Today on our list: 8 ranch house plans inspired by Cliff May — available, like the others, from houseplans.com. Wow, those historic-minded folk at houseplans.com are working overtime, it seems. While these are not original Cliff May plans — they have been updated for current building codes — they are “Cliff May-inspired” — and that’s important because Cliff May is the father of the modern day ranch house — at least according to Pam’s research. So, just as we bow to Royal Barry Wills when we discuss mid century Cape Cod and colonial homes, we bow to Cliff May when we discuss ranch houses. So, its now very cool to have these 8 designs (with even more variations) working to faithfully to bring the May aesthetic to a whole new generation.
Once again, Daniel Gregory, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief, Houseplans.com and author of the book, Cliff May and the Modern Ranch House provided some background information on the characteristics of a typical May designed house:
Cliff May was not the only ranch house designer but he was the most influential, thanks to his gift for innovation, canny salesmanship, and flawless timing. He popularized a seductive — even glamorous — and yet very practical concept of California living. It combined the romance of history with an almost scientific approach to modern living. Among the features he perfected were the slab foundation, the sliding window wall, the vanity, and the ridge skylight.
He was most active during the boom years of the 1950s and 1960s. Cliff May personally designed more than 1,000 homes and commercial buildings, including the offices of Sunset Magazine (1951) and the headquarters of the Robert Mondavi Winery (1966).
In addition, more than 18,000 designs, including “Low-Cost” tract ranch houses, are attributed to his office. One such tract development — the Long Beach Ranchos in Southern California — is experiencing a renaissance thanks to the efforts of Cliff May enthusiasts and realtors Rochelle and Doug Kramer — their website is ranchostyle.com.
A typical Cliff May house is one story, no more than one room-wide, appears to hug the ground, and incorporates outdoor space with patios and terraces under broad overhangs. Walls are stucco or board-and batten or both; shallow gable roofs are tile or shake. Layouts often take the shape of an L or a splayed U. He compared a floor plan to a piece of rope that could be twisted around to suit the lot.
I have always been interested in ranch houses and as a writer and editor at Sunset magazine for many years I worked in the wonderful Menlo Park, California campus — really an over-scaled ranch house in a seven-acre garden — that Cliff May designed for Sunset with landscape architect Thomas Church. I often wrote about ranch houses, so it seemed natural to learn more about Cliff May. I also interviewed him for a symposium in honor of his 80th birthday.
We count 8 Cliff May inspired plans — and at least one comes in six variations of square footage and floor plans to fit any size or shape of lot:
Above: Plan #445-1 is a BASIC PLAN (Flexahouse) with five more variations below — all by architect Nick Noyes. This building block design is 2,254 sq. ft. and “I” shaped — making it great for narrow lots.
Above: Plan #445-2 is 2,618 sq. ft. and also “I” shaped — for those with narrow lots that want more square footage.
Above: Plan #445-3 is 2,405 sq. ft., “L” shaped and suitable for a wide lot.
Above: Plan #445-4 is also “L” shaped but larger — at 2,778 sq. ft.
Above: Plan #445-5 is “T” shaped, 2,338 sq. ft. and suitable for a medium sized lot.
Above: The final — Plan #445-6 — of this plan is also “T” shaped and suitable for a medium lot at 2,580 sq. ft.
Above: If you’re in the market to build for a large Cliff May inspired home — plan #48-433, this 5,884 sq. ft. plan is sure to amaze.
Above: This plan (#64-170) — charmingly referred to as the Azalea by designer Dan Tyree — is designed for a medium suburban lot.
Above: At 2,517 sq. ft., this plan (#64-172) is called Proximity — also by designer Dan Tyree. Its floor plan allows for cool breezes to pass all the way through the main part of the house.
Above: This May inspired house plan (#436-1) by designer Rick Faust focuses on space saving built-in details and sheltered outdoor patios.
Above: This 3,392 sq. ft. plan, “Rancho Blanco” by designer David Cox (#449-15) has several patios and a guest suite or studio with its own private bath.
There is one more Cliff May inspired house plan available on Houseplans.com — see my story on this plan here. We hear directly from the plan designer about the differences and similarities between his plan and an original Cliff May design. We also hear how Cliff May has continued to inspire this architect career.
Want to know more about the key features of “true ranch houses”? <– See this story Pam wrote a few years ago.