September 2, 2018 · Home Builder

By Rebecca Welch

The ranch house floor plan is a shining example of the American Dream in its purest form. It was then, and remains today, the most widely built housing style ever seen in America. This house plan style had its heyday from 1949 to 1965 for several reasons.

Prevailing loan programs of the day made getting a home loan with no money down easier than it ever had been in previous years. Soldiers returning from World War II wanted to settle down and begin raising families. With the demand for homes at an all time high, the simple form and lack of detail made the ranch house floor plan much faster to build than a stately Tudor style home. Formal foyers and spiral staircases were discarded and replaced by level entries and single story plans.

The availability and increasing popularity of the automobile also defined the heyday of the ranch house floor plan. For the first time, the garage was moved to the front of the home. This was the first generation of home owners to have a highly prized freedom and mobility to work and shop in the city and then retreat to the suburbs to live. Because the suburbs removed the need to build houses close together, lots became increasingly larger and the square footage of the average house floor plan expanded accordingly. Ranch house floor plans generally accentuated the width of the lot.

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The informal lifestyle of California became popular as early as the late 1940s and magazines began to promote casual living as the ideal. Influences such as courtyards, patios and other Spanish colonial architectural details were embraced and played upon. What was known as the front porch or veranda, was moved from the front to the back of the house and heralded the arrival of a significant lifestyle change. Families now preferred the privacy of their back yard rather than sitting on the front porch watching traffic.

Americans believed that technological advances helped win the Second World War and launch was was to become known as the Space Age. Innovative designs such as the all electric home were supposed to make housework a thing of the past. Realizing the dream of space travel was on the horizon as well and home owners wanted a housing style that was reflective of the new modern era. Synthesized versions of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie style ranch house floor plan became very popular in more well to do areas.

The ranch house floor plan was the American Dream in a box from the late 1940s to the mid 1960s. Sliding glass doors, kidney shaped swimming pools and back yard patios created a new informal way of entertaining guests. Though the ranch house floor plan was the embodiment of casual living, most homes of that era lacked architectural details that would make them memorable. By the 1970s, the ranch style house was replaced by the split level home with Colonial or English details.

The 1980s saw a reversal of the ranch house floor plan formula that included showy front entries with grand staircases and vaulted ceilings while the back of the house was left almost naked. The only remains of the ranch house floor plan today are the open floor plans, great rooms and hearth kitchens and the current popular trend of an outdoor room. All leftovers from the original ranch style housing era.

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