Sin­gle Level Liv­ing

Ranch-style homes elim­i­nate the ups and downs of ev­ery­day life.

Log Home Living - - CONTENTS - Michael Grant is a pro­lific log, tim­ber and hy­brid home de­signer and the owner of Modern Rus­tic Homes in El­li­jay, Ge­or­gia.

Ranch-style homes elim­i­nate the ups and downs of ev­ery­day life.

The hum­ble ranch is mak­ing a come­back. The uni-level de­sign, in­tro­duced by Cal­i­for­nia ar­chi­tect Clif­ford May just af­ter World War II, quickly be­came the go-to style of the 1950s. It was partly due to the back­lash against the boxy houses of the day, but for the most part, the lay­out just made sense, es­pe­cially for the warmer cli­mates of the South­west U.S.

The ranch’s 21st cen­tury re­birth is hap­pen­ing for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons, al­beit with some push back. Over the past few decades we’ve grown to love our two, three or even four sto­ries of space to ac­com­mo­date ev­ery­thing from ex­er­cise rooms, mu­sic stu­dios, me­dia rooms, man caves, fem lounges, elite kitchens, home of­fices, but­ler pantries, in-law suites and, of course, stor­age. And we’re not just talk­ing clos­ets, but spe­cialty stor­age for sea­sonal dec­o­ra­tions and dish­ware as well as small ap­pli­ance pantries, sep­a­rate food pantries, wine cel­lars, tro­phy rooms and safe rooms. All of which take up space; all of which could be ac­com­mo­dated in a smaller foot­print when you stack the rooms on top of each other.

What land de­vel­op­ers re­al­ized is that you can build a lot more square footage on a smaller piece of prop­erty, in­creas­ing den­sity while re­duc­ing raw land and in­fras­truc­ture costs in the process. Thus, the

McMan­sion was cre­ated, and Amer­i­cans have re­sisted giv­ing it up.

That is, un­til now.

The re­al­ity of ag­ing can make multi-level liv­ing daunt­ing. Cou­ple that with the en­ergy re­quired to heat and cool large square footage over mul­ti­ple sto­ries, and we start to look for so­lu­tions to keep us from be­ing forced out of our homes as we grow older. Ranch-style homes fit the bill, and nu­mer­ous trends in to­day’s ranch de­signs have evolved as a re­sult. Here’s how:

Ranch foot­prints have ex­panded from the 1,200 to 1,800 square feet we had 50 years ago, to 2,500 to 3,500 or more to­day. Dis­tinct sep­a­ra­tion be­tween the kitchen, din­ing and liv­ing rooms are now “open con­cept” plans.

By re­mov­ing walls, we now rely on the ceil­ings to de­fine our spa­ces. This has cre­ated the trend for higher, vaulted spa­ces. Now, ceil­ings are typ­i­cally 10 feet tall or greater. The kitchen may have a flat ceil­ing and is ad­ja­cent to the great room with vaulted ceil­ings and heavy tim­ber rafters and beams. In gen­eral, more at­ten­tion is be­ing paid to mak­ing ceil­ings more in­ter­est­ing. Sin­gle-level liv­ing also means that spa­ces need to be flex­i­ble. The home of­fice can morph into a guest bed­room when needed. This is true for the hobby/craft room as well. Even laun­dry ar­eas are pulling dou­ble duty. We of­ten build in pet groom­ing fa­cil­i­ties in the laun­dry/mud room.

• Nat­u­ral light is now more im­por­tant (re­mem­ber as we age, we need more light), which de­mands larger win­dows and doors. • Large doors, even huge multi-panel doors, are in de­mand as we in­te­grate the in­te­rior space with ex­te­rior decks and pa­tios to ex­pand the liv­ing area. This blend­ing of in­door/out­door space is more pop­u­lar than ever. I rou­tinely in­stall 16- to 20-foot-wide fold­ing/pock­et­ing/slid­ing doors solely for this pur­pose.

• Home el­e­va­tors are be­ing in­te­grated more fre­quently. These have ac­tu­ally be­come quite pop­u­lar and are much more af­ford­able to­day than they were 10 years ago. Al­most all of the multi-story homes I de­sign to­day have an el­e­va­tor shaft de­signed into the space, so it can be fit­ted with a lift if/when it be­comes nec­es­sary.

• Along with a main-level mas­ter suite, we are see­ing what I call the “ju­nior mas­ter.” Many of us have had to care for an el­derly fam­ily mem­ber in which they needed sin­gle-level liv­ing, also. This is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent from the ex­tra bed­rooms and bath­rooms typ­i­cal to home de­sign. The ju­nior mas­ter should func­tion as an in­de­pen­dent suite, with a sit­ting area, larger clos­ets and an ADA-com­pli­ant bath­room.

• “Right siz­ing” the house means we de­sign a home that is nei­ther too big nor too small. This re­quires that we be very hon­est with our­selves as to what’s im­por­tant in our lives; how we will live in our home now and in the fu­ture; and what pos­ses­sions we keep, as well as what we are will­ing to main­tain, through­out our time in the house.

So the ranch is be­ing re-in­vented to al­low for the con­ve­nience and ac­ces­si­bil­ity of sin­gle-level liv­ing. With the preva­lence of well-de­signed, open-con­cept plans and more ef­fi­cient in­su­la­tion and the re­moval of tricky stairs, the ranch is a smart so­lu­tion for peo­ple in all phases of life.

Gone are the dull, shap­less ranch de­signs of the 1950s. The long, low pro­file of a ranch style log home is in great de­mand, thanks to cre­ative de­sign and su­perb func­tion­al­ity.

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