to update it to suit their modern lifestyles—as well as demonstrate the design sensibilities of their young firm. The original home was dim, compartmentalized, and disconnected from the outdoors. Architects Frank and Megan Lin opened up the floor plan, created an addition, and built an expansive back porch, using several reclaimed materials in the process.

When the husband-and-wife team behind Austin-based Co(X)ist Studio set out to remodel their 1962 ranch-style house, they wanted to update it to suit their modern lifestyles—as well as demonstrate the design sensibilities of their young firm. The original home was dim, compartmentalized, and disconnected from the outdoors. Architects Frank and Megan Lin opened up the floor plan, created an addition, and built an expansive back porch, using several reclaimed materials in the process.

The pergola was removed, the exterior wall opened up, and a new dining room added. The 12-foot-long sliding pocket doors manufactured by Western Window Systems recede all the way into the wall for total indoor/outdoor flow. The new patio received cement tile—the Arc pattern from Clé Tile—its black and white palette coordinating with the new white paint and black window frames of the exterior.

The pergola was removed, the exterior wall opened up, and a new dining room added. The 12-foot-long sliding pocket doors manufactured by Western Window Systems recede all the way into the wall for total indoor/outdoor flow. The new patio received cement tile—the Arc pattern from Clé Tile—its black and white palette coordinating with the new white paint and black window frames of the exterior.

Architect Brian White clad the new second story of his formerly dark and cramped ranch-style home with a black-stained cedar rain screen. The large opaque window lights up the stairwell and the second floor.

Architect Brian White clad the new second story of his formerly dark and cramped ranch-style home with a black-stained cedar rain screen. The large opaque window lights up the stairwell and the second floor.

Renovated from a 1940s ranch-style home, with many of the original materials used in the reconstruction, the homeowners love the self-reliance afforded by generating thermal energy and their rooftop garden.

Renovated from a 1940s ranch-style home, with many of the original materials used in the reconstruction, the homeowners love the self-reliance afforded by generating thermal energy and their rooftop garden.

"The most challenging part of the design was fusing the old part of the house with the new addition," says principal architect Alex Terry. The character and architectural integrity of the single-level 1950s ranch house was thoughtfully reconsidered during the addition and remodel. The home’s front porch, typical of the period, was refreshed with Ipe decking and railing.

"The most challenging part of the design was fusing the old part of the house with the new addition," says principal architect Alex Terry. The character and architectural integrity of the single-level 1950s ranch house was thoughtfully reconsidered during the addition and remodel. The home’s front porch, typical of the period, was refreshed with Ipe decking and railing.

Located in Portola Valley, California, this renovation of a William Wurster Ranch house began with a study of the home’s history. Inspired by original photos of the 1950s home, the renovation refreshed its significant architectural past without detracting from its Wurster essence. 

Located in Portola Valley, California, this renovation of a William Wurster Ranch house began with a study of the home’s history. Inspired by original photos of the 1950s home, the renovation refreshed its significant architectural past without detracting from its Wurster essence. 

This modern renovation of a traditional ranch-style home maintained the midcentury spirit of the home—and turned it into a showcase for the homeowner's collection of iconic furnishings.

This modern renovation of a traditional ranch-style home maintained the midcentury spirit of the home—and turned it into a showcase for the homeowner's collection of iconic furnishings.

The beautifully landscaped backyard of this updated and expanded classic ranch home. 

The beautifully landscaped backyard of this updated and expanded classic ranch home. 

Located in Sierra Madre, California, an existing ranch home with clean architectural geometry, was transformed into a contemporary home with an expanded open floor plan, improved circulation and access, and carefully placed clerestory windows. On the exterior, revised garage orientation eliminates excessive driveway paving and reestablishes the front yard as usable space.

Located in Sierra Madre, California, an existing ranch home with clean architectural geometry, was transformed into a contemporary home with an expanded open floor plan, improved circulation and access, and carefully placed clerestory windows. On the exterior, revised garage orientation eliminates excessive driveway paving and reestablishes the front yard as usable space.