Architectural Style Guide
American Colonial Styles (1600s-1800)
As European settlers colonized North America, they brought builing traditions from their home countries. British, French, Spanish, Dutch, and other European styles were adapted to relate to the varied regional landscapes and climates as well as locally available building materials. These homes were often simple and utilitarian, but their uniquely American styling has served for centuries, and continues to serve today, as inspiration for American homes.
New England Colonial
These homes were typically simple timber-frame houses like the ones they had built in their home country.
Identifying features: Steep roof with side gables, lean-to addition with saltbox roof, narrow eaves, large chimney at the center, two stories, in some cases, the second story slightly protrudes over the lower floor, wood framed with clapboard or shingles, small casement windows, some with diamond-shaped panes, little exterior ornamentation.
Colonial Cape Cod
The Cape Cod house style originated in colonial New England.
Identifying features: Steep roof with side gables, small roof overhang, 1 or 1 1/2 stories, made of wood covered in wide clapboard or shingles, large central chimney linked to fireplace in each room, symmetrical appearance with door in center, dormers for space, light, and ventilation, multi-paned, double-hung windows, shutters, formal center-hall floor plan, hardwood floors, little exterior ornamentation.
Typically located in the American South, Southwest and California.
Identifying features: One story, flat roof or flat roof with a low pitch, earth, thatch or clay tile roof covering, thick walls made with rocks, coquina, or adobe brick coated with stucco, several exterior doors, small windows, originally without glass, wooden or wrought iron bars across the windows, interior shutters.
This American style originated in homes built by German or "Deutsch" settlers in Pennsylvania as early as the 1600s.
Identifying features: A broad gambrel roof with flaring eaves that extend over the porches, creating a barn-like affect, the chimney is usually located on one or both ends, dormers with shed-like overhangs, and a central doorway are also common.
Identifying features: Square, symmetrical shape, paneled front door at center, decorative crown over front door, flattened columns on each side of door, five windows across front, paired chimneys, medium pitched roof, minimal roof overhang.
Neoclassical House Styles (1780-1860)
Neoclassical, meaning "New Classical," architecture describes builings inspired by the classical architecture of ancient Greece and Rome. While the term Neoclassical is often used to descibe an architectural style, it is not any one distinct style. Neoclassicism is a mode or theory of deisgn that relates to several distinctly different styles.
Federal Style (1780-1955)
Similar to the Georgian Colonial Style, but Federal architecture is more likely to have curved lines and more graceful decorative flourishes.
Identifying features: Fanlight over door (almost always rounded, rarely squared), sidelights, Classical/ Greek detailing of entryway, Palladian windows, balustrades, symmetrical. Windows: double-hung sash windows for first time.
Greek Revival (1825-1860)
Gained popularity as Americans associated ancient Greece with the spirit of democracy. Colonnaded Greek revival mansions are sometimes referred to as Southern Colonial houses.
Identifying features: Gable or hipped, low-pitch roof, dentil cornice emphasized with wide band of trim (cornice represents classical entablature—cornice, frieze, architrave), porches (square or rounded columns—usually Doric), first style to use gable-front floor plan (gable end facing the street, representing Greek temple), temple-front entryway with entry door surrounded by rectangular transom and sidelights (never rounded like federal).
Victorian House Styles (1840-1900)
A "Victorian" is a house constructed during the Victorian era, a time when industrialization brought new building materials and techniques, resulting in rapid changes in architecture. While there are a variety of Victorian Styles, perhaps the style most associated with the term "Victorian" is Queen Anne, the most elaborate of the Victorian Styles.
These homes did not try to replicate authentic Gothic Styles, but instead, were romantic adaptions of medieval architecture.
Identifying features: Steeply pitched roof, cross-gabled, decorated vergeboards; pointed-arch windows, sometimes stained glass. Gothic window above entry, one-story porch with flattened, Gothic arches. The first appearance of picturesque (asymmetrical and unpredictable) floor plan, indicating the rise of the Romantic Era in America.
One of the most popular Victorian housing styles, also known as Tuscan or the “bracketed” style.
Identifying features: Two or three stories, rarely one story; low-pitched roof, widely overhanging eaves; large decorative brackets beneath eaves; tall, narrow windows, commonly arched or curved above; some with square cupola or tower, elaborate wrap-around porch (or smaller entry porch) with decorative Italianate double columns and other details.
French Second Empire (1855-1885)
A style similar to Italianate, but the distinctive characteristic of the Second Empire style is the signature mansard roof.
Identifying features: Basically Italianate style/forms with Mansard roof. Dormer windows, sometimes a square (not round) tower, decorative brackets, molded cornice, similar to Italianate detail on windows, doors.
Stick Style (1860-1890)
A short-lived fashion with an emphasis on patterns and lines on the exterior wall surfaces. This austere style could not compete with the more ornate Queen Anne homes that became wildly popular.
Identifying features: Rectangular shape, wood siding, steep, gabled roof, overhanging eaves, ornamental trusses (gable braces), decorative braces and brackets, decorative half-timbering.
