How to Design a Modern Ranch-Style House
A contemporary ranch-style house with a pool and palm treesHow to Design a Modern Ranch-Style House

Ranch-style houses are very popular these days, especially in the United States. If you want to be a successful designer or architect, you will have to learn more about these houses. Simply put, chances are high that someone will want one.

Ranch houses usually have an open-concept design, large patios, big yards, and a single story. There are many different shapes a ranch home can have, including rectangular, circular, “L” shapes, and “U” shapes. Some other typical features are large sliding doors that lead to the backyard or the patio.

Even though these houses never have a second floor, they often have a large basement that matches the space on the ground floor. This space is usually used for offices, bedrooms, gyms, theaters, etc.

Use neutral and earthy tones

One of the most apparent yet invisible things about these houses is how much they are a part of the setting. Since these houses only have a ground floor, usually accompanied by a large yard and lots of greenery around, they look more in sync with nature.

You want to make the home look in sync even further, and that is where colors come into play. Some of the best color choices include tan, brown shades, grays, black, white, and variations of dark colors. If you’re not sure if some color is a good option, just think about clay pigments and try to find colors that look natural.

Of course, we are talking about the exterior and what colors you can use there. However, you can do whatever you want when it comes to the interior, but usually, clients want their interior to be in sync with the exterior.

Use existing styles for reference

Even though ranch houses have some things in common, there are different types to choose from. Before you start designing your house, take the time to learn about the differences between all the types so that you can deliver the designs your customers asked for.

Storybook (Fairytale) ranch

This type stands out because of many ornamental details, including a decorative chimney made of stone or bricks and many diamond-shaped decorations on windows. Storybook ranches also have steep roofs.

Heightened ranch

These ranches usually have a different layout, and the ground floor is raised from the ground. In most cases, this is done so that you can place a large porch around the whole house.

Split-level heightened ranch

This type has three levels that aren’t exactly stories, with the front door leading into the living room, the kitchen, and the dining area. Small stairs usually lead to different areas like bedrooms.

Suburban ranch

The suburban ranch usually has a U or L shape with an open-concept layout. It has an asymmetrical and compact structure, a backyard, and a separate garage.

California (Rambling) ranch

This type is characterized by low height and U or L shaped design. It’s one of the most popular options, and it blends perfectly with nature with a front lawn and patio.

There’s always room to add something new

In general, ranch houses follow specific design rules and styles, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t get creative and do something new. It’s possible to get innovative while staying within the concept.

First of all, ranch houses usually have large front and back yards, which means that you can continually expand the house and add new rooms or attached structures like garages, sheds, etc. At the same time, you get the opportunity to be creative with patios, pools, gardens, outdoor decorations, and so much more.

On the exterior, you can mix various materials to make things enjoyable, including stone, brick, wood, or stucco. Large windows and sliding doors allow you to experiment with different layouts.

Add natural light

No matter what kind of house we’re talking about, designers always want to add as much natural light as possible. People love natural light because it opens up the space, lets them show all the details of their home, and feels better during the day because they get the natural sunlight they need.

For designers, ranch-style homes are the easiest projects to get more natural light inside. Such homes traditionally have large windows, and it’s not uncommon to see the whole exterior covered in windows. Since the house has a large yard, privacy is not an issue.

In other words, you can go crazy with large windows and sliding glass doors to add as much natural light as possible. With this design, you can get an optimal amount of sunlight throughout the day so try to give your clients this great feature.

Large outdoor areas

One of the reasons customers choose this house style is its large outdoor area. Families love big yards where they can add flowers, decorations, seating areas, barbeque, pools, and playgrounds for their kids.

Think about creating a place inhabitants don’t have to leave. For example, if the kids want to play with the dog, there’s no need to take the dog to the nearest park with a large fenced grass area where they can play safely and be close to their parents.

Add as many exterior amenities and try out different layouts. Combine the patio area and let it act as the “connection” between the yard and the interior. Of course, consider leaving a plain, grass area but look to use as much space as possible.


Ranch houses are very appealing to homeowners because there’s no second floor, and people don’t have to go up and down the stairs every day – especially for older residents. The inviting and open floor plan makes these homes easier to organize and capture daylight in all rooms.

Because of these benefits, you can expect many clients looking for these types of homes. That’s why it’s essential to learn more about designing ranch homes.