What is a Ranch Style Home?

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What is a Ranch Style Home?

A Ranch Home, widely regarded as one of the most popular architectural styles today, offers single-level living and is favored for its relatively easy maintenance. Originally inspired by early California settlers from Mexico, the concept of the ranch house as we know it today can be traced back to Cliff May, a southern California architect. In 1932, May is credited with designing the first modern ranch-style home. Since then, the ranch home has evolved, and are still popular today in cities across the country like Pittsburgh, there are a myriad of variations such as atomic ranch, mid-century modern, California ranch, raised ranch, split-level ranch, suburban ranch, walk-out ranch, traditional ranch, and more. This adaptability has contributed to its enduring popularity among homeowners. Famous Architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, also designed some ranch style homes throughout the Chicago area.

Revitalizing the Charm of Ranch Homes: A Creative Canvas for Timeless Living

In its most basic description, the ranch home might come across as straightforward and unexciting, but this portrayal fails to capture the excitement and potential these homes truly possess. To me, a ranch home is far from being merely "modest"; instead, it stands as a versatile canvas, offering endless possibilities to craft a living space and floor plan that not only aligns with current trends but also stands the test of time. With its single-level form, the ranch home becomes a perfect foundation from which creativity can flourish.

The flexibility of the ranch home extends beyond its structure, allowing for comfortable adaptation to different roof lines. Moreover, virtually any modern building material can seamlessly enhance the aesthetic appeal of a ranch home, turning it into a contemporary masterpiece.

Key Characteristics of Ranch Homes:

In exploring the distinct features of ranch homes, several common characteristics come to light. As predominantly one-story dwellings, these homes exude a grounded feel, with roofs that seldom boast a steep pitch. This design choice fosters a sense of integration with the surrounding landscape, ensuring that the home feels like a natural extension of its environment.

Typically situated on wide lots, ranch homes are strategically shaped to accommodate the various rooms within the design. Whether in a straight line, forming an "L," or embracing a "U" shape, the layout is thoughtfully crafted to optimize both space and functionality. Ranch homes, with their unassuming charm, invite homeowners to reimagine and redefine the possibilities of modern living.

Single-Story Residences

At its core, a ranch embodies the essence of a single-story home. While variations like split-level ranches, those with bonus rooms, or basements exist, a structure with two or more full stories doesn't quite fit the ranch designation. In today's real estate landscape, the pinnacle of this style is the stepless, one-story ranch home, celebrated for its adaptability across all age groups. The inclusion of a basement elevates its desirability, providing additional storage or supplementary entertainment spaces beneath the primary level.

Diverse iterations of the traditional ranch include contemporary, mid-century modern (mid-mod), atomic, California, suburban, raised, and innovative styles like the modern farmhouse ranch. Remarkably, the ranch home stands out as perhaps the most adaptable among all private residential architectural designs, owing to its uncomplicated foundational form.

Roof Design

Commencing from the apex, the prevailing roofline design for a ranch home typically features a moderately low pitch. Variations in the roofline often manifest in the addition of dormers or one or more gabled roofs running perpendicular to the primary roofline. These augment the architectural depth, extending either forward or backward, providing an effortless means to infuse character. The image above showcases an instance of a porch adorned with a second gabled roof.


In both the interior and exterior realms, asymmetry emerges as a defining characteristic of well-designed ranch homes. While symmetry is neither obligatory nor frequently seen in ranch design, the absence of perfectly mirrored lines contributes to the distinctive character of these residences. The exterior image above illustrates how one side can present varying depths and rooflines while maintaining a commanding street presence. This asymmetry seamlessly aligns with the adaptable design features inherent in ranch homes. The freedom from the constraints of mirroring requirements allows for the creation of dynamic spaces, as exemplified by the mid-century modern living room depicted, where windows intentionally conclude before achieving perfect symmetry. This deliberate asymmetry not only adds character but also nurtures the cultivation of thoughtfully designed living spaces.

