I Never Liked Ranch-Style Houses — But Now I Live in One (And Love It)

published Mar 6, 2023
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Although I grew up in Pennsylvania, I traveled to Virginia for college in 1990, where my experience centered around being on campus while occasionally leaving to explore the mall and patronize fast-food restaurants. However, it wasn’t until I graduated, got married, and started living an off-campus life that I truly fell in love with the state, which has gorgeous mountains, lovely waterways — and an overabundance of ranch-style homes.

In 1995, I landed my first job teaching upper-level science classes at a private school situated in a neighborhood brimming with ranch-style homes. I started to despise the sameness of the brick houses I drove past daily. In my young mind, a cookie-cutter design didn’t allow for freedom of expression, and single-level living was meant for the older set.

Fast forward to 2023, and at 50 years old, I now live in a ranch-style home. 

Although it wasn’t initially my choice, the timing was right for my husband and me to move to our current house. My parents had purchased the home over 15 years ago, intending to live there once they retired. It’s one-level living on a lake; there’s even a small cottage on the property. For years, they rented out the house and cottage to cover — and eventually pay off — the mortgage.

After my dad fell ill and passed away, my mom eventually decided to renovate the property in 2019. The house needed a few updates, and she invested heavily in restoring it because she planned to live in Virginia over the winters and spend her summers in Pennsylvania. Once the renovations were complete, she spent her first winter in the house.

At that time, my husband and I lived in a 1922 Craftsman-style home with tons of character. We loved so many things about the architecture of that house, but the longer we were there, the more we realized how many things needed our attention. So instead of filling our time with weekend DIY projects and renovations, we considered moving, which coincided with my mom rethinking her plan of wintering in Virginia. She’s in her 70s, and going back and forth was taking its toll.

In 2021, she presented my husband and me with the idea of purchasing the home. At first, it was a hard no for us. We had no desire to live in a different part of town, and I was not fond of the layout or appearance of the home. The siding is mint green, and at first glance, the house resembles a garage due to the carport entryway. However, my mom had a sentimental attachment since it was supposed to be her forever home with my dad. She didn’t quite push but rather heavily nudged us into moving there. In the end, of course, we did.

As we’re now in our 50s, living in a ranch-style home allows us to consider aging in place, which was my mom’s intent for herself. She had a walk-in shower installed in the main bathroom, and everything we need, including the laundry facilities and kitchen, is on the main level. It’s all very convenient, but that isn’t what changed my mind about living in a ranch.

After we moved in, it took over a year for it to feel like the place was ours. We visited my mom when she was in Virginia, so it initially felt like her house. Before we moved in, our daughter, her husband, and children lived there for a few months. Then we stored things for several family members as they navigated moving from state to state. But as other people’s belongings left and ours started to take residence, I began to fall in love with a house that was slowly becoming our home.

The character I thought it lacked came to the forefront as I looped the tendrils of my pothos plants around the ceiling beams and placed my vintage collections on the mantle above the stone fireplace. Although our cats enjoyed watching cars whiz by our old house, they started to meow to go out on the screen porch so they could keep an eye on the bird feeder and watch geese traverse the lake. Plus, the walls are starting to hold memories now that we’ve hosted our first set of holidays in the house.

My younger self would surely scoff at where I live now, but I’ve learned much since those early years. I guess, like any house, I enjoy living here because it finally feels like it’s ours, and everyone — both humane and feline — seems genuinely happy in our new corner of the world.