While it is true that Cliff May floor plans are all very similar to each other, there are some differences between the different tracts, years of construction, and sizes. Being able to recognize different models and knowing where each appear is a big help when viewing the different homes that are for sale. In Southern California, nearly all of the Cliff May homes prefabricated homes are L-shaped 3 or 4 bedroom models, but in other locales, there were 2 bedroom homes that were just simple boxes.
Perhaps the most striking feature of the Cliff May home floor plans is that there is a purpose and a reason for everything. Nothing is by chance. The L-shape, with the master bedroom located in the short leg, naturally creates a courtyard, the centerpiece of Cliff May home just as the atrium often forms the centerpiece of an Eichler home.
Nearly all of Southern California’s Cliff May homes were built between 1953 and 1955. While today it is commonplace, a master bedroom suite, with an attached bathroom, was a very progressive feature for the early 1950s. Even more unique was the fact that they master bathroom and secondary bathroom were not located next to each other, which is what most builders did to save money on plumbing.
Cliff May actually treated his floor plans and home designs a lot more like cars than homes. Each model year, there were improvements and adjustments made based on the feedback of the previous year. We’ve been able to obtain some original floorplan sheets from the 1955 models, so they are slightly different than the more common 1953 and 1954 models built in Southern California.
Each developer could pick which plans they wanted in their development based on lot sizes and expected demographics. Some Cliff May floor plans were very popular, appearing in almost every single tract. A good example is the model 3212. These plan appears in the Ranchos of Long Beach, Tustin, Garden Grove, and many one-off homes as well. Also, the model 4212 appears in most neighborhoods as well, a 4 bedroom variation. However, there are some rarer models too. The smaller lot sizes in Long Beach lent themselves to the model 3211, basically a 3212 but with one panel shorter than the 3212. To the best of our knowledge, the Ranchos in Long Beach is the only tract where this model appears in numbers.
Even rarer is the model 3215. This plan is located within the Tustin community, but not seen elsewhere. It deviates the most with an extra large kitchen spanning the width of the house and a living room considerably larger, often flanked by a long wall of windows. Most fascinating, though, is the indoor-outdoor planter which starts inside and continues outside forming an arc.
Because of the unique post and beam structure of Cliff May homes, the walls themselves are not load-bearing. This means that window and door locations could be modified. So while the floor plans could be similar, by changing the orientation of the house, the windows, and the location of the front door — the very same walls could have have completely different feel. In a lot of ways, this is part of the “magic” of the Cliff May designs. Also, there were some unique details adopted by different developers. In the Ranchos in Long Beach, this expressed in a “Lanai” model whereby one of the garage stalls is left as covered open space bordering the courtyard.