The Rise of Ranch Style Homes: Open Kitchens, Large Windows and Sprawling Floor Plans

Ranch homes are popular in the Midwest and the Big Sky region (Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, the Dakotas and Wyoming), but they're making a comeback across the country. Here's why

When people think of ranch-style homes, the image that may arise is the legendary house from the classic 1970s U.S. television show the Brady Bunch, which seems outdated and irrelevant for today’s home designs.

Well think again.

Ranch style homes are making a tremendous comeback in the Big Sky and Midwestern region of the U.S., with demand from both older baby boomers, and younger generations.

“Ranch-style homes are often what people want, but it is a matter if they can afford it,” says Abram Neider, president of Eaglewood Homes, based in Boise, Idaho.

The emergence of ranch-style homes as a preferred home design is prevalent in the Midwest and the Big Sky region (Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming) because these areas lends itself more towards an outdoor and active lifestyle, and there is a significantly larger amount of land to build upon than metropolitan areas in major U.S. cities on the east and west coast.

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The homes often have large kitchen and more space (design by Happe Homes)

“Ranch homes really allow the owner to adapt the home for their interests,” says Neider. “We find people who move into our area come for the mountains, foothills, rafting, biking and ski resorts. We get a lot of people from out of state because of the combination of recreation and affordability.”

That recreational lifestyle fits well into ranch-style homes because they often have finished basements that are perfect for storing bicycles, rafting and ski equipment. The finished basement is a popular alternative to a second-story of a house. Especially with the baby boomer generation that often wants to eliminate staircases in their home.

“We are seeing a lot of this group not downsizing and choosing to have their own space,” says Neider. “Many of them are choosing to maintain their own yard and even an oversized garage for those who enjoy classic cars as a hobby.”

The ranch-style homes also offer extra bedrooms that are used as offices and arts and crafts rooms, or as places to stay when their grown children and grandchildren visit.

US Homes Ranch Bathroom Eaglewood
A bathroom designed by Eaglewood

While the baby boomers utilize the ranch house to fulfill their empty nest fantasies, the younger generation have just now begin to follow the trend of their elders.

“The open kitchen concept that our ranch-style home has makes meals, prep, eating and cleanup a better opportunity to spend time as a family,” says Renny MacKay, who is well-known in Wyoming as a former high-ranking official for the state’s governor. “Conversations continue easily and we can keep an eye on our kids while they play, inside or outside. I didn’t know how much this type of floor plan would help us with what we care about most, and that is being together as a family.”

Jack Happe, owner of Happe Homes in Iowa, has seen a substantial change in the demographic of ranch home purchases.

“We are now seeing more ranch homes than two-story homes for younger couples,” says Happe. “Five to 10 years ago it was definitely an older demographic, but now it is about even.”

The younger demographic also enjoys the rustic design that many ranch style houses have.

“The design of the ranch style home is often more timeless than many two-story homes,” says Happe. “The ability to create a better fit on a bigger lot is really starting to catch people’s attention. Market demand changes every few years and right now the demand is with ranch houses.”

For Eaglewood Homes the majority of the ranch-style homes they build are on lots between 2100 and 2300 square feet in the Boise and Twin Falls, Idaho area. They are seeing a lot of new ranch house residents relocating from California and Texas, where they may have never lived in a ranch home until they move up north.

“The ability for new residents to start new on aa lot that is often double the size from where they currently live, in a home design they may have never lived in means a lot,” says Happe, who himself has lived in two ranch-style homes.”

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A sample kitchen plan by Eaglewood Homes

For those who are native to Big Sky country and the Midwest, the value of ranch homes are often imbedded with them by the time they reach adulthood and are ready to purchase a home for themselves.

“For someone who grew up on the high plains of Wyoming, I have always felt that ranch-style homes complemented the landscape and culture,” says Wyoming resident Jill Lovato. “The big windows also let in plenty of sunshine during the winter months, and that is very important.”

Neider finds that it is harder to design a ranch style home, and the cost per square foot is definitely higher than a two-story house, with a larger roof area.

“A lot of people do not understand how it works and they think price per square foot equals best value,” he says. “And that is definitely not always the case when you are dealing with ranch homes.”

Happe
Plenty of space in the large living room by Happe Homes

Regardless of the demand, both Neider and Happe emphasize the fact that the design, subcontractors and communication with the client are all vital when building a ranch home, no matter where it is built, just like any other home, but neither see the demand for ranch homes slowing down any time soon.

“Select the right builder that understands your needs and make sure they are listening to what you are saying,” says Happe. “With ranch homes that is important because there are so many more open areas that you have to live with, so make sure you get exactly what you want while still meeting your budget and you will enjoy your ranch home for a long, long time.”