High Ranch-Style Home: Functional and Family Friendly
The high ranch evolved as a natural progression of the original ranch movement, where functional, single-story homes changed the face of American suburbs between the 30s and 60s. Built with an efficient, affordable use of vertical space from a stacked design with multiple staircases, the budget-friendly alternative to the regular ranch attracted growing families moving to the suburbs in the 60s and 70s.
The High Ranch: Then and Now
Builders first opted for the high ranch to fill huge strips of undeveloped land. The style of home proved a sensible solution for families searching for larger homes built on scarcer land. Rather than build one flat level on a large footprint of land, architects opted for three or even four levels to create a great use of space. Families could live in larger, three-bedroom houses and still maintain ample backyard space.
Created for comfort, the high ranch marked a departure from previous home styles. Its split-level design featuring multiple floors, segmented rooms, and privacy for large families catered to a variety of lifestyles with modified options to build in all different sizes, styles, and layouts.
Despite the attraction, some generations—especially Millennials—may prefer a more open-concept single story home with wide open spaces over high ranches and other split-level homes. However, the home style is common among custom homes in high-end neighborhoods where quality of life is the ultimate goal.
Features: Inside and Out
The high ranch features half-stairs separating three (and sometimes four) staggered floors. A ground-level front door leads to half-stairs that go up to reach the main level featuring a living room, dining room, and kitchen, and half-stairs that go down to a lower level featuring a finished basement that doubles as a den, office, or playroom. The main level meets another half-stairway that leads to upper-level bedrooms while the lower level meets a door that opens to attached garage located beneath the bedrooms.
The high ranch features a zig zag layout that switches back from one floor to the next. The most dynamic home design to architects, the switchback layout keeps every floor connected visually, requires less movement from one level to the next, and accommodates a wide variety of unique spatial arrangements and family-focused living styles.
High ranch exteriors feature a mix of materials including brick, rock, and stone on the lower level, siding or wood on the upper levels, a low-pitched roof borrowed from the mid-century modern-style popular in the 1960s, and picture windows in the upstairs living room designed to bring the harmony of the outside in.
Fully Functional and Family Friendly
The high ranch doubles the benefits of a ranch’s fluid and linear living spaces by planting one atop of another. Unlike sprawling one-story ranch construction, the high ranch features the same amount of space but a better utilized horizontal square footage through condensed stories.
Staggered floors better separate the upstairs and downstairs, buffering the noise of the main living level. Quieter bedrooms on the upper level promote better sleep while less distracting home offices on the lower level create a better work from home environment.
Most high ranches feature two living rooms—one in the basement for kids and one up top for adults and entertaining. The extra space doubles as room for a home gym, hobby space, or bedroom to rent out to a roommate. For multi-generational families living together, the high ranch layout promotes privacy and boundaries.
An outdated, unfashionable exterior creates low demand, which helps the high ranch sell for less than a regular ranch. However, if you can live with a less than ideal exterior, the high ranch offers a fully functional house at a discount price. Expect a good starter home for first-time homebuyers—but anticipate a lower price down the road when it comes time to sell.
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