Exterior Cladding

The selection of exterior materials for ranch homes typically corresponds to the local climate and prevalent materials used in various styles of houses within the region. Ranch homes display flexibility in siding choices, with no rigid restrictions on specific materials. In certain areas, stucco might be more prevalent, whereas regions like the Chicago Area often showcase common materials such as brick and lap siding. Board & Batten siding has undergone a resurgence as a siding option that complements well with the right roofing style. While asphalt shingles continue to be the most widespread roofing material, metal roofs have surpassed mere trend status, providing a range of colors to harmonize with the siding.

clerestory window


Windows are a key element in shaping the architectural character of ranch homes. Often seen in mid-century modern ranch designs, clerestory windows harken back to ancient Egyptian design. Positioned high on the upper wall near the roofline, these windows serve diverse functions. They introduce natural light from a distinctive angle, elevating the perception of space and energy, while also liberating wall space for artwork, furniture, or other decor. Beyond their aesthetic role, clerestory windows enhance privacy compared to standard window placements. Another prevalent window feature in various ranch styles involves expansive floor-to-ceiling picture windows or glass sliding doors. Modern, atomic ranch, contemporary, and farmhouse-style ranch homes frequently embrace these larger windows, departing from the more traditional options often seen in suburban or rambler ranch designs.

Metal Roofing

Metal roofing is a distinctive design feature found in various styles of ranch homes. The incorporation of a metal roof aligns with the straightforward, practical design philosophy inherent in the original concept of ranch construction. Although metal roofs have been used in home construction for a considerable period, they gained prominence around the mid-19th century with the increased availability of corrugated and galvanized metal. In contemporary ranch homes, metal roofs are commonly seen on porches, accents, and, often, as the entire roofing structure. The use of a metal roof on a ranch contributes to clean lines and adheres to the overarching theme of simplicity

Twists On The Ranch Design

There are an almost endless number of variations and creative iterations of what we think of as a ranch home. Asymmetry, creativity in roof design, no rules about how the floorplan should flow or where windows have to go and the ability to use any material, inside or outside make the ranch home the most versatile of all home styles.

Where Can You Find A Great Ranch Home To Buy In The Chicago Area?

The simple answer is just about anywhere you are already looking to live. Virtually every area in Chicago has ranch homes available. They range in price from; ranch homes for sale under $100,000 to well into the multi-million dollars. Contact us and let us know what kind of ranch you want and where you want it and let our team help you find your dream ranch home!

Ranch Homes In Chicago Area For Sale

Any easy way to find ranch homes for sale in Chicago Area, or in any of the Chicago Area area cities is to search by "House Style" in the "Additional Features" section of the personalized home search. Next, narrow the search by selecting the city or cities of interest to you along with any of the other advanced criteria available. If it's listed for sale in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), we have it listed for sale here on the website. This page shows all of the ranch homes for sale in the Chicago Area starting with the newer ranch homes for sale.

 Homes by Architectural Style

Ranch Homes come in various styles, each with its unique characteristics. Here are some types of Ranch Homes:

Mid-Century Modern Ranch/Atomic Ranch:

Mid-Century Modern homes and Atomic Ranch homes are often used interchangeably, considering that Atomic Ranches were predominantly built during the mid-century era of ranch home construction. While Mid-Century homes can take various forms, there are specific ranch homes designed with Mid-Century Modern architecture, known as Atomic Ranches. Spanning from the 1930s to the 1960s, Mid-Century homes extend beyond architecture to influence various aspects of life. These homes embody key Mid-Century design elements, featuring modern/futuristic aesthetics, minimalist design, angular structures, clean lines, and a predominantly monochromatic color scheme with color accents. Atomic Ranch and Mid-Century Ranch homes are recognized for their distinctive rooflines, windows, uncluttered spaces, and a harmonious connection with the surrounding landscape.

Raised Ranch:

A raised ranch is more of a hybrid than a distinct style. A characteristic feature is the split foyer entrance, where you can ascend or descend half a flight of stairs upon entering the front door. Going upstairs leads to a traditional one-story ranch layout with bedrooms, kitchen, and main living spaces. Descending the stairs may lead to the garage on one side and additional finished space resembling a basement on the other side, suitable for flexible use like an office, den, playroom, or media room. Raised ranch homes often feature vaulted ceilings on the main level, utilizing square footage efficiently. Drawbacks include the garage below the kitchen level and the split foyer, which may pose an entry challenge for those unfamiliar with this style.

Split Level Ranch:

The split level ranch is distinct from the raised ranch. In a split level ranch, the kitchen and public areas align with the front door on one level, with a few steps up to bedrooms and bathrooms, and a few steps down to the garage and flex space. The stairs are usually located elsewhere within the interior of the home. Unlike the raised ranch, the split level ranch features varying roofline heights for public and private spaces. Raised ranches more commonly have a single gable roof, reminiscent of traditional suburban ranch homes.

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