New respect for the ranch house?
Post-World War II single-story homes are gaining favor among those who find them convenient. As they hit 50, some even make the National Register of Historic Places.
My parents still live in the 1950s ranch house where I grew up. Surprisingly, except for small bathrooms, it still seems a practical floor plan more than 50 years after it was built.
The fact that it was on one level, something my mother wanted when she was carrying babies around, made it an easy house in which to grow old.
These days, the humble ranch gets little respect. Homebuyers want two-story entryways, living rooms with cathedral ceilings and massive master bathrooms.
But in some quarters, the ranch house is gaining ground. As more of the homes reach 50, the age at which they're eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, more people are seeing something worth preserving.
"It's just kind of a plain house — well, that was the point," Richard Cloues, who is leading a campaign to protect ranch houses in his position with the Georgia Historic Preservation Division, told The Wall Street Journal.
There are those who have long appreciated the modest ranch homes, built from around World War II until the early 1970s, when builders embraced the two-story home as a way to fit more house on less land.
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Among those who celebrate the joy of the modest ranch is Pam Kueber, who writes the blog Retro Renovation and has created an online community that shares advice on renovating while staying true to the ranch's roots. Her "Mid-Century Modest Manifesto" includes this section:
THERE IS MUCH TO APPRECIATE in our Mid-Century Modest homes.
And certainly nothing to apologize for.
GRANITE countertops? Who needs ‘em, especially when they come with
a home equity loan that stresses our family finances beyond our limits.
What silliness. What Insanity.
SHHHH! Don’t tell anyone, but our Mid-Century Modest homes,
because they are so unpretentious by today’s standards,
can be much more affordable to buy and to renovate.
She has links to more than 50 other blogs that celebrate midcentury modern or ranch-style homes. The magazine Atomic Ranch also includes the modest ranch-style home in its coverage.
Can the ranch house gain new respect?
"People just don't want them," Atlanta real-estate agent Cindi Sokol lamented to The WSJ, though she says she loves her ranch-style home.
Bill Adams, 62, another Atlanta real-estate agent, was a reluctant convert. He bought "an ugly ranch house" 15 years ago because he liked the neighborhood. His older clients appreciate that ranch homes have no stairs.
He likes that his ranch is easy to maintain and has lower energy costs. Plus, he told The WSJ: "Its ugliness has grown on me."
Be honest: Would you buy a ranch-style home?
We bought (and remodeled) a ranch house 9 years ago. The main reason was that it has a spectacular view. But as we grow older, we have grown to appreciate that we won't struggle with staircases. Also, we like that the bedrooms are at one end of the house, and the living areas are at the other, allowing me to use the kitchen in the morning without waking those still sleeping. We have family living in a house that is so "open" in it's floor plan that any sound echos through the entire house.
I love that we have visitors with more architecturally spectacular homes who tell us they'd live in our ranch house in a New York minute if they had our view.
We bought a ranch-style (or rambler) as we call them in the Northwest 9 years ago, and have loved it! We love that there are no stairs...so we can stay here forever (we are in our early 40's). We love the large chunk of yard it came with (all our peers are living with tiny yards for their kids). We love the simplicity of it. And we love that we are paying off our debts living in it.
I'd buy one because it's just easier to get around on one level when you have creaky bones.
However, what do I live in? A 3 level townhome with a creek and woods that I love. So I made it into one level by installing $6000 worth of battery/electric stair lift chairs on both stairways. Now, I glide my 70 year old self up and down with laundry, books, trays, etc., with no strain on my hip or back, and no danger of a fall. Stairlifts are cheaper than moving.
MY 96 YEAR OLD MOTHER STILL LIVES IN ONE ..GREAT WHEN YOU CANT WALK
AND GO UP AND DOWN STAIRS EVERYTHING ON ONE FLOOR.. SHE THOUGHT OF THAT WHEN SHE WAS YOUNG ,, SOMETHING TO CONSIDER.
We built this home when we were in our early 40's. We wanted something we could be empty nesters in, and something we could comfortably navigate when we got older. I am glad we did.
I've seen my mother-in-law go through torture with arthritic knees trying to negotiate the nightmare layout of a tri-level home. I swore I'd never have one of those beasts as long as I lived.
It may not be the trendiest style out there, but I love the layout, three bedrooms with two baths. A little on the smallish side, but perfect for the two of us now.
and loving it. I grew up in ranch style homes in LA, WV and OH. The best one was the OH home with an eat in kitchen that had huge cupboards and an attached laundry room, a huge living/dining room combo, three large bedrooms (one with double closets) and one small bathroom. While I would have appreciated another bath, it was fine for our family of four.
After 25 years in a raised ranch, we intentionally bought a 2000 sq. ft. ranch and are remodeling it.
It has 3 small bathrooms, 4 bedrooms (2 small and 2 large), a family room, laundry room, living room, and a huge kitchen/dining room at the front entrance of the house. Since we find ourselves doing most of our living in the kitchen, this is an ideal layout for us. I can't wait to move in.
Is the best type of home I ever owned. Consider that: 1- the stairs, to the 2nd floor, takes away from the useable surface of the second floor, 2 - the corridor, between the upstairs bedrooms, takes away from the useable surface of the 2nd floor, 3 - The 2nd floor bathroom reduces the same floor space even more. That leaves the bedrooms to size of match-boxes, wherein you just have enough room for a bed and night table and one-foot space left to the surrounding walls. I am sick and tired that the home has "four bedrooms", in fact "cubicles with ceiling" and a jacked up price by $30K to $40K for a "fourth bedroom" In addition, the roof is very high and if you are do it yourself, like me, makes it more dangerous and more difficult, or more expensive to hire, to clean your gutters and inspect the roof whenever you want it or need it. My home is also on a slab which eliminated the many troubles with basement infiltration of water, with problems in uniform heating/AC temperature between floors. And if you are over 50s problems with up/down the stairs all day, etc. The home builder has saved money for "himself", not for you because the house has a smaller foundation and a smaller roof surface, and the bathrooms smaller appliances!
Up-keep your Ranch Style home and you could be just as much a proud home owner. Do what is good for yourself first, and if your friends laugh at you, find new friends... Live your life as you see fit not as your friends want you to!
Ranch homes are pretty cool! Just got a 1959 2400 sq ft ranch house on the hillside in Woodland Hills. We were lucky to get a huge lot with it - 11,000 sq ft. There is so much to appreciate with the single story plan (yes my knees appreciate it) with vaulted ceilings and large rooms. The livingroom / den / dinning room combine into a great-room, all flowing together easily accomodating large groups with indoor & outdoor movement and lots of garden space. Long & broad with quiet space in the bedrooms & office.
My kinda floorplan for Southern California living & fun.
About Teresa Mears
Teresa Mears is a veteran journalist who has been interested in houses since her father took her to tax auctions to carry the cash at age 10. A former editor of The Miami Herald's Home & Design section, she lives in South Florida where, in addition to writing about real estate, she publishes Miami on the Cheap to help her neighbors adjust to the loss of 60% of their property value.