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15 Must-Haves for Ranch Home Design

15 Must Haves

It didn’t matter what I ‘googled’, I could not find any useful information on what a rancher should include in a new home design. I tried googling everything- rancher home designs, must have home design for ranchers, farmer home design, home plans for acreages, home plans for a farm, and the list goes on and on and on. The majority of home designs seemed to be completely ignoring the fact that a 2 x 2 ft porch entering into a grand living room with white carpets would be completely impractical for 7 pairs of mud-caked winter boots and corresponding smelly overalls!

Building a brand new house is exciting! And hard. My husband and I recently decided to move home from our jobs in the city to expand our ranch and aid in the succession of the family farm. We saved our pennies, plotted out a nice bald spot on the prairie and made the big decision to build. Sounds fabulous, doesn’t it? And it was- until I realized that I am responsible for every single little tiny detail of the home I will live in for the next 50 years and raise a family in! So I set out on a mission to build the ultimate ranchers home design list. I searched Twitter, Facebook and bugged all my fellow rancher friends. While these suggestions are often related to our cold, long Alberta winters, there are many ideas that could be revamped for southerners.

In my opinion, these were the top 15 suggestions:

  1. BIG Porch. And I mean big enough to house one or two cold, wet calves (or a dog and her puppies, cold goats or lambs, etc.) for a quick warm-up. Make sure that porch has water proof floors such as tile or linoleum so that you can throw a bucket of bleach onto for easy clean up afterwards. Don’t forget to include a BIG closet in your BIG porch for all your work clothes, boots and supplies.
  2. Porch Boot Wash. One ranch family had a hose built right into their porch so they could literally wash off muddy boots and have the water run into a porch drain. If doing this, you may want to consider tile or cement flooring that continues 6 inches up the wall to keep your drywall safe.
  3. Closet Organization. If you don’t have an area in your barn you may want to keep all of your vet supplies in that big beautiful porch. Organization, here, is key. My grandparents were ranchers and they had a huge built-in wall unit in their porch with room for everything from boots and winter clothes, to tags, vaccine guns, hoses, chains and boxes upon boxes of vet supplies- but no one ever knew because it was organized and hidden so well!
  4. Porch Door. A wise rancher’s wife told me that the big porch is great but the door between the porch and the rest of the house is even more important. This will keep the smells of that newborn calf or your dirty boots and clothes out of your living areas.
  5. Porch Bathroom. I heard this one over and over! A bathroom off the porch eliminates traffic with wet boots and muddy coveralls from tracking through your house. Another great suggestion was including a full bathtub in this bathroom. That way if those really cold creatures need a fast warm up (or a fevered creature needs a cool down!) you can run water over them. I’ve done this a time or two to my poor mother-in-law’s bathtub!
  6. Main Floor Laundry. If you can put it next to that big porch and bathroom, even better. A ranch wife is a busy wife and laundry gets done faster when it’s on the main floor (or so they tell me!). Plus, should you need to strip those muddy clothes off your rancher they can go straight to the laundry room. Ensure you have a door that can quickly hide your messy laundry room should company stop by.
  7. Double Laundry. If you are lucky enough, have two separate sets of laundry machines. My dream would be to have one set in the house for every day laundry with another set in the garage, shop or barn for greasy work clothes, hairy horse blankets and all other sorts of soiled garments. But the NUMBER ONE reason I want a second laundry set is because of a fabulous trick my mother taught me; in a top loading washing machine (not front loading) place a towel in the bottom of the drum, insert your dirty veggies straight from the garden (carrots, potatoes, beets, beans, etc) and put the cycle on a gentle rinse. The rubbing action of the towel against the veggies leaves them sparkling clean with no mess or fuss!!

Having two laundry sets may sound expensive but you can often find very affordable (or free!) mismatched, older machines online or at garage sales. Save your nice set for the house.

