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Omaha Magazine

Ramble On: Classic Omaha Ranch Style

Jan 04, 2022 09:19AM ● By Leo Adam Biga
rembler red brick house

Photo by Sarah Lemke    

Nothing says post-World War II American residential architecture more than the rambler, or ranch-style home. Originating in the 1920s and inspired by working ranch houses, the home-build format caught on decades later with its low-slung, rectangular design emphasizing simple straight lines and open layouts. This premium of function over fancy—but not at the expense of form—made it an affordable fixture in the housing market explosion that accompanied the baby boom of the 1950s and continued into the 1970s. 

“The ranch house was a mass-produced, unadorned simple box that could be built inexpensively so that families of all economic levels could afford to have their own house, raise a family, and be a part of a neighborhood. The ranch became a symbol of sorts of the American dream,” said Omaha architect Jared Gerber. The ubiquitous style sprouted in small towns, suburbs, and the countryside.

Photo by Sarah Lemke

Considered passé by the 1980s, the ranch has been making a comeback since the dawn of the 2000s, Gerber noted, as homebuyers discover its “simplicity” makes “it easy to renovate, manipulate, and add an addition to.”  

Practicality drove Brian Carlin and wife Lauren to purchase their classic walk-out ranch in Omaha’s Loveland neighborhood in 2016. Drawn to the “equitable potential” of “a blank canvas we can work with to remodel,” Carlin said they’ve been updating the 1951-built home with a nod to period detail. “We’re barely scratching the surface at this point. It’s taken us years to just clear, restore the canvas. What we have, we don’t take for granted.” 

The wood-frame, single-story home sprawls across a 1.15-acre lot and spans 166 feet, corner to corner, making it one of the longest homes in the metro. Echoing the prairie style, the home blends in with its semi-wooded natural environs. The exterior features a sleek Roman brick facade. Copious windows, in varied shapes and sizes, afford natural light and privacy views.

“Awesome” is how Carlin, a real estate agent with Nebraska Realty, describes the effect.

In a regional adaptation (outside the Midwest, many ranches do not have below-ground square footage), the home has a finished basement with a footprint that matches the generous ground-level living space measuring 3,100 square feet, giving the couple and their three young children ample room to roam and grow. 

“It’s just massive,” Carlin said.

Photo by Sarah Lemke

There are six bedrooms—including two guest suites downstairs—and four full bathrooms, two half baths, three fireplaces, a built-in smokehouse, and an attached garage.  

  Basement exterior doors lead directly onto a large, paved patio. An in-ground pool is only a few yards away.

Stone planter boxes line the home’s exterior, while a black aluminum fence frames the property.

Carlin once thought of altering the big, long, low front eaves that shade from the sun but reconsidered. “To do anything different, like cantilever or peak [the roof], would not hold true to the architectural style.” The couple’s live-in project is a labor of love. “We’re both all about remodeling. We’ll do it with respect.”

An old addition’s faux beams—a feature not part of traditional ranches—are slated to go.

Photo by Sarah Lemke

The couple have already installed new electrical wiring and plumbing. Next up are window replacements and a kitchen redo. 

On the exterior, roofing and grading work has been done. Carlin rebuilt a shed and is now constructing an outdoor kitchenette. “I’m building it in the corner so it doesn’t obstruct the view. We just love living out here,” he said, referencing the landscape beyond his patio.

Gerber said it’s no surprise the ranch-style home, a former symbol of aspirational success, is popular again for the “quality living experience” it affords that McMansions can’t match. “The ranch is not about nostalgia. It’s about living simply and functionally in today’s hectic world.” 

It helps, too, Carlin said, when a ranch has the “personality” his displays.

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2022 issue of Omaha Home. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.