Shingle Style (1874-1910)
These picturesque homes with rambling, informal floor plans are most identifiable by their shingle siding, but this complicated style also borrow details from Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Tudor, Gothic, and Stick style.
Identifying features: Continuous wood shingles on siding and roof, irregular roof line, cross gables, eaves on several levels, porches, asymmetrical floor plan. May also have wavy wall surface, patterned shingles, squat half-towers, Palladian windows, rough hewn stone on lower stories, stone arches or window and porches.
Queen Anne (1880-1910)
A romantic style often lavishly decorated with newly obtainable, mass-produced pre-cut trim work. When painted with brilliant colors, these homes are sometimes called “Painted Ladies”.
Identifying features: Steep roof, complicate, asymmetrical shape, front-facing gable, one-story porch that extends across one or two sides of the house, round or square towers, wall surfaces textured with decorative shingles, patterned masonry, or half-timbering, ornamental spindles and brackets, bay windows.
Revival Styles (1876-1929)
The tendency toward stylistic revivals reflects the American nostalgia or romanticism of a particular society, era, or culture of the past. After the Victorian era, there was growing interest in America’s Colonial past as well as a renewed interest in historical European design.
Colonial Revival (1876-1955)
Initially inspired by the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial, due to new interest in American colonial past. This became a dominant style for domestic buildings nationwide 1900-1940s. Georgian and federal styles were the backbone of revival ideas, with a secondary influence of Dutch Colonial.
Americans were drawn to the subdued and dignified forms based principally on Neoclassical architecture of 18th century France. This style became popular between 1893-1940.
Identifying features: Classical symmetry, a grand full-height portico, balustrades, rhythmic rows of columns, windows, and French doors, and various classical ornament, such as dentil cornices.
Renaissance Revival (1885-1925)
The trend toward this style gained momentum from the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. This period style tends to be more accurate to its Italian inspiration than did the 19th-century Italianate style. Renaissance Revival saw its popularity from 1910-1940.
Identifying features: Usually identified with a low-pitched, hipped roof, often with ceramic tiles and sometimes flat; wide, overhanging eaves with large brackets under the roofline; arched doors and windows, primarily on the first floor; Italian-style entryway, often with classical columns; facade usually symmetrical, but occasionally found in asymmetrical or picturesque floor plans. This period style tends to be more accurate to its Italian inspiration than did the 19th-century Italianate style.
Romanesque Revival (1880-1900)
Early Romanesque structures from the 1840s-50s resembled Gothic predecessors with Roman forms, while the later style of Henry Hobson Richardson from 1870s-1890 was a truly American adaptation of the style.
Identifying features: Constructed of rough-faced, square stones, round towers with cone-shaped roofs, columns and pilasters with spirals and leaf designs, low, broad “Roman” arches over arcades and doorways, patterned masonry arches over windows.
Tudor Revival (1890-Present)
The Tudor Revival became especially popular with 1920s suburban homes, loosely based on late medieval prototypes. These are sometimes referred to as the Picturesque Cottage, English Cottage, or simply Tudor.
Identifying features: Many are identified with false(ornamental) half-timbering, a medieval English building tradition, often with stucco or masonry veneered walls, steeply pitched roof, cross-gabled plan, massive chimneys, often topped with decorative chimney pots.
Early 20th Century House Styles (1901-1945)
The first thirty years of the 1900s were a building boom for small single-family homes. This boom was spurred by a social movement to improve housing and the birth of the American “suburb.” Purchasing pattern plans and ready-to-build homes became popular at this time as well.
This is one of the few indigenous American styles, developed by a creative group of Chicago architects known collectively as the Prairie School. Frank Lloyd Wright is essentially the "father" of Prairie style.
Identifying features: Horizontal, open floor plans representing the expansive prairie region, flowing interior spaces, low-pitch hipped roofs with broad eaves, and long bands of windows.
These homes were based upon ideas of the Arts and Crafts Movement, which encouraged the use of simple forms and natural materials. A bungalow is typically a snug one-and-a-half-story home with a wide overhanging roof, deep porch, and simple interior. California bungalows and Chicago Bungalows are two of the most prolific types that have their own distinct qualities.
Identifying features: Low-pitched, gabled roof, wide overhang of eaves, exposed rafters (rafter tails) under eaves, decorative brackets (knee braces or corbels); incised porch (beneath main roof); tapered or square columns supporting roof or porch; 4-over-1 or 6-over-1 sash windows, often with Prairie School design motifs; hand-crafted stone or woodwork, often mixed materials throughout structure. Bungalows can either be front-gabled, side-gabled, or cross-gabled.
American Foursquare (1895-1930)
Sometimes called the Prairie Box, this style shared many features with the Prairie style.
Identifying features: Typically two-and-a-half stories with a large, central dormer, boxy shape, often include a full-width front porch and four-room over four-room floor plan.
Sears Catalog Home
Homes could be bought by mail order from enterprises such a Sears Roebuck and Company, which would deliver crated materials, fixtures, and assembly instructions for the entire house to the nearest railroad station. The biggest selling models were the common bungalows.
