How to Add Onto a Ranch: Four Ways

Just before the holidays I got involved in a fun and fast design project.  My clients are a young couple is purchasing their first home.  Its a dated but sturdy ranch with an awkward layout on a wonderful site.  They want to include a remodel in their financing plan and quickly enact a bunch of updates before they move in.

Here’s the existing house.


The goal: add a little square footage and a lot of functionality to the house.  They want:

  • a master suite with two kids rooms on the same floor
  • a more modern open relationship between the kitchen and the living areas
  • a generous deck
  • and a better view of their great backyard which opens onto a park, currently obscured by two bedrooms.

Their major problem: too many possibilities and too little time.  Since they had committed to a fairly major overhaul they had a lot of options.  They are combining their home loan and  needed to weigh the design value vs cost of construction as compared to the potential increased appraised value.  That makes for a lot of variables.

My aim was to help them come up with options that satisfied all their practical needs and would also be a livable lovable home for the long haul.  I brainstormed a lot of possibilities and eventually boiled it down to four different strategies: go UP, go BACK, WRAP around or add a SPLIT level.

The “UP” Scheme


Adding a floor to an existing house is one of the boldest moves to make in a remodel.  It’s useful when you need to really boost your square footage, when the lot area is limited or where there’s a great view to reach for.

The advantage for this project was that it gave us an opportunity to re-frame the street front – which is pretty banal and garage-dominated.  Even using only part of the footprint for the upstairs (there’s a roofed area over the backyard living room) it still made for a lot of square footage. I’m not a big fan of bigger is better but this one did have a sweet cottage-y roofline going for it.

Read more details about this strategy here.

The “Back” Scheme

With this layout we not only added length to the back of the house – reaching out to the park behind – but reconfigured the bedrooms radically.  I proposed flipping the public/private space so that the new master suite was oriented to the front in order to give the living room prime real estate to the back.  The central kitchen orients out to the deck and a new compact mud space connects to the garage which was disconnected before.

Read more details about this strategy here.

The “Wrap” Scheme

This scheme pushes slightly back and also spreads out behind the garage in order to allow both the living area and the master bedroom a view of the back yard.  Kids bedrooms are arranged off a small entry sitting area and the stairs connecting to the den wrap around a small dining nook and connect to a mud room a few steps down (at garage grade), before flowing naturally into the downstairs den.

Read more details about this strategy here.

The “Split” Scheme

This one was the boldest move – making a split level out of a two story.  Locating a living/den below the kitchen area brought the hang out space closer to the back yard walk out.  It also allowed for the master bedroom to have view access to the back yard and for a small shared bathroom for the kids rooms to be nearly jack-and-jill style off their shared hallway.

Read more details about this strategy here.

From these we were able to reduce it to two, workshop those until they were at their fighting weight and eventually choose their ultimate design.  Stay tuned!

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