It’s an architectural style designed to suit the wide-open spaces and prairies of North America, a style that was created to sprawl and accommodate the farming and ranching families of the American West – a style that suited the land so well that it spread east, then north, and finally made a home for itself in Canada, as well. It’s a truly and uniquely modern North American style, less than a century old, and even more popular today than it was when it was first built. It’s Ranch Style, and it’s not just for ranches anymore.
Ranch Style architecture originated in the USA during the 1920s, following the first World War, right through the Depression, the second world war, America’s Baby Boom and into the 1970s, making this one of the most prolific styles to grace the country and, indeed, the continent.
The style draws influences from Spanish colonial architecture, with its simple, straightforward floor plans, use of local materials and low roofs that carry little or no excess embellishment, favouring a less ostentatious and more practical effect. Although Ranch Style houses can be smaller and fit comfortably into suburban life, the style is well known for its long, sprawling nature, where modern meets casual, and creativity comes in the form of varied levels, rather than over-the-top decorative elements.
A Ranch Style home is always a single-storey structure, although later iterations occasionally included a second storey in the form of a basement level that was finished and used as a regular part of the house. These technically double-storey Ranch homes are known as Raised Ranch.
A Ranch Style home should offer ease of access to the outdoors, reflecting its origins as homes favoured by ranchers and those whose wealth was made off the land. It’s a practical style, much like the people whose heart it was born in, but it is still a style that lends itself to creative interpretation.
Materials used will vary significantly, according to the owner’s tastes. It is not unusual to find one Ranch home built of wood, while its neighbour is finished in brick, and another nearby clad in stone. Indoors, you will find anything goes, as long as it’s open-plan, provides easy access to everywhere and reflects the simple style of the architecture. Here again, wood, brick and stone are equally important and feature in their own unique combinations according to the home-owner’s personal preferences.
One thing that all these homes have in common, however, is that they were built for modern life, which means they will either already have all the mod-cons, or it will be super simple and practical to upgrade, replace or add to it. The homes are also all built with more modern materials and techniques, meaning that most of the houses are built on a simple wood-frame structure, with detail like brick, stone and half-timber added to the structure for decorative purposes, rather than the homes being built exclusively of these materials.
Unsurprisingly, as this style is so suited to wide-open spaces and land that stretches for miles, the Ranch Style quickly gained popularity in Canada, with a particular interest coming to a head during the 1970s. While the style declined in popularity in both Canada and the US during the 1980s, when a more ostentatious and sophisticated look was prized, it regained ground during the 1990s and has risen in popularity ever since.
Older Baby Boomers are enjoying the style of their youth, returning to it in droves, and choosing it for their retirement homes. Young couples are opting for this simple, manageable style, which lends itself to easy renovation and additions for their growing families. The style can be found cropping up throughout neighbourhoods in Canada, especially in newer neighbourhoods where building development is ongoing. It is also a favourite of those who enjoy large yards, even in the suburbs, where there’s a little more room to stretch and sprawl.
YOUR RANCH STYLE HOME
If you’re building a Ranch Style house, the key thing to remember is that it’s a style defined by its shape, not its finishing details. That means that you get to be creative when it comes to finishes and flourishes, like opting to clad the building in a siding, brick or particular stone finish that appeals to you, or borrowing from other design styles to embellish your home.
Likewise, if you are renovating an existing Ranch Style house, bear in mind that you can let your personal style and imagination run as wild or as tame as you want. Want to change the look, but not the shape of anything? Choose a new exterior finish. Want to add on a new wing for your expanding family? With only one floor, ranchers are ideal for horizontal expansion, and it’s easy enough to make everything match up with creative application of decorative materials and finishes. Versatile and affordable Cultured Stone® can be used as a either feature wall, or as an accent, and is available in a wide range of textures and colours.