  1. Drug Fridge. Now that sounds funny- unless you’re a rancher. I am guilty of keeping all my cow drugs and vaccines that require refrigeration on the side door of my every day food fridge. While it does work and I know many ranchers that do it, it is good practice to keep drugs out of contact with your food, even if they are sealed. A mini fridge in that spectacular porch, your garage or even your barn will do the trick. Remember to include a convenient plug-in at the location you hope to have your fridge. A lock isn’t a bad idea either, especially if you have little ones around.
  2. Most new homes have pantries these days, but until you’ve lived in a house without one (like me!) you don’t know how great they really are! And if you live far from town or like to preserve, a big pantry will be a life saver. One rancher friend of mine even made hers big enough to put a full freezer inside! On that same note, if you are a gardener and like to keep fresh veggies throughout the winter, consider making a cold storage room or root cellar in your basement.
  3. BIG Ovens. If you are considering a new oven, perhaps go a bit bigger than you would normally use. You will be so happy you did when it comes to cooking for 75 hungry cowboys at branding, hosting holiday dinners or having the neighbours over after a successful haying season.
  4. Hidden Garbage & Recycling bins. This one isn’t rancher specific but I do love the idea. You can ask your cabinet maker to put two large cabinets on sliders or that tilt outwards. This way you can use one for garbage and one for recycling without having the smell or eye-sore! If you have animals that eat scraps, such as pigs or goats, consider adding a spot for your slop bucket.
  5. Think About That Sink. This is an important feature for a ranch wife. You will likely spend hours upon hours at your kitchen sink, whether it’s preparing dinners, chopping veggies from the garden for preservation or washing dishes. Ultimately, I think two kitchen sinks would be the best. I plan to have one kitchen sink under a large window, facing in the direction of our yard. This way I can see what the kidlets are doing on the front lawn or what my rancher is doing in his shop. The other sink I plan to incorporate is in our kitchen island, facing the interior of the room. This would allow me to be engaged with visitors without having my back to them, all while still doing kitchen prep. Our last home had a sink and chopping block facing a wall with no windows. I nearly went crazy every fall chopping veggies for days on end. A view is a MUST in my opinion!
  6. Kitchen Island. If you have the space, a kitchen island will go a long way to help. Not only do you have extra counter space for meal prep but you’ll have an area where cowboys can dish up buffet style or more seating for company. Consider having your builder incorporate wheels so you can move the island depending on your needs.
  7. Hot/ Cold Outdoor Taps. This is one I never would have thought of! A friend recommended warm water taps on the outside of your house. As she put it: ‘perfect for washing off kids, critters, husbands and melting ice in watering buckets’. I LOVE IT!
  8. Outlets, Outlets, Outlets. This isn’t just for ranch wives but I have been told by everyone that has ever built a home- the more electrical outlets the better! Don’t forget to include outlets in your porch, kitchen island and in multiple spots around your countertops. Crock pots are a ranch wife’s best friend. Don’t hesitate to put extra outlets in your laundry room or pantry, too. My mom always has two or three crock pots going on her laundry counter top during big gatherings. It keeps the kitchen less cluttered for mingling. Also, if you plan on using cow cams or security systems ensure you have outlets where you will keep your monitor. Think about outdoor electrical outlets as well, such as near your eaves troughs for Christmas lights, on your porch or in your garage for a heat lamp or an electric dog bed, lights above your barbeque, a switch in your home for your yard light, etc.

I must extend my appreciation to my many friends that helped me compile these wonderful ideas. While this list is getting me started on my home build wish list, I would love to hear your ideas, successes or failures with your ranch home. After all, home is where your heart is and it takes a lot of heart to be a rancher’s wife!

Any of these things you enjoy in your own home? Wish you had? Anything to add to the list? 

Jesse Williams

About Jesse Williams

Jesse is a Research Agronomist with a passion for agriculture that runs deep into her childhood. Growing up in Southern Alberta as an avid 4-Her with a love for animals, she met her now drilling engineer husband, Clay, in high school. After completing their degrees, the two married in 2011 on Jesse’s parents’ ranch and now reside in Hanna, AB, Canada. Jesse and Clay are currently working on building their commercial cow/calf operation, as well as selling high quality red bred replacement heifers. When not at the office or in the corral, Jesse spends her time quilting, gardening and raising their pups. If you have questions about being married to a rancher (or the oil patch!), being thrown into a HUGE family of in-laws or about balancing a more than hectic schedule on and off the farm, just ask Jesse!

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  • Tana Berwick
    Tana Berwick December 2, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    What a great and practical list! We are in (slow) process of getting new house, and several points on your list are on my demand list, several on wish list! When we remodeled our current trailer, I had them take the carpet (yuck) out of the porch and put linoleum all the way through to the back bathroom. Easy cleanup. Also have a big utility sink in that bathroom, as there is no sinks in the shop or garage, so I knew what kinds of things would end up in that sink!

  • Kacey April 11, 2016 at 8:33 am

    I just found your blog, and I LOVE this article. I found myself saying “Yes!” To every number. I am sharing on my blog’s fb page!! Thank you :)