Historic mid century modern house plans for sale today

Note: This post on where to find buildable house plans from past decades has been updated Nov. 2018. It now includes where you can find Cliff May-inspired designs and a variety of another 84 different designs from back in the day.

Cliff May inspired house plans

These plans are not original Cliff May plans but “Cliff May inspired.” Due to building codes — May’s original plans can no longer be built without being altered to meet current code conditions. Cliff May is the father of the ranch house, just like Royal Barry Wills is credited with being the father of mid century Cape Cod and colonial homes.

According to Daniel Gregory, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief, Houseplans.com and author of the book, Cliff May and the Modern Ranch House, Cliff May:

  • Was the most influential ranch house designer due to his innovation, salesmanship, and flawless timing
  • Popularized glamorous yet practical California living concept — a scientific approach to modern living
  • Perfected the slab foundation, sliding window wall, the vanity, and the ridge skylight
  • Was most active during the 1950s and 1960s — boom years
  • Personally designed more than 1,000 homes and commercial buildings during his career
  • There are 18,000 designs, including “Low-Cost” tract ranch houses attributed to his architectural office — including the well known Long Beach Ranchos in Southern California — which is being revitalized with the help of Rochelle and Doug Kramer — Cliff May enthusiast real estate agents.

A typical Cliff May house:

  • One story
  • No more than one room-wide
  • Appears to hug the ground
  • Incorporates outdoor space with patios and terraces under broad overhangs
  • Stucco or board-and batten walls — even a combination of the two
  • Shallow gable tile or shake roofs
  • L or splayed U shaped layouts that conform to the shape of the lot

Cliff May inspired house plans you can still buy today:

There are several Cliff May inspired plans — one with six variations of square footage and floor plans designed to be able to fit on a multitude of lot shapes and sizes.


  • Cliff May inspired plan #1 — variation 1: Plan #445-1 — BASIC PLAN (Flexahouse) and variations — all by architect Nick Noyes.
    • Cliff May inspired plan #1 — variation 2Plan #445-2
    • Cliff May inspired plan #1 — variation 3Plan #445-3
    • Cliff May inspired plan #1 — variation 4: Plan #445-4
    • Cliff May inspired plan #1 — variation 5Plan #445-5
    • Cliff May inspired plan #1 — variation 6:  Plan #445-6


  • Cliff May inspired plan #7: Plan 544-1 by designer Steven Murphy.

Read our complete story — 8 Cliff may inspired ranch house plans from Houseplans.com

See our interview with the designer of Cliff May inspired plan 544-1, Steven Murphy — Cliff May ranch houses and their important architectural legacy

84 additional midcentury house plans you can still buy today

In 2018, I added this story: Do you want to build a midcentury modern or midcentury modest house from original plans? It is indeed possible: via the library of 84 original 1960s and 1970s house plans available at FamilyHomePlans.com aka The Garlinghouse Company. The 84 plans are in their Retro Home Plans Library here. Above: The 1,080 sq. ft. ranch house #95000 — golly — I think there were about a million of these — likely more — built back in the day. This little three-bedroom, two-bath house is about all anyone needs! Note, the company told me there is no date visible on the original plans. I think this design could date back to the 1950s.

Above: 1,565 sq. ft., three bedrooms, two baths

Above: An adorable 864 s.f., two-bedroom, one-bach vacation house. Or, just a small house!

There are a lot of vacation home plans in this retro house plan collection — probably because there is a larger market today for small vacation homes than for small full-time homes. I talked to the company about these retro house plans. They say they don’t sell a great many, because new-home-builders today want larger houses. 

Another amazing fact: Bobbie, who I talked with on the phone, says the company purchased all the original, vintage Garlinghouse house plans about 10 years ago. In fact, the official company name is The Garlinghouse Company. Garlinghouse was a biggie back in the day.  Again — it sounds like Family House Plans likely has many many more small, midcentury modest house plans in their archives — they just don’t have them listed online because Americans want their 2,700 sq. ft. houses — not 1,000 sq. ft. houses. Read more about Family House Plan’s Garlinghouse archive here.

Above: Having an open-air central courtyard is a hallmark feature of an original rancho. As in: ranch house. This house is 2,377 s.f. in size, with three bedrooms, 2.5 baths.

Above: 2,371 sq. ft., five bedrooms, 3.5 baths, and an awesome front courtyard.

Above: Super cool! 1970s, probably, when we had that horrible energy crisis. This 2,139 3/2 house has a so-called ‘green roof’ — there is 12″ of soil on top of the roof — and that’s grass on top — yes, you need to mow your roof! 

Above: Howdy hudee, I got to the plans for this split level house and recognized the interior layouts. It’s the house that my mom and dad had built for our family in Vista, Calif., around 1968 or 1969. The layout is super close to what I remember and my brother agrees. Yikes, that’s a serious blast from my past! 

Heck, there are a lot of houses to show. Want to see them all:

  1. Todd Last says:

    The plans seem to be no longer available on houseplans.com. Trying to find any of the eichlers came up with nothing.

    1. pam kueber says:

      Thanks – but note, the plans available from houseplans.com are really buildable — with detailed specs for the contractor and subs etc — w, whereas what you see in online catalogs are layouts.

      1. Tammy says:

        My dad is a builder. He has built houses from simply looking at pictures people tore out of a magazine. There are good contractors who have the skill to build without an actual blueprint.

    2. N Roth says:

      Mike Jackson, you just changed my life! This library of house catalogs will keep me busy for a long time to come. Thanks so much for the link!

  2. Joe Felice says:

    Oh, God, I can’t stand it! I want one so bad! I wish I could find a builder and a small piece of land, so I could have my very-own mid-century modest (well, OK, mid-century cheap) house! Two bedroom, one-bath, and a garage with a small yard is all I need. Is this too-much to ask?

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