The Raised-ranch Concept

By: Brian Talley

Raised-Ranch homes were created for comfort, and were very popular with families in the 1960s and 70s. Also known as the "split-level" design, this building form catered to a wide variety of lifestyles, and has been modified in several different directions over the years. Raised-Ranch homes are not as common in ordinary neighborhoods today because many people see them as unattractive, and difficult to remodel, but many custom homes in high-end neighborhoods still utilize the Raised-Ranch concept because it promotes quality of life so nicely.

Raised-Ranch homes were a natural progression of the original Ranch movement, which emphasized single story designs and functionality. The period between the 1930s and early 60s saw a wave of Ranch homes spread across American suburbs and cities, quickly filling up huge stretches of undeveloped land. As families looked for larger homes and land became more scarce, Raised-Ranch designs provided a sensible solution. Instead of occupying one flat level on a large footprint of land, Raised-Ranchers were usually comprised of three or even four levels, and made great use of space. A typical raised ranch home started with a partially submerged bottom floor, a large ground level main floor, and a third floor which usually covered just more than half of the building's footprint. Some homes also included a basement directly underneath the second floor, to provide a four floor concept. The resulting layout usually required a zigzag staircase that switched back from one floor to the next.

Many architects say the Raised-Ranch design is the most dynamic home form out there. The switchback layout keeps every floor connected visually, and requires less movement from one level to the next. It also allows for a wide variety of unique spatial arrangements and living styles. For example, split level designs have proven equally useful to families and retail shops hoping to promote ease of movement.

The Raised-Ranch style also has its share of critics, especially in discussions about the exterior of these homes. It's true that outward appearance was often forgotten in the design of many Raised-Ranchers, which emphasized quality of life and functionality above all else. As a result, many Raised-Ranch homes have an unfinished, compound-like appearance, and look better shrouded in trees or shrubbery. Homes in this style are also often derided for their entrance layout, which may feature a small area for shoes and two staircases leading in opposite directions - instead of walking into an open foyer, entrants to the house must first find their way out of the stairwell.

While it isn't always perfect, the Raised-Ranch style does offer functionality unlike any other type of home. The best way to know if a Raised-Ranch home is for you is to walk around inside and imagine yourself living there.

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