What is a Rambler House?

With the housing market currently focused on McMansions, large colonial-style homes, and Cape Cod designs, it can be hard to find a home that meets your personal specifications. 

If you want a house that feels bigger than it is, focuses on airy, open spaces for family and gatherings, and helps you save money on HVAC in hot climates: Find a rambler house. A rambler style house is an excellent choice for families looking to increase their space and save money on heating and cooling.

What is a Rambler or Ranch-Style House?

Rambler homes are large, single-story homes with a simple open-concept design originally created by San Diego architect Cliff Mays. But there is more to these homes than meets the eye. In the 1930s, an influx of California immigrants meant a spike in demand for affordable and easy-to-build homes for families.

Mays drew inspiration from his upbringing. His Mexican heritage and large family inspired a style of home designed to accommodate everyone’s needs: a combination of Mexican adobe haciendas and the ranch-style of the southwestern cattle ranches. By blending these two styles, he designed a home that was affordable to build, stayed cool in the hot climate of the west and southwest, and provided ample amounts of space for families.

As more developers built ranch houses with unique styles and features, demand increased. From World War II to the early 1970s, rambler style houses dominated the housing market across America. Although the design’s popularity briefly declined in the 1970s, many modern families are returning to this style today because it meets their needs: large open spaces and natural light.

When you look on the market for a rambler house, it’s essential you know it by another name — a ranch-style home. Although these houses are quite different from the original ranches, this name is an homage to one of its inspirations. Therefore, ramblers and ranch-style are synonymous in the housing market.

You can view our selection of rambler/ranch style house plans here.

Critical Elements of the Rambler Style

Rambler-style homes have several features that differentiate them from a standard home on your street. Some of the key elements to look for are sizeable street-facing facades, large windows around the house, low-gabled roofs, extended eaves, open floor plan, L or U-shaped orientations, garages, patio, and three to four bedrooms.

Generous Street-Facing Facade

One of the most recognizable features of the rambler home is the front facade. In the 1930s, many houses were taller and narrower than the ranch house because space was right and builders can accommodate narrower homes on smaller plots of land.

Among row houses, then, the rambler style home’s long, front facade was as much about making a statement as it was about creating an iconic house plan.


The front side of the home typically faces the street and is about double the depth of the house. For example, if a home is 30 feet deep, the front should be around 60 feet long. This length produces an enlarging effect on potential homebuyers and neighbors.

Sizeable Windows Around the House

Large windows and sliding glass doors found on the front facade and around the home’s exterior let in natural light. Since these homes originated for warmer climates, the windows take advantage of the sun and light the house. Additionally, sweeping windows are aesthetically appealing and make the home feel open and spacious.

Low-Gabled Roofs

Low-gabled or low-pitched roofs are a crucial element of the rambler-style home. Since these homes are quite expansive and cover a lot of square footage, the low roof reduces building costs and helps maintain cooler temperatures. 

However, these roofs are the exact reason why rambler homes are not ideal for colder climates. The low-gabled roofs will easily retain snow and ice, which could result in expensive damage and repairs over time.

Extended Eaves

Low-gabled roofs go hand-in-hand with extended eaves. Since the roofs are not quite as steep as a traditional roof, the eaves extend from the roof and create a shady overhang, blocking too much sunlight from entering the windows.


Overhanging eaves also provide extra protection if you’re located in a state with hot and sunny climates. The additional shade helps lower the temperature within the home and allows you to sit outside and enjoy the weather without the sun beating down on your face.

Open Floor Plan

Rambler-style homes feature large, open spaces in their floor plan, which is distinctly different from other homes built in the 1930s. 

Whereas traditional homes in the 1930s were closed and had many rooms and hallways, the rambler breaks down these walls to create an open space for gatherings and ventilation. With few load-bearing walls (most ramblers don’t have a second floor), the only walls necessary are for the bathrooms and bedrooms. 

This open-concept design makes the home feel more substantial than it is and helps with allowing cool air to flow throughout the house. However, such an open floor plan also minimizes the privacy one gets while at home, so if that’s a priority for you, consider using furniture and room partitions to strategically create more closed-in spaces.

L or U-Shaped

This unique shape is ideal for this type of home as it improves its accessibility and connection with the exteriors. Since rambler houses have many doors to the outside, an L or U-shaped home can feature one to three entries that give outdoor access.


Rambler homes usually sit on expansive pieces of property because developers build outward, not upward. This means you have plenty of outdoor space for a relaxing patio area. 

