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Elements from Las Flores ranch house can be seen right up to his very last custom designed homes. Though it may appear in the mid fifties he diverged from these ideas with his mass produced ranch homes, May carried with him the memories of living at Las Flores his entire career. Easily recognizeable signature elements of Las Flores are revealed in the undulation of plaster simulating adobe and thick walls, the impression of the home expanding over time as the family grew, the principle of the saguán or breezeway, heavy timbered ceilings, and window grilles, and in the addition of board and batten sections. His early homes came in two versions: the Hacienda and the Ranchería. These are recognized most readily by tile roofs on haciendas and wood shingle roofs on the Rancherías. Rancherías also included board and batten sections and lighter roof beams and porch columns. It was this house, the Ranchería, that became known as the American ranch house.


Another significant discovery was of May’s preferred plant palette. These were the mission olive and California pepper trees as well as the prickly pear cactus, cordyline, flax, climbing roses, bougainvillea, grapes, bananas, and a profuse use of brightly colored flowers such as red and orange geraniums, and yellow and orange marigolds. He carefully chose plants whose shadows would show well against the exterior white plastered walls, plants that were architectural in themselves.


May considered himself a designer builder for his entire career. However, he did become a licensed architect one year before his death.


Cliff May left an outstanding architectural legacy that sprang literally from the California soil on which his first houses were erected and, in doing so, created a uniquely American house that captured the needs, aspirations and imagination of a growing nation.


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