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House Styles By the end of the 16th century, Saltbox houses were very common in England. The English colonists built their early settlements in New England, along the Atlantic coastline quite near the ocean. Their Saltbox homes had a short steep front roof, while the rear, usually facing the ocean, featured a much steeper and longer roof as protection from the strong winds off the sea. By the beginning of the 18th century, the Eastern Seaboard had been colonized for about 75 years, and American architecture entered a new phase. While the less affluent built Capes and Saltboxes, Georgian architecture emerged as the style of the monied and leisure class.

Early American House Styles

CAPE COD | 1600s - 1950s | the Cape Cod house style originated in New England in the late 17th century. Today, the term refers to one-and-a-half story homes popular in the United States during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.

DUTCH COLONIAL | 1624s - 1820s | quintessentially "cozy," Colonial Dutch style homes look solid and substantial, suitable for families seeking a formal interior layout coupled with a modest face to the street. They almost always have a porch.

GEORGIAN COLONIAL | 1690s - 1830s | this symmetrical, orderly style became prominent in Colonial America.

LOG CABINS | 1700s - present | today's log homes are often spacious and elegant, but in colonial America, log cabins reflected the hardships of life on the North American frontier.


1700s - present | Form follows function - built for practical use generally on large acerage for large families

POST & BEAM BARN | 1880s - present | Timber homes offer an alternative to log homes and conventional construction

SALTBOX | 1700s - present | a wooden frame house with a long, pitched roof that slopes down to the back. A Saltbox has just one storey in the back and two storeys in the front. The flat front and central chimney are recognizable features, but the asymmetry of the unequal sides and the long, low rear roof line are the most distinctive features of a Saltbox.

19th Century & Victorian House Styles

CRAFTSMAN | 1905 - 1930 | a fundamental tenet of Arts and Crafts advocates that form should follow function; good design and hand craftsmanship should supplant useless ornamentation and shoddy "industrial" workmanship.

FEDERAL /ADAM | 1780 - 1840 | graceful details distinguish these homes from the pragmatic Georgian colonial style.

GOTHIC REVIVAL | 1825-1860 | Democratic ideals are reflected in the classical details of Greek Revival homes.

FOLK VICTORIAN | 1825-1860 | just plain folk could afford these no-fuss homes, using trimwork made possible by mass production.

SHINGLE | 1874-1910 | home designers rejected fussy Queen Anne ornamentation in homes that evoked rustic coastal living.

VICTORIAN GOTHIC | 1840-1880 | these buildings feature arches, pointed windows and other details borrowed from medieval Gothic cathedrals.


VICTORIAN QUEEN ANNE | 1880-1910 | towers, turrets, wrap around porches and other fanciful details.

MISSION | early 1800s | an unlikely fusing of the southwestern Spanish Mission style and the Midwestern Prairie School at the turn of the century created Mission architecture.

20th Century New England House Styles


FOUR SQUARE | Early decades of the 20th century | this solid, two-story design -- essentially a large, no-frills square box of frame construction. A porch (enclosed or open) often spans the front.

RANCH | 1935 - Present | the rambling, no-nonsense Ranch styles became dominant in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s. If you live in the suburbs, there's a good chance your home is a Western Ranch, American Ranch, or California Rambler.
RAISED RANCH (Split Level) | 1935 - Present. | a traditional Ranch Style house is only one story, but a split level, "Raised Ranch" house has room to grow. A finished basement with large windows creates extra living space below, while a raised roof leaves room for bedrooms above.

NEW AMERICAN | reflection of American affluence and desire for elbow room, the New American-style home is big, inside and out. The New American house is about uninterrupted flow: it's a style as expansive and exuberant as the country in which it was created.

A-FRAME | 1957-Present | with a dramatic, sloping roof and cozy living quarters, an A-frame style house is ideal for wintery regions with lots of snow.
POSTMODERN | 1965 - Present | rebelling against minimalist modernist architecture, Postmodern houses tend to give the impression that anything goes - the impossible is not only possible, but exaggerated.
NEOECLECTIC | 1965 - Present | decorative details borrowed from the past and selected from a construction catalog create a mixture that can be difficult to define.
DOME | Late 20th century | monolithic domes and the innovative geodesic dome technology pioneered by Buckminister Fuller.

EARTH | From prehistoric times to the present | cob, straw bale, earth bermed and underground homes are inexpensive, energy efficient and surprisingly comfortable.



Beaux Arts
The result of a mix of historical styles and classical building plans that was taught at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris during the 19th century. The school and the style were very influential in 19th and early 20th century North America. Swags, medallions, flowers, balustrades, balconies, grand stairways and other lavish features characterize this style, reserved for grandiose public buildings and homes for the very rich.


Colonial home plans date back to historical New England. It is a style which is timeless and has changed a little to suit the needs of today's lifestyle. The Garrison Colonial, New England Colonial, Dutch Colonial, Salt Box, Southern, and Modern Colonials are just a few of the various Colonial styles. A Colonial home can be described as any house where the second floor living area is 100% of the first floor living area. More specifically it is very symmetrical with a center (or slightly offset) door with windows equally spaced on both sides. The roof ridge runs parallel to the main road. Bedrooms are usually always on the second floor. Newer versions of the Colonial are usually 2 story with a covered front porch, attached garage, and a family room situated behind the garage. The second floor living area frequently extends over all or part of the garage. They almost always have grand columns along the front of the home.

