house amidst a beautiful sunset

A common question prospective homeowners come across is, what type of home are you looking for? Since there is no right answer to this question, it helps if you can recognize different architectural styles so you can narrow down your dream home must-haves list.

One of the most popular home styles is the rambler house or ranch-style house. These houses are versatile and have enormous appeal to various homebuyers.

The relative affordability, open-concept interior space, and minimalist exterior are a few reasons for adding a ranch house to your house-hunting list. There are many types of rambler-style houses, but they all share iconic elements.

Here is a breakdown of everything you need to know about this beloved architectural style.

History of Ranch Rambler Homes

The rambler is an architectural home design with close ties to American history, gaining popularity in the 1920s. During that period, more and more people were heading west, and these single-story and low-to-ground rambler-style homes helped overcome the punishing Southwestern heat.

Rancher-style homes were for ranchers who preferred one-story, low, and simple structures to withstand the weather in the mountains and plains.

Ranch houses experienced a slight popularity dip soon after hitting the home design scene but later made a significant comeback with the growth of the suburbs. By World War II, 90% of new residences were rambler houses. The design became prominent between 1945 through the 70s.

Features of a Rambler or Ranch-Style House

A light-coloured kitchen island

So, what is a rambler house?

All ranch-style houses are not laid out the same way, but they share a few characteristics that define their style. Here are notable features of a ranch house that make it stand out.

Low-Pitched Roof

The rambler style boasts a lower-pitched roof compared to other styles. Ranch-style homes have wide eaves that stick out further than most designs.

One Level

A rambler-style home is always a one-story house. The larger two-story designs were popular in the 1980s.

These houses are excellent for families and individuals who have accessibility issues and may have trouble navigating stairs. Plus, the open layout is almost always L-shaped or rectangular.

Open Floor Plan

The single-level design allows having a naturally open floor plan. This design makes rambler homes excellent for accommodating and entertaining guests.

Horizontal Profile

Plenty of horizontal space means you do not need a second floor, but you can add to it. The front of the house usually has a large picture window overlooking the street.

Vaulted Ceiling

A rambler house might look small from the outside, but feels much more spacious inside because of its vaulted ceiling.

Seamless Connection to the Outdoors

A ranch-style home usually boasts large, sliding glass doors leading to the outside. The idea is to create a flawless blend of outdoor and indoor spaces.

Types of Rambler Style Houses

Ranch houses are available in several “looks” like many home architectural designs. You will come across six ranch-style home styles in listings or at auctions. Here is what they look like and the characteristics you can expect in each.

California Ranch

The California ranch, also known as the rambling ranch, comes in either an L or U shape. These ranch-style homes draw their inspiration from Spanish architecture and are popular designs from the late 19th and 20th centuries.

California rambler houses have a large porch and front yard, Spanish-inspired details, and a courtyard.

Storybook Ranch

A storybook ranch (also known as a fairytale or Cinderella ranch) is reminiscent of fairytale cottages, thanks to exquisite exterior detailing. Storybook ranches have a steep gabled roof instead of the classic low-pitched roof of a rambler. Diamond-shaped windows, decorative stone or brick chimneys, and thatched shingles help complete this fairytale house.

Suburban Ranch

Many Americans left city life and helped increase the popularity of suburban ranch-style houses in the post-World War II era. These rambler houses boast a simplistic design that is easy to replicate all over American suburbs. Suburban ranch homes have concrete-slab foundations, adopt an open-concept layout, and are L or U-shaped, but smaller.

Raised Ranch

Also called split-entry ranches, raised ranch homes open up to a stairwell that leads to a second level. The upstairs space features an open-plan kitchen, dining space, living room, and bathrooms and bedrooms. You will find a finished basement and attached garage downstairs.

Split-Level Ranch

Split-level ranch homes offer three stories of living space. A split-level ranch welcomes you into a kitchen, living, and dining areas, while stairs lead you to the additional living space above and below the entry-level. Split-level ranches feature a minimalist design like suburban rambler-style houses.

