When I think of the ranch house, I don’t think of Cliff May or the great haciendas of Southern California. My mind turns to an unexpected place, a vestige from my youth: the original “The Parent Trap,” starring Haley Mills, Maureen O’Hara and Brian Keith. Before you write me off as mad, hear me out.

When Sharon heads out west to her father Mitch’s Carmel home, it’s a moment of design inspiration for me. The long, low roofline. The rambling single-story floorplan. The open, airy rooms. The large doors opening to the outdoor terrace and inner courtyard. The rustic stone and wood. The ranch house holds a kind of Western romance for me…of simpler times…of middle class, mid-century optimism that punctuated my grandparents’ generation.

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First built in the 1920s and popularized among the middle class between 1940-1970, the ranch house fused modernist ideas (minimal use of ornamentation) with the functional needs of American Western period working ranches. The style reflected a sense of openness, a casual indoor/outdoor living style that felt freeing and exciting next to the stuffy, conservative living environment Susan encountered in her mother’s formal Boston townhouse. Dad’s house seemed like more fun. Adventure lurked just beyond the front — or back— door.

Sadly, after 1970s, the sweeping ranch house (which could be in an L-shape or a U-shape) fell out of favor as two-story versions became more desirable.

“With the soaring cost of land, homebuilders largely have turned to two-story houses on smaller lots,” reporter Marilyn Kalfus recently wrote in the Orange County Register. “Spreading out in a single-story house became prohibitively pricey.”

Well, now that’s changing. The ranch house is back.

According to Wikipedia, “preservationist movements have begun in some ranch house neighborhoods, as well as renewed interest in the style from a younger generation who did not grow up in ranch-style houses.”

Alan Hess, an Irvine-based architect who’s written books on 20th-century home designs including “The Ranch House,” told the Register: “You see this cycle. Many types of buildings will be popular for a while, then go into decline, get torn down, then inevitably there is a return of interest. The ranch house is now on the upswing in that cycle.”

Ranch style or not, single-story homes tend to be most coveted anyway, say real estate agents, often sparking bidding wars. Just look at the most recent study on housing preferences released by the National Association of Home Builders. About two-thirds of homebuyers – 64 percent – would prefer a single-story home, with millennials at 35 percent, Gen Xers at 49 percent, baby boomers at 75 percent and seniors at 88 percent.

For me, the ranch house is part-nostalgic, part-traditional and part-modernist; the airy, open concept feels easy to adapt to our way of living today. It’s also quintessentially Californian. It sums up everything we’re about: casual, open, close to nature and, family-oriented — which Cliff May so often liked to point out, thanks to the early (Mexican) Californians and their legendary sense of hospitality. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at these beautiful single-story abodes currently offered by Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage up and down the state. Maybe you’ll want to snap one up before everyone else does this year. And if you miss out on one? Well, you just might wish you had a twin to switch places with…

14200 Calle Real
Goleta, CA 93117
$35,000,000 USD

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23341 Ostronic Drive
Woodland Hills, CA 91367
$3,450,000 USD

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3338 Alpine Rd
Portola Valley, CA 94028
$2,750,000 USD


721 Treehouse
Sacramento, CA 95864


5424 El Cielito

Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067
$2,695,000 USD



1880 Black Mountain Road
Hillsborough, CA 94010

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1274 Oak Grove Place

Westlake Village, CA 91362
$2,350,000 USD

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1644 Wilson Avenue

Arcadia, CA 91006
$1,988,000 USD

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