The first western-inspired Ranch homes were constructed in California in the 1930s. Fuelled by the post-war building boom and the expansion of the residential areas, where large lots made their sprawling footprints possible, Ranch house plans soon became the principal home style through the 1950s. Ranch housing is a domestic architectural design. The ranch house is recognized for its long, close-to-the-ground profile, and marginal use of exterior and interior decoration. The houses merge modernist ideas and styles with notions of working ranches to create a very informal and relaxed living style. First built in the 1920s, the Ranch was incredibly popular with the booming post-war middle class of the 1940s to 1970s. The style is often associated with tract housing constructed at this time, which experienced a population explosion during this period, with a matching demand for housing.
Ranch house plans focus on openness, with few interior walls and an effective use of space. The one-story plan usually features a low-pitched side-gable or hipped roof, occasionally with a front-facing cross gable. Colonial, Craftsman, Tudor, or Spanish influences may shade the outside, though decorative details are marginal. Large picture windows are typical, as are sliding glass doors leading to back patios. The rise of the automobile necessitated an connected garage. Perfect for those who prefer single-level living or love mid-century style, the Ranch home has restored its popularity today.
By the 1950s, the Ranch townhouses, by now often called merely the ranch house or even "rambler house", accounted for nine out of every ten new houses. The apparently endless ability of the style to accommodate the personal needs of the owner/occupant, combined with the very modern addition of the latest in building developments and simplicity of the design satisfied the requirements of the time. Ranch houses were built throughout the country and were frequently given regional face lifts to suit regional tastes. The "Colonial Ranch” is one such said variant, adding Colonial features to the frontage of the Ranch home. Ranch homes of the 1940s and 1950s are typically more deliberately traditional in nature than those of the 1960s and 1970s, with features such as dovecotes, Swiss board edging on trim, and commonly western and even fantasy trim styling. In the 1960s, the ranch house echoed the nationwide trend towards sleekness in design, with the homes becoming even simpler as this tendency continued.
American tastes in architecture began to alter in the late 1960s, a move away from Ranch homes towards more formal and conventional styles. By the late 1970s, the ranch house was no longer the residence of choice, and had been eclipsed by the neo-eclectic styles of the late 20th century.
Starting in the late 1990s, a revival of interest in the Ranch house and Ranch town houses took place. The renewed interest in the design is mainly focused on established homes and neighbourhoods, not new construction. Younger house buyers find that ranch houses are reasonably priced entry level homes.