The Craftsman style (1905-1930) is named for Gustav Stickley's magazine The Craftsman. It is the architectural facet of the Arts and Crafts movement of that period. It was a fundamental tenet of Arts and Crafts advocates that form should follow function; good design and hand craftsmanship should supplant useless ornamentation and shoddy "industrial" workmanship. Accordingly, Craftsman houses feature strong architectural details (like rafters exposed at the eaves) and "natural" materials: wood (stained, not painted), stone, ceramic and clay tiles, hammered copper. Stickley published a book of his designs in 1909, and encouraged readers to build their own houses. Many surviving Craftsman houses are thus copies or adaptations of designs developed by Stickley and his architects.


The Georgian style (1700-1780) is named for the English kings of the 17th and 18th centuries (Georges I, II, III and IV). The earliest Georgian houses in the U.S. were built during the Colonial period, so it's considered a Colonial style. Classical Georgian houses are characterized by having: (1) their long axis parallel to the street; (2) a symmetrical front facade with a central entry and usually two windows on either side, echoed in two-story examples by a row of five windows above; and (3) either a massive central chimney (most common in the North) or a pair of chimneys, one at each end of the house (most common in the South). Georgian-style houses have been built in the U.S. for over 200 years, and are still being build today.

Greek Revival

The Greek Revival style (1825-1860) came into being as a result of the first organized excavations of ancient buildings in Greece. Greek Revival houses were designed to resemble classical Greek temples. Accordingly, they were often built with a gable end facing the street (a 90-degree rotation from earlier practice), and feature a front facade that includes, below the low-slope gabled roof, a deep entablature (representing a heavy stone lintel) supported by classical columns. High-style examples often incorporate full-height (e.g., two-story), free-standing columns of classical Greek design supporting a portico. Vernacular (builder-designed) houses are simpler, usually having pilasters applied to the corners of the front facade, "supporting" the characteristic deep entablature that tops the walls.

Refers to those early-19th-century architectural styles inspired by the first scientific archaeological excavations of ancient ruins (Pompeii and Herculaneum). The Early Classical Revival style can be considered a transitional style between Renaissance Classicism and Neoclassicism. Neoclassical styles exhibit less symmetry and greater variety in the design of columns and other "classical" elements.

Queen Anne

The Queen Anne style of house named (unaccountably) for the English monarch of the 18th century is often referred to as "Victorian," since it dates from the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901). The Queen Anne house is characterized by elaborateness and asymmetry, both inside and out. Exteriors feature bay and oriel windows, ornamental brackets, siding a mixture of clapboards and wooden shingles applied in fancy patterns, elaborate porches, and turrets of various designs. Interiors tend to have many rooms of varying size and shape, and a lot of dark wood. It's not unusual to find houses of earlier styles that have been "updated" to superficially resemble Queen Anne houses by the addition of turrets, porches, etc.

Rustic (log cabin or similar)

Timber-Frame houses, using building techniques thousands of years old, began appearing in the colonies during the 1600s. The homes are now found in rural or mountainous areas far from the cities. Noted for their exposed timbers creating an open woody feeling, and their handcrafted mortise and tenon joinery, Timber-Frame and Post-and-Beam structures make ideal vacation homes, lodges, and artists' studios. These buildings provide great amounts of open spaces and light, making layouts and floor plans limited only by one's wants and needs.

Shingle Style

Shingle Style houses (1880-1900) originated in the upper-class summer resort communities of New England. These large examples are rambling, asymmetrical structures with various gables, porches, towers, etc.; all covered with wooden shingles. John Calvin Stevens of Portland, Maine and the firm of McKim, Mead and White of New York City were prominent designers of Shingle Style houses. Bob Vila's Cambridge house, the restoration and remodeling of which was shown on his TV show last year, is a classic Shingle Style house.


This term describes an architectural style or design of house derived primarily from popular taste. Vernacular styles usually stem from some more formal or academic style, with simplifications and adaptations; but their origins are still recognizable. Vernacular Georgian, Federal and Greek Revival houses are common in New England.


When Queen Victoria ascended to the throne of England in the 1830s, new style houses began replacing the Saltbox, Cape Cod, Georgian and Federal homes built in America by the English Colonists from the mid-1600s through the early 1800s. The Victorian architectural period, which predominated for about 75 years, ended with Queen Victoria's demise in 1901. During that period, a number of different styles emerged, as architects, tired of the restrained and boring characteristics of architecture based on classic Roman and Greek buildings, sought to express their creativity. The public's taste for fanciful structures, led architects to create houses that fed people's fascination with the romance of the medieval past.

Gothic Revival, recognizable by its pointed arched windows, was the first of the Picturesque styles noted for its mythical characteristics.

The Italianate style, with its richly decorative detailing, was a reflection of country villas of northern Italy and was also part of the Picturesque Movement.

Around 1860, one of the two styles to define Victorian residences emerged. For about 25 years, through 1885, the colorful and unrestrained Stick Style, reflected the public's demand never to leave a wall unadorned.

Ever evolving, Victorian home designs led, finally, to the one style that is considered more truly American than its predecessors. In 1880, the Queen Anne, perhaps the most ornate and boldly colored style of the Victorian period, and the last, began appearing, dominating Victorian residential architecture through the early 1900s.