American Icon: The Ranch House

Ranch House

Ranch House in a Northern Midwest Winter

Many house styles have cycled through America since its independence. The general timeline of these homes is as follows: colonial, Victorian, craftsman, bungalow, and of course, ranch—today’s stop. Ranch houses are known for being fundamentally practical and generally plain in design while maintaining a very comfortable and friendly living environment. The ranch house goes by many names: rambler, California ranch, ranch-bungalow, etc. Like the bungalow, Ranch houses became so popular that they reached synonymous status with American housing.


Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie

A Frank LLoyd Wright Prairie-Style Piece

The roots of ranch houses reach into the colonial era, when prairie style 1-floor abodes with sweeping roofs and earth-hugging foundations were very popular. This style was favored by Frank Lloyd Wright, who tweaked the design to utter perfection. If you look at a ranch home closely, you can see shades of Frank Lloyd Wright’s own utilitarian style in them.


In many ways, ranch houses reflected the times (as style always does). The American population was fed up with houses that appeared to be grand and gaudy, foreboding and reclusive (I’m looking at you neo Gothic-Victorian). Instead, buyers wanted a simpler home that had a bigger community appeal.


In line with the exploding population of baby boomers and renewed sense of camaraderie in the post-war climate, ranch houses often featured large windows into the owners’ living rooms, establishing that the occupants had nothing to hide, creating a welcoming family environment for suddenly sprawling suburban areas. Eventually, ranch houses became so popular that in the late 50’s nine out of every ten new homes were ranch.


The Rambler house

The Long, Low to the Ground Profile Rambles; Hence, "Rambler"

Sadly, interest in ranch houses died out when greedy landlords sought to cut building costs by using cheaper materials and bland styles. That fact coupled with a new generation’s (hippies) utter rejection of all things not expressionistic and individual spelled doom for the rambler.

But there’s hope around the corner for ranch houses. After suffering a score-long slump, ranch houses are back, but not in the way you would think. Instead of new houses being built, generation x-ers, attracted by the cheap prices of ranch houses, are renovating them to feature modern amenities at a much lower price than new houses.


The ranch house still has it critics, however,—but the criticism usually has its roots in only one fundamental flaw…popularity. The extensive reach of the ranch house (like the bungalow) has led many modern critics to see it as a poor choice in a home. However, the smart buyer knows that critics are simply cynical like that (popular = bad). Ranch houses are amazing, conservative abodes, and a great place to raise a family.


Modern Advantage Numbers

Modern Advantage House Numbers

Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright Address Plaque

At atlas signs, we offer a great number of ranch style house signs like our modern advantage house numbers, or our Frank Lloyd Wright Address Plaque. These signs reflect a simple design, they have no frills, are utilitarian like ranch houses, and are attractive to boot. But don’t let the critics know how popular these signs are (my achy-breaky heart can’t take that type of rejection).


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