Additionally, the shape of the home helps create a friendly ambiance. L and U-shaped homes create a natural courtyard area. And with two to three sides protected by your home, you increase privacy while maintaining access to the yard from all parts of the house.


Since many ramblers are L or U-shaped, Cliff Mays and developers have since learned they can create more space with the addition of a garage. Garages help homes create privacy in the backyard and provide much-needed storage. Since rambler homes have open floor plans, you may not find an abundance of closets outside the bedrooms, so the garage provides much-needed storage space.



In addition to the floor plan, many homeowners building a rambler style house look for designs that incorporate a patio or outdoor area. Not only do these increase the value of the home, but they improve your lifestyle. There are many options available including wrap-around porches, decks, stone patios, a lanai, and a sunroom.

Three to Four Bedrooms

Generally, growing families opt for a rambler house style because it’s large enough to accommodate their needs. These homes have several bedrooms. And as your children grow and move out, you can repurpose a bedroom as office spaces, home gyms, or libraries. 

Different Types of Rambler or Ranch-Style Homes

The rambler house is a distinct style that stands apart from many other homes, but some variations meet different needs and styles. While these homes all have the previously mentioned essential elements, their structures will vary.

There are five main types of rambler homes:

  • 1. California Ranch
  • 2. Suburban Ranch
  • 3. Split-Level Ranch
  • 4. Raised Ranch
  • 5. Storybook Ranch

California Ranch

The California Ranch features the unique L or U-shape with the most original design and truest to Cliff Mays’s conception. It often has a courtyard as the central gathering place in the backyard.

Suburban Ranch

Much smaller in design than the original rambler, the suburban ranch was adapted from World War II. It stems from building homes that require less maintenance due to smaller size and more straightforward design.


Many homes do not have garages and sit on solid slabs on smaller properties.

Split-Level Ranch

These homes look similar to California ranches but offer a half staircase to get to the second level. Often built on a sloping lot, these ranch-style homes contain many of the same interior characteristics of the traditional rambler house with a slightly different look.

Raised Ranch

The raised ranch home has a staircase similar to split-level ranches, but the stairs can go in two directions. 


Often called a split-entry, when you enter the home from the front door, you have the option to go “upstairs” to the main living quarters or “downstairs” to the garage and storage units.

Storybook Ranch

The fancier of the five styles, the storybook ranch is more ornate and decorated. Upon the first glimpse, you may not recognize it as a rambler house until you notice the low-gabled roof, extended eaves, and open-concept design.

Is the Rambler Style Right for You?

When you consider the right home for you and your family, you must consider your immediate needs and how those needs will change in the future. To know whether or not the rambler style is right for you, consider these questions:

  • Do you like to entertain guests?
  • Do you have a large or growing family?
  • Do you want to spend time outdoors?
  • Do you live in a warm climate?
  • Do you have a substantial piece of property?
  • Do you like open-concept floor plans?
  • Do you prefer natural lighting to artificial lighting?

If you answered yes to these questions, the rambler house is the right choice for you. Additionally, consider these points:

  • Is your family growing? Buying a home with multiple bedrooms is perfect because it will expand with your needs.
  • Are your children moving out soon? If you expect your children to move out or go to college in the next two to four years, have a plan for all the empty bedrooms. Otherwise, you’re paying money for empty space.
  • How much property do you already own? While any size lot can fit a rambler home, these homes shine on large pieces of property. It is noticeable when they look squished between treelines or houses since their wide facade appears prominent from the street. If a scaled-down version of the rambler doesn’t fit your property, you may need to reconsider other house styles.
  • Do you experience severely cold weather? While most southern states experience freezing temperatures at some point during the winter, homes in the western and southern United States don’t have to worry about weeks and months of snow and ice buildup. If you live in a climate where you experience a lot of snow and ice, you need to address the roof of your house. Low-gabled roofs cannot handle heavy ice buildup, so you risk severe damage if you don’t take the necessary precautions.


Rambler homes are an excellent choice for growing families on large pieces of land. These homes feature beautiful street facades with large windows and gorgeous backyards that are perfect for entertaining guests and spending time with family.

Similarly, these homes come in various styles to meet your personal needs and the slope of your lot. You can design your home with a half staircase or split entry, which are perfect solutions for homes built on sloping lots.

Overall, there’s a reason the rambler home is still popular today even after nearly 100 years of existence — it consistently meets the needs of growing families, at an affordable price. If you need floor plan designs, contact Monster House Plans to start your designing process.

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