Following World War II, there was an enormous need for housing, and developers turned to simple, economical house styles. During this time, “open floor plans” were employed for the first time.
Identifying features: Single story; long, low roofline; asymmetrical rectangular, L-shaped, or U-shaped design; attached garage; sliding glass doors opening onto a patio; large windows; vaulted ceilings; windows often decorated with shutters; exteriors of stucco, brick and wood; large overhanging eaves; cross-gabled, side-gabled, or hip roof; simple and/or rustic interior and exterior trim.
Raised Ranch (1945-1980s)
Identifying features: Two story version of the ranch where a furnished basement is mostly or completely above ground, serving as an additional floor, with the door at or nearly at grade.
Identifying features: House has three or four levels with the entry on the middle floor between two floors. General features similar to ranch.
Tri-Level: A popular style of home, best suited for side-to-side slopes, in which a 1-story wing is attached between the levels of a 2-story wing.
Bi-Level: A house built on two levels in which the main entrance is situated above the lower level but below the upper level.
Cape Cod Revival
Identifying features: Low, broad frame building, generally a story and a half high; steep perfectly pitched roof with end gables, very little ornamentation, often has dormers and a chimney at one end of the living room side of the house.
Identifying features: Triangular shape, steeply sloping roof that extends to the ground on two sides, front and rear gables, deep-set eaves, 1-1/2 or 2-1/2 stories, many large windows on front and rear facades, few vertical wall surfaces, much of the living area on the ground floor is open to the underside of the roof, bedrooms are frequently located on a balcony directly under the roof; often, have an exterior deck at one end or both ends of the house.
Neo-traditional, meaning "New Traditional", is contemporary architecture that borrows from the past. Neo-traditional buildings are inspired by historic styles but do not copy historic architecture. They, instead, merely suggest the past, through the use of decorative details to add a nostalgic aura to an otherwise modern-day structure.
Very popular style used for high-style country estates and suburban homes throughout America.
Identifying features: Informal, asymmetrical floor plans, prominent roof (often hipped) accented by arched-top or hipped dormers, stucco, cut stone or brick walls with cast stone details, wrought iron railings and balconies, flared eaves, dormers, and window shutters. Frequently, tall second floor multi-paned windows break through the cornice.
Sharing many features with the Tudor Revival, the resurgence of the English Country style illustrates continued interest in traditional English design principles.
Identifying features: Front-facing gables capping high walls of brick or stone, asymmetrical plan, dormers, massive chimneys, often topped with decorative chimney pots, exposed wood structural elements, high pitched roofs.
Stylistically having a more concentrated regional focus than earlier Italianate or Renaissance Revival, the Tuscan style focuses on architectural precedents of the mountainous central region of Italy called Tuscany.
Identifying features: Use of natural stone and stucco for exterior walls, terracotta floor and roof tiles, wooden beams, ornate tilework, textured plaster walls, often have courtyards.
A fanciful mix of details suggested by the architecture of Spain, Italy, and Greece, Morocco, and the Spanish Colonies.
Identifying features:Low-pitched roof, red roof tiles, stucco, heavy carved wooden doors, and arches above doors, windows, or porches.
Often defined more by its location and purpose than its style, which is typically a hybrid of varying styles brought to life by regional craftsmen.
Identifying features: Use of classic forms and details from the Greek Revival, Georgian and Victorian architectural eras, functional covered porches, formal areas in the front of the house, and a large kitchen and staircase to bedrooms were in the back, often 1-1/2 or 2 stories, wing-like additions are common.
Gable Front House
Also known as Front Gable House, they were working-class dwellings built in large numbers throughout the United States primarily between the early 1800s and 1920.
Identifying features: Gable facing the street or entrance side of house, simple design, may contain some ornamentation such as brackets around the doorways or roof line, some have front porches. Manifested themselves in styles ranging from Greek Revival to Gothic Revival to Queen Anne to a simpler vernacular style.
One variation of Gable Front House.
Identifying features: Incorporates a side gable, which is typically added on to the house to obtain addition space, light and/or cross-ventilation.
the 1900s brick and cement house with asbestos shingles were marked as economical "fireproof" choices for suburban homes.
Identifying features: Cast (molded) cement block exterior, grooved terra-cotta (fire clay) tile block backing to masonry veneer, hipped roof, hipped porch, diamond pattern asbestos shingles, dormers, widely projecting eaves.
Inspired by the rustic homes from the Old West.
Identifying features: Rely heavily on the use of natural materials, such as heavy timbers, wood siding, stone, gable end braces, and cedar shakes, to promote a rustic feel that will blend with verdant landscapes and mountain vernacular. The floor plans promote outdoor views, making them ideal for sites with mountain vistas, cityscape scenes, and lakeside access.
Log Cabin/Log Home
Associated with rustic and rural North America although log structures were built in Northern Europe for hundreds of years prior to their introduction in the New World.
Identifying features: Early log cabins were usually a simple one, or one-and-one-half story structure and constructed with round rather than hewn, or hand-worked, logs; Modern log homes are usually built from milled logs, often mass manufactured as a "kit" home.