Are you in the process of designing and building your dream home, cottage, or ranch? If so, you are probably overwhelmed by the sheer number of home designs and styles that modern residential architecture has to offer. But, never fear! Here are the top ten architectural styles to help you zero-in on that perfect house design to suit your personality and taste.
House styles give our streets and neighborhoods a personality. Have you ever wondered, “What house style is that?” Here’s the lowdown on what is going on in American streets.
If you ever drew a simple box house in kindergarten with a door in the middle and a window on either side that was a Cape Cod house, America’s original house style. This simple utilitarian style was useful for the gales that occasionally blew off the Atlantic Ocean onto settlers trying to live on the Massachusetts coast. If one side of the roof was extended nearly to the ground for extra space it was known as a saltbox. All the living space was on the first floor and small bedrooms for the kids were crow-barred upstairs. Cape Cods were the workhorse of 20th century tract housing.
This was the style of choice for many post-World War II suburban developers targeting young families. Colonial Revival draws its inspiration from the Georgian style of the late 1700s that was the world’s first mass-produce architectural style. The typical Georgian house was perfectly symmetrical and designed around a central hallway with five bays (windows) across and two rooms deep. Later the Federal, or Adamesque style evolved that was identical in form to the Georgian except the detail was not as heavy. For instance, entry doors of a Federal-style house would feature a sunburst transom or sidelights. Variations of the Colonial Revival style include Dutch Colonials with broad gambrel roofs that resemble barns. For those uninterested in architectural integrity Colonial Revival houses can easily be outfitted with garages, porches and additional rooms.
A Queen Anne house, popular from 1880-1900, has come to represent “Victorian” in the 21st century consciousness. Think rambling, eclectic floor plans; asymmetrical massing; wraparound front porch; turrets and a roof with gables and dormers dancing across from every sightline. These exuberant Queen Anne shapes were made possible in part by the new balloon framing that revolutionized house construction and freed builders from the constraints of heavy timber framing and boxy forms of the past.
Start by taking your showy Queen Anne Victorian and stripping off all the fancy fixings. Keep the impressive porch and a turreted tower or two and add a few sly eyebrow dormers upstairs. Then clad everything in weather-beaten cedar shakes. Make sure you have plenty of land because these Shingle Style houses look great on a sprawling estate.
The stylish Italian villa was a big hit when it was introduced into pattern books by Alexander Jackson Davis in the middle of the 1800s. An Italianate building featured decorative window caps, slender windows and simple balanced proportions. Italianate was the dominant architectural style for downtown America after the Civil War and many of these buildings can still be seen in small towns and cities that used the wrecking ball sparingly during urban renewal craze of the 20th century.
If the red tile roof is not a giveaway, a Spanish Revival house is immediately recognized by its sensuously curved parapets and rich stucco finishes. Also known as Mission Revival, ornate ironwork can also be a feature of this style. A close cousin of this popular house choice in the American Southwest is Pueblo Revival with exposed vigas (wooden beams) and low-pitched roofs. Both styles blend harmoniously into the rugged desert landscape.
Prairie Style, of which Frank Lloyd Wright is the most visible and famous proponent, is considered the first truly American style of architecture. But even the Prairie Style, with it emphasis on organically blending into the landscape, drew from the Arts and Crafts movement in England that flourished after 1860 as a rejection of mass-produced goods in the Industrial Revolution. As championed by Wright, the Prairie style’s dominant feature is strong horizontal lines that seem to melt into the endless flat prairies of the North American midwest. Appealing for many home buyers are the open floor plans of a Prairie Style house that encourage light and freedom of movement.
Most architectural styles cannot point to a real father but Craftsman bungalows can. Brothers Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene borrowed from the principles of the English Arts & Crafts movement to reintroduce the devotion to workmanship in rustic-feeling houses they built in Pasadena, California. The Greene bungalows were almost always one or one-and-one-half stories with a low-pitched roof and overhanging eaves revealing exposed rafters. Its dominant feature was a large front porch, often with a roof supported by stout, square and tapered pillars. The generous porch could be adapted into an outdoor living room if need be. A bungalow would be constructed of natural-looking wood or stone or stucco. The Craftsman bungalow was the dominant small house style of the post World War II suburban boom where it was often called a “ranch” house.
The American Foursquare is the Mr. Potato Head of neighborhood housing stock. As representatives of the backlash against pretentious Victorian styles, essentially a Foursquare is a simple box boasting four rooms on two floors, all neatly arranged. They were quick and easy to build with almost any material, fit snugly on most lots and young families were eager to buy them and raise kids. The house-length front porch where families could gather and catch up on the news from their neighbors is a Foursquare hallmark. Once the house was built owners were free to outfit the place anyway they saw fit, unburdened by architectural traditions. Roof brackets like an Italianate? Go for it. Greek Revival Ionic porch pillars? Why not? A pedimented Colonial entrance? Put it on. The Foursquare says “home” for generations of Americans. When Sears and Montgomery Ward began selling houses in kits, 75% of them were American Foursquares.
Curving walls and shiny metal construction materials. Daring windows and terraces. Clean lines and functionality. Modern designed houses are beholden to no architectural conventions. And if Modern designs seem too tame and predictable for you, move on to Postmodern. If you want your house to make a one-of-a-kind statement Modern is the way to go.