Even the window company can often be surprisingly unhelpful, suggesting generic, neutral windows that don't clash with your house's style yet don't enhance it, either. Just...something in the middle.
After all, your choice of windows is pretty much permanent; it's expensive and foolish to change out windows merely on stylistic grounds. They usually have to be failing for replacement.
So, be informed and make this decision wisely. First, let's pick apart the Ranch's style so that we can determine the right windows for it.
Elements of a Ranch-Style HouseWhile Ranch-style homes have many attributes, here are three major points:
- Horizontal: Ranch homes tend to be low and one-story, emphasizing horizontals.
- Natural Light: New technology in the 20th century meant that larger sheets of glass could be manufactured, bringing more natural light into the home. Multi-paned windows lost ground to large, plate-glass windows.
- Man-Made Materials: Steel and aluminum became popular. Wood windows were seen as a thing of the past.
The Type of Ranch House Windows You Don't WantBut 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.
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?
Additionally avoid: double- or single-hung windows; windows with unusual shapes like triangles, chords, circles, or partial circles; bay and bow windows; glass other than clear or tinted; grilles with vertical lines.
Ranch House Window IdeasSo what does that leave us with?
- 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 advantages is that, when closed, casement windows have the smooth, uncomplicated lines of a fixed window. It's almost like having fixed windows that open.
- Fixed Windows: No window has cleaner lines than a fixed window; thus, fixed windows were a mid-century modern favorite. Fixed windows aren't easy to find on window company websites. Instead, look for different terms, such as fixed or stationary transom or casement.
- 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.
- Horizontal Grilles: Sometimes it's impossible to avoid grilles. Horizontal grilles can actually enhance the look of a ranch-style home.
- Fiberglass, Composite, or Vinyl Materials: It's 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 what's the point of buying wood just to paint over it? Fiberglass, composite, and vinyl windows have the colors baked in.
ResourcesWindow companies are just now wising 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 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's Style Index does much the same thing, except it doesn't specifically provide for the Ranch style.
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.