Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Why ranch style houses are disappearing

Nine of out ten new houses built in 1950 were those one-story "ranch style" homes with big front picture windows, tiny lawns, and open kitchens framed with wood paneling and simple room dividers.  Today's Slate, features Witold Rybczynski, author of the Last Harvest: How a Cornfield Became Danville, a new book dissecting the construction of a suburb.  He explains the history of ranch homes (in California we often called them "ramblers").  These are the highlights:

  • Invented in 1932 by Cliff May, a San Diego architect
  • Home sizes have grown from an average of 800 SF in 1950 to 2100 SF today (one third of new homes are over 2400 SF)
  • More than half of new homes today are 2 stories and none are ranch style
  • New styles: pitched roofs, gables, dormers, bay windows, keystones, shutters, porches, and paneled doors

Having lived in a ranch style house in Sunnyvale for five years, I guess I took it for granted that this was the way houses (particularly in California) are supposed to be.  But it's nice to know that America has moved on.

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