Ranch Style vs. Craftsman vs. Colonial

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Difference between Ranch Style, Craftsman and Colonial

Finally you are looking to build a new home or purchase a new one to accommodate your growing family, you will probably have given a thought as to what style you prefer. You will have your work cut out for you in this regard, as house styles are as varied and distinct as the people who live in them. The style of a house is reflective of the personality of the resident to some degree, whether he built it from scratch or bought into it. This comparison deals with some of the more popular house styles: Ranch style, Craftsman and Colonial.

Ranch Style

In Brief

Ranch Style is a simple home design that is also known as American Ranch, Western Ranch, or California Rambler styles. The Craftsman design ranges from bungalows to Prairie style houses, while Colonial houses are characterized by square, symmetrical shapes and medium pitched roofs.


The Ranch Style developed out of the need for quality affordable housing for the soldiers returning from World War II and their families. During this time, there was a variation of the Ranch style houses called Lustron Homes, and these basically followed the same design although they were made of metal. Shoddy construction and the use of cookie-cutter designs gave early Ranch style houses a less than favorable reputation. The Craftsman style house was developed in the 1880s by various English designers including John Ruskin, William Morris and Philip Webb as part of the Arts and Crafts Movement. This movement was inspired by handicrafts work and drew heavily on simple forms and natural materials. Colonial style houses were first adapted from houses that had survived from the middle ages. The first settlers later brought over these designs to America in the 1500s and early 1600s.


Ranch Style houses are typically characterized by a single story design coupled with a low-pitched roof. The eaves are traditional deep-set, and the entire structure tends to the horizontal. These houses also often feature large windows, and there may be a sliding glass door that leads into a patio. The general feel of the house is one of openness. The Craftsman house for its part often features sidings made out of wood, stone, or stucco, and a low-pitched roof as well. Most examples leave the roof rafters exposed, and there are often porch supports made out of stone. The interior is also usually quite open, with not much emphasis on hallways. As for the Colonial style house, many of them features steep roofs with side gables. There is often a lean-to addition to the house that comes with a saltbox roof. The eaves of the house are typically narrow, and there is often a large chimney in the middle. In some examples, the second story juts out over the lower floor slightly.


Ranch Style

  • Can be found almost everywhere in the United States
  • Often simple in design
  • Developed out of the post-World War II need it provide affordable housing for returning soldiers and families


  • Designs range from bungalows to Prairie houses
  • Influenced many American home designs
  • Introduced in the 1880s by various English designers including John Ruskin, William Morris, and Philip Webb
  • Inspired by handicrafts work
  • Utilizes simple shapes and natural materials


  • Characterized by a square, symmetrical shape with a medium pitch roof
  • Typically features a decorative crown on the front door
  • Often features five windows on the front of the upper level and four windows and a centered door on the lower level
  • Typically has two or 1½ stories

Which style of home is bi-level?
  • Ranch Style
  • Craftsman
  • Colonial

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