Top 7 Window Ideas For a Ranch-Style House

Split Level Ranch Style House Mid-Century Modern
Split Level Ranch Style House Mid-Century Modern. Getty / H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock

Window companies are often clueless about appropriate windows for ranch-style homes. You may find a lot of surprisingly unhelpful advice, with the sales representative suggesting windows--such as a double-hung--that are inappropriate for the period.

If you begin by understanding the basic tenets of the ranch style home, you will understand which windows are right.

  1. Horizontal: Ranch homes tend to be low and one-story, emphasizing horizontals.
  2. Larger Glass For More Natural Light: Improved window manufacturing technology in the mid 20th century meant that larger sheets of glass could be created, bringing more natural light into the home. Multi-paned windows lost ground to large, plate-glass windows.
  3. Man-Made Materials: Steel and aluminum became popular. Wood windows were seen as archaic--a thing of the past.

6 Ranch House Window Ideas

  1. Fixed Windows: No window has cleaner lines than a fixed window; thus, fixed windows were a mid-century modern favorite. Fixed windows are not easy to find on window company websites. Instead, look for different terms, such as fixed or stationary transom or casement.
  2. Casement Windows: Today's casement windows are vastly superior to the casement windows of yore. I'm still not personally a fan of casements, but they do have their good points. One advantage is that, when closed, casement windows have the smooth, uncomplicated lines of a fixed window. It's almost like having fixed windows that open.
  3. Jalousie: Jalousie--or louver windows--do not work for all climates. Even when closed, they leak air like a sieve. But if you live in a warm climate such as South Florida, Southern California, or the Southwest U.S., jalousie windows are a perfect representation of windows that were widely used in the 1950s and 1960s.
  4. Awning Windows: Yes, awnings. Like casements, they are better than before and they present the look of a fixed window. Rather than opening to the side, they open upward.
  1. Horizontal Grilles: Sometimes it is impossible to avoid grilles. Horizontal grilles can actually enhance the look of a ranch-style home.
  2. Baked-In Solid ColorsThink in terms of fiberglass, composite, or vinyl: It is not so much about the strength or durability of these materials as their ability to take on any color you choose. Wood windows do not have the right "ranch look." True, wood windows can be painted, but why spend extra money for wood just to paint over it? Fiberglass, composite, and vinyl windows have the colors baked in.

7 Windows and Features To Avoid

  1. Authentic Period Windows: They sound good, but do you really want authentic, period ranch-house windows? Mid-Century homes often had windows with major problems. Even Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright's most iconic house and considered one progenitor of the Ranch style, has been reduced to begging for money to replace the glass of its failing metal-framed windows.
  2. Older Aluminum-Framed Windows: In few cases will you be able to--or want to--restore your original period windows. Those ubiquitous aluminum-framed windows, while stylish, were freezing in cold weather (metal is a famously great conductor of heat or cold). How about those awning-style windows that never seemed to close securely? Or period casement windows that rattled?
  3. Double- or single-hung windows.
  4. Windows with novelty shapes like triangles, chords, circles, or partial circles.
  5. Bay and bow windows.
  6. Glass other than clear or tinted.
  7. Grilles with vertical lines.

Manufacturers and Resources

Window companies have wised up to the fact that homeowners need to match windows to their house's style. Generally, it works the other way: windows are presented to you, and it's up to you to figure out if it matches your house.

  • Andersen: Andersen has added a Home Style Library for its A-Series (formerly, Architect Series) windows. This library gives you various styles--Tudor, French Eclectic, Spanish Colonial, Ranch, and six more--and suggests appropriate window types and colors.
  • Marvin: Marvin's Style Index does much the same thing, except it doesn't specifically provide for the Ranch style.
  • Period Builder Brochures: If you want to see what windows in a real, period-accurate Ranch house looked like, AntiqueHome.org has a number of builders' brochures from the 1950s and 1960s that show stylized views of these windows.