Love it or hate it, you can’t escape it: the Ranch.
By far the most abundant architectural style among Silicon Valley homes is the ranch. A recent resurgence in interest in this unique and pervasive house design suggest it is regaining popularity, and there are plenty of reasons to love it! Here we’ll take a peek at the history, how to identify, and the function behind the ranch design. Ready to meet America’s dream home?
by the National Plan Service, Inc (1956) on Archive.org – Click to see
Back on the Ranch: A Brief History
In the early 1930s, San Diego designer Cliff May took the architectural world by storm with his spin on the Spanish colonial revival home. Inspired by adobe ranchos and modern design with an emphasis on comfortable California living, May developed this unique style. This soon evolved into the quintessential California ranch style.
It’s no surprise that the ranch has come to be known as a suburban style. Its popularity was widespread during the booming post-war years through the 1970s, peaking in the 1950s with ranch homes accounting for as many as 9 out of 10 new homes! (Witold Rybczynski, p 207)
Having saturated the market for decades, and with buyers wanting bigger homes, the market shifted away from building the sprawling single-story ranch in the later decades of the 20th century. Still the design retained popularity in the resale market. With more ranch homes celebrating their golden jubilee (some of the earliest are approaching 90) and some gaining historic designations there has been a renewed interest in ranch architecture over the last decade or so.
“Today, almost any house that provides for an informal type of living and is not definitely marked by unmistakable style symbols is called a ranch house.” (Sunset Western Ranch Houses (1946), IX – 1946).
Great room with vaulted ceiling and foam insulation between roof and ceiling.
Do you love vaulted or open beam ceilings? Whether it’s one room (as we find with a lot of the cathedral ceilings and George Day build houses in Saratoga) or the entire house (which we see in many of the mid-century modern or Eichler houses throughout Silicon Valley), the looks of vaulted ceilings just says “home” to many people. I grew up with wood, open beamed living rooms and family rooms and understand the appeal.
For most ranch style houses here in Silicon Valley, there’s an attic between the finished ceiling in any given room of the house and the roof. In that attic, usually there’s some sort of insulation. With newer construction, it tends to be thicker, making the house below more comfortable in both summer and winter.
Many of the mid-century modern style houses, and some others, find the open beams are pretty much directly below the roof. There’s no attic. Perhaps it was not deemed necessary in our sub-tropical climate when they were built. Less insulation means there’s less to protect you from nature’s hot summers and cold winters.
In some cases, though, there is foam insulation between the roof and the ceiling. That isn’t visible. You may get a hint that it’s there if you look from the outside and do not see vents in this area under the roof. It’s an upgrade over standard insulation, and one you’ll be thankful to have.
Many mid-century modern home owners have opted to install foam roofing when it’s time to re-roof. These foam roofs also offer insulation that helps keep the house comfortable year round.
If you are a home owner, it’s a good idea to get inspections done periodically (even if you aren’t planning to sell) so that you can learn what needs attention before a situation worsens. Roofs tend to need “tune up” work every few years to keep it leak free and prevent future problems. Termites come back. Safety codes change over time. If your house or townhouse features a vaulted or open beam ceiling, talk to your inspectors to learn about the insulation present and discuss if any changes are needed to keep your power bills lower and your comfort higher.
Asbestos in homes
Need to Sell Your Silicon Valley Home?
Almaden Meadows neighborhood
While most of Santa Clara County (and Silicon Valley too) is filled with ranch style homes, there’s more to the South Bay than the typical rambler. Some areas, such as Los Gatos, Willow Glen, and Palo Alto, seem to be a magnet for diverse types of architecture. Our local multiple listing service, MLSListings.com, includes the following categories for these varied types of homes. It’s not a perfect list, of course, as several of them have a few sub types (think Spanish and Victorian especially). Perhaps rather than Eichler, which is a prominently known mid-century modern home, the category should have been the broader mid-century modern, since there are many which are similar but cannot be attributed to Eichler in particular. In any event, here’s the list:
Today I was wondering which of these types is “in style”, making them sell faster? (more…)
Mid-century modern homes, including those designed by Joseph Eichler, dot the Silicon Valley & South Bay Area real estate landscape. There are probably more than 5,000 Eichlers in Santa Clara County altogether, plus all the other homes of that genre with the similar modern style, which was influenced by the ranch and prarie styles as well as the dramatic work by Frank Lloyd Wright (open beam ceilings, nearly flat roofs, lots of exposed wood & glass windows stretching from the floor to the ceiling). Eichlers, especially, put a premium on privacy from the street but open to the outdoors otherwise.
Not every community in Santa Clara County has Eichler homes, but most have the mid-century modern style homes & neighborhoods. These homes vary from tiny, modest cottages of 1100 square feet to large & elegant houses of nearly 3,000 square feet, featuring big, central atriums or courtyards. (There are also some co-ops in the valley too.) The quality varies, as the homes were constructed by several different builders with different home buying budgets in mind. Real estate prices range from “entry level” to very expensive, depending on the location (city and schools), size of the home & lot, and condition of the property. Most of them are now about 50 years old, though some are a little younger.
Some of the West Side Silicon Valley Communities which feature Eichler and Mid Century Modern Homes
In Los Gatos there are no Eichlers but there are a small handful of single family homes which are mid-century modern on Eastridge Drive (just off Blossom Hill Road and Hillbrook). There are a couple more at the end of Magnuson Terrace (off Magnuson Loop and Los Gatos Blvd). Additionally, there are some smaller mid-50s homes on El Gato (and adjacent portions of Escobar) off of Los Gatos-Almaden Road. Unfortunately, not all of these homes are “well kept”, though many are.
Monte Sereno is home to 16 Eichler designed houses on Via Sereno beginning at the intersection of Winchester Blvd with Via Sereno. These houses were built in the late 60s to early 70s.