In the 1950s, ranch-style homes abounded. They were so popular that they accounted for nine out of every 10 new houses built.
Now, after 40-some years out of trend, the open, one-story style is gaining favor once more. Younger and first-time home buyers are revisiting ranch design, drawn by the appeal of an informal and laid-back layout and the typical affordability of these mid-century homes. Meanwhile, an older generation of buyers are lured by the ranch’s single-level floor plan, which is easy on aging knees.
Despite these practical attractions, the style’s horizontal, close-to-the-ground profile gets a bad rap for its exterior, which is often knocked for being dull. Fortunately, visual interest is just a series of DIY improvements away. Here are five ways to improve the ranch style’s exterior, transforming it from blah to beautiful.
Break up monotonous horizontal lines
Admittedly, the feature that’s most appealing on the inside — the sprawling, single-story design with its open floor plan — is, externally, uninteresting at best. A few easy landscaping improvements, however, can relieve the monotony and provide a visual counterpoint to that long, low roofline.
Nearest the home, choose shrubs and grasses that deliver color without overwhelming the exterior. Think small: Strategically select shorter shrubs, such as boxwoods, that won’t cover the low windows.
In bunches, these groupings will catch the eye, breaking up the expanse of exterior. Then, layer in taller trees to frame the entrance or garage; evergreens will draw the eye upward and offset the horizontal roofline.
Casual, contemporary style is the hallmark of a ranch home — and, sometimes, your best bet is to emphasize what you’ve already got. Maximize the sleek, contemporary lines of a ranch house by arranging your low-growing shrubs in a symmetrical fashion. Similarly, plant your taller greens in pairs for balance; they can work as well as columns to frame a neatly decorated front porch.
Think outside the box(-iness)
The typical ranch takes on a boxy, rectangular form — sometimes with an L shape, but always with plenty of hard corners. To prevent the place from looking like a shipping container, soften the property by adding curved lines. Bring these new shapes into play through rounded garden beds along the front and sides, each filled with a mixture of colorful annuals, hardy perennials, and attractive grasses for year-round visual interest.
You can also introduce curves into your landscaping through a winding walkway toward the entrance. Eschew straight edges and 90-degree angles, and lay pavers, bricks or stamped concrete in a more sinuous design. Then, flank the pathway with colorful flowers to generate a sense of space and openness by drawing the eye toward the yard.
Insert visual interest through color and texture
Many ranch-style homes suffer from the blahs simply because there is no contrast or “pop.” These exteriors typically feature subdued, monochromatic color palettes and basic wood, brick or stucco siding.
The answer to this dull dilemma can be found in a bucket of paint. For a cheery note, try using a punchy, unexpected hue on the porch, door, or window trim. You could even go a step further by adding new architectural elements that bring in more color: Shutters, decorative pillars or trellises offer yet more opportunities to brighten the front of the home — and do double-duty by breaking up the home’s long silhouette.
Play up the porch
A key design element for many ranch homes is a small front porch. If you’ve been blessed with a shaded spot, make the porch an even grander entrance by extending its reach. Consider creating a taller, pitched roof over the porch, or adding an awning to generate more interest.
If your property (or budget) cannot accommodate a larger porch, make the most of the one you have with some simple, smaller additions: an attention-getting decorative railing, potted plants down the steps, or updated hardware and house numbers can all do the trick.
Swap in new accent lighting to brighten up the area, and add a porch swing or a bistro table-and-chair set to invite social gatherings.
Check out more home exterior ideas.
- Ranch Homes: Mid-Century Design Minus the Glory
- Luxury Ranches: 10 High-End Homes for Suburbanites, Not Cowboys
- Before & After: Ranch Home Redux
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