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What Makes a Home a Ranch Homes?

An argument could be made that the ranch home is the official house of Austin, Texas. A drive around town will reveal at least one or two of these low-profile charmers nestled into nearly every neighborhood. But what exactly is a ranch home, and why do they have such staying power in Austin?

What Is a Ranch Home?

While there are many unique ranch homes, there are certain traits that must exist for them to be considered a true ranch. But to get a full understanding of the ranch style, it is helpful to first learn how and where it developed.

History of the Ranch Style

The first ranch home, named after the sprawling ranch land its design evoked, was designed and built in the early 1930s in California. Early ranch homes had open layouts intended to reflect the wide-open landscapes surrounding them. 

When the United States population boomed in the 1940s, ranch homes became popular, especially in the western states of the US. Their single-level stature and simple structure made ranch homes affordable options for families looking to build in subdivisions and suburbs. 

Builders in Austin, Texas, kept busy throughout the 1950s and 1960s, adding thousands of ranch style homes to area neighborhoods. Though the rise of the ranch style leveled off in the 1970s, its influence is still strong in many communities.

Elements of Ranch Homes

The most obvious trait of a ranch home is its long footprint, a departure from the square-shaped bungalow. Ranch houses might stretch out as a straight line, L-shape or U-shape, with the key element being a horizontal orientation. Ranch homes can also be easily identified by their single-story stature and low-slope roofs. 

Though ranch home exteriors are often described as plain, they go all out when it comes to windows. Depending on the era in which they were built, ranch homes mix and match fixed, double-hung, slider, awning and casement style windows. Most ranch homes feature a patio, deck or pool outside. This outdoor area is easily accessible through sliding glass doors, allowing for a smooth transition between indoor and outdoor living areas.

The interior traits of ranch homes create a spacious atmosphere, aided by the natural light from the many windows. The kitchen, dining and living rooms may have partial or no walls separating them from one another to allow for a natural flow between these spaces. The living quarters of the house are usually sequestered from the bedrooms by a hallway. This division of the home by room use gives ranch houses a natural order. Sleeping areas are kept peaceful, away from the bustle of the kitchen and entertaining areas.

Ranch Homes in Austin

So why do ranch homes have such a strong presence in Austin? There are a few reasons. First, many Austin neighborhoods were developing from the 1940s to the 1970s when the ranch home style was at the peak of its popularity. Even after the boom for ranch style homes, builders in Austin may have continued to build ranch houses to fit with the neighborhood design or because they were the best-selling homes in that area.

Second, ranch style houses are a natural fit for the Austin landscape. The swathes of windows on ranch homes allow Austin sunshine to create interiors full of natural light. The ranch style emphasis on flow between indoor and outdoor living spaces enables a greater appreciation of Austin’s moderate climate. For those who decide to build an Austin ranch of their own, a ranch home is an obvious fit for life on the range.

The final reason that ranch homes have staying power in Austin is that the ranch style is an adaptable palette for remodels and renovations. As original homeowners sell their ranch homes, new buyers are able to reinvigorate the space with fresh ideas. Since the intention for the ranch style was to create expansiveness through simplicity, walls can be reconfigured, appliances and cabinets updated, and outdoor landscapes redesigned. Ranch homes are here to stay, with a new generation of Austinites to keep them weird. 

As Austin, Texas, builders we are big fans of the ranch home. In fact, ranch construction is one of our areas of expertise. Contact us if you are ready to expand your horizons with a custom built or remodeled ranch home!