Business in the Front, Party in the Back

The front of this Cliff May home built in 1963 is understated, built of common materials

The front of this Cliff May home built in 1963 is understated, built of common materials

The back yard of the same Cliff May home has lots of glass to let the green in, which is a surprise after seeing the understated front facade.

The back yard of the same Cliff May home has lots of glass to let the green in, which is a surprise after seeing the understated front facade.

 I have never lived in a ranch style home, so the form is somewhat new to me. Although apparently ONLY to me, because ranches became the ubiquitous tract home in the 1960’s due in part to their reasonable construction cost, durability, and room for easy customization. They were mostly a no frills, unpretentious, family home that felt no need to put forward curb appeal for the pleasure of others. And because of these qualities, they sometimes got a bad rap.

Now ranch homes seem to be having a bit of a Renaissance. Folks are beginning to appreciate their simple lines, quiet fronts, and the single-floor casual living they provide. In some circles, they are once again symbolic of California living. As the father of ranch architecture Cliff May said, “if you can’t walk out of the living room or bedroom or the kitchen onto the ground, if you have to go down steps, why, you’re not living like a real Californian lives from the house to the patio…”

 

The back yard of the same Ranch style home is brought inside the home with lots of glass.

The back yard of the same Ranch style home is brought inside the home with lots of glass.

The front of this Ranch style home is barely visible, but the high windows allow the light in.

The front of this Ranch style home is barely visible, but the high windows allow the light in.

The more time I spend in our ranch, the more convinced I am it suits our needs to a t. I am someone who appreciates substance over style, so a humble façade that only hints at what’s inside is right up my alley (pun intended.) A true ranch home puts family first, with an emphasis on common spaces that promote interaction.  And I am all about encouraging family time, much to my teenager’s chagrin.  Ranch homes also promote indoor-outdoor living with a lot of backyard-facing glass and therefore a strong connection to nature.  Enjoying the outdoors is why I live in California, so seeing it from my living room is a must.

As we remodel our Nest, we hope to preserve and highlight a lot of its other great ranch characteristics. As budget and energy efficiency permit, we want to incorporate:

• Large windows
• Vaulted ceilings
• An outdoor courtyard/living room visible from the living room, office, and master bedroom
• An open living room/dining room/kitchen
• Sliding doors and picture windows
• A low slung roof with wide eaves
• Natural, somewhat rustic materials

Ranches actually remind me of something else that gets a bad rap – the mullet. In fact I think of them as the mullet of homes, “business in the front…party in the back.” So in a weird way the mullet will be my remodeling mantra. Keep the front simple and clean, invest in the spaces that connect us to the backyard and each other. Channeling Cliff May and Billy Ray Cyrus, here we go!

Pictures: (top) Eshelman-Bemis House, Rolling Hills, CA.  Cliff May, 1963

(bottom)McNeel-Pigford House, San Antonio, TX.O’Neill Ford, 1946

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