Modern Rambler Home Style

The modern rambler house style is an updated version of the California ranch-style configuration. This configuration has been gaining popularity since the 1990s.

Modern ranch homes feature various materials, such as stone and wood, to blend into the surrounding nature. However, these rambler-style homes do not have Spanish architectural style influences and have clean lines and updated interiors.

Pros and Cons of a Rambler Style House

large two-storey house in beige shades

The only one-story living design of the rambler home is making a return, and it is as appealing as ever! These houses are excellent options for empty nesters and young families who want little space and are looking to simplify life.

But is living in a one-story home ideal for you?

There are several pros and cons of ranch-style houses. Here are a few to help you decide if this architectural design is right for you.


Whether your focus is on practicality or aesthetics, ramblers are forever homes. The house design comes with several benefits, which make them a popular choice in established neighborhoods. 

  • Simple to Design

The single floor design helps increase efficiency. For example, it is easy to control the temperatures on a single level when engineering a heating and cooling system. Heat rises, which causes two-story homes to have different temperatures on different floors.

One-story houses are the perfect choice for ease of movement. Empty nesters looking for a rambler-style home to grow old in do not have to worry about stairs when moving from the living to sleeping quarters.

  • Large Open Living Space

Two-story houses have stairs leading up and down to add more space in a compact design. But do you know that the area around staircases is wasted space?

A ranch-style design makes sure there is no waste. Transitioning from one room to another is as simple as adding a doorway or leaving the space open.

  • Easy to Clean and Maintain

You never have to carry heavy cleaning equipment up and down stairs in a ranch-style home. Rambler home maintenance projects are also easier than ever before.

  • Safe Navigation

Safety is a big issue if you have elderly people or toddlers in your household. Stairs can be dangerous, causing trips and falls.

A single-story rambler home ensures you do not have to worry about stairs becoming tripping hazards, too high stair railings, or slippery steps.

  • Easy Evacuation

You should consider safety and evacuation when looking at a home. Ramblers have ground-floor windows that are easy to open and climb to safety.

Ranch-style houses are also safe during severe storms and earthquakes. Two-story houses are a major target during electrical storms and high winds.


Settling in a ranch home offers many positives, but there are a few downsides to consider.

  • Needs More Space

A ranch-style house requires more square footage. All the rooms, including living space, bedrooms, bathrooms, and office, must fit the property.

Two-story designs make it easy to double up on the square footage by adding another story. Such structures are an excellent choice for smaller properties.

  • Smaller Yard

A one-story house requires more space, which means you get a smaller yard. While the rambler home is perfect when you have several acres in the country, it can be an issue when trying to fit it into a smaller space. Ranch-style housing is not suitable if you want large amounts of play space and outdoor living areas.

  • Less Privacy

You need to think twice about privacy in a single-story house. Postal workers dropping off packages or neighbors walking by can easily see into your bedroom. Privacy is a major issue when it is dark outside and the lights are on inside.

  • More Expensive to Construct and Add On

A single-story house requires a large blueprint and more land. The result is more construction material for the final design, including windows, siding, roofing, and foundations. You also need more material to stretch out the HVAC and plumbing system in each room.

Where are Ranch-Style Houses Popular?

The Southwest is the original home of the ranch house style, but it has quickly spread to other American regions. You can find rambler homes spread out from the East Coast to the Southwest. However, these houses are in different configurations, depending on the region you are in.

For instance, California ranch units are larger and with vaulted ceilings and sunken rooms. North Eastern versions of the design are more closed off and have rigid floor plans.

People in the Midwest deck out their rambler homes with basements. The design helps create more space on the property, especially when residents cannot use the backyard in colder months.


The rambler house design is an American classic that never truly falls out of favor. These homes take advantage of large plots of land without the hassle of multi-story homes.

If you are on the market for a home that offers a seamless transition from the indoors to the outdoors with an open floor plan and plenty of natural light, a ranch house is right for you.

At Ardor Homes Massachusetts, we have a team of experts ready to assist you in finding the perfect home for you and your family. Get in touch today and learn more about getting your dream home.


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