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10 Historic House Styles You Should Know

10 Historic House Styles You Should Know
Image Credit: ⁠It Must Be F/8

Exploring historic house styles is like taking a journey through time, each style telling its own unique story. These homes not only reflect architectural trends but also provide insight into the cultural and social history of different eras.

Understanding these styles can help you appreciate the heritage and craftsmanship of older homes. Whether you’re a history buff or just curious, knowing about these house styles adds depth to your knowledge of architecture and design.

1) Colonial Revival

Colonial Revival homes became popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This style was inspired by the earlier American Colonial architecture.

You’ll notice many Colonial Revival homes have symmetrical facades. They often feature brick or wood exteriors with simple yet elegant details.

Elements like columns, shutters, and gabled roofs are common in these homes. Windows are usually double-hung with small panes.

In the early days, Colonial Revival homes drew from British, Dutch, and Spanish influences. This gave them a wide range of styles and details.

A fine example of this architecture is the Woodrow Wilson house in Washington, D.C. It showcases brick and stone materials, highlighting the craftsmanship of its time.

The re-emergence of these homes started around 1876, during the U.S. Centennial celebrations. People wanted to bring back an “American” architectural style that reflected national pride.

You can learn more about Colonial Revival design and see why it’s still loved today. The style captures a perfect mix of tradition and simplicity.

2) Tudor

The Tudor style dates back to the first half of the 16th century, during the reigns of the Tudor monarchs. This style is known for its medieval English look with steeply pitched, gabled roofs and tall, narrow windows.

One key feature of Tudor homes is their decorative half-timbering, usually done in dark brown or black. You’ll often see these homes with large, ornate chimneys and embellished entrances that add to their charm.

These homes tend to have multiple stories, usually two or more. Inside, you’ll find large fireplaces that were essential for heating during the Tudor period.

American Tudor Revival, which became popular in the late 1890s, brought this style across the Atlantic. These homes feature brick exteriors with timber accents and large gables on shingled roofs.

While beautiful, Tudor homes can be expensive to maintain. They also may have higher-than-average utility bills due to their size and design.

If you love historic architecture, a Tudor home might be just what you’re looking for. Check out more about this style here and here. Happy house hunting!

3) Cape Cod

Cape Cod houses are one of the quintessential styles of New England. These homes started as practical dwellings for fishermen and sailors but have become beloved for their simplicity and charm.

You can recognize a Cape Cod house by its steep roof, central chimney, and rectangular shape. The steep roof is not just for looks; it helps shed snow during harsh winters.

Most Cape Cod homes have dormer windows that provide extra space and light to the upper floor. The front door is usually in the center, flanked by two windows on each side, giving it a balanced appearance.

Inside, you’ll often find a cozy layout. Living rooms feature fireplaces, making them perfect for cold weather. The second floor usually has low ceilings and sloping walls.

For a touch of character, many Cape Cod houses have white-painted pilasters around the front door. These decorative details add a classic look without being too flashy.

This style has stood the test of time because of its simple and timeless design. Whether you’re in New England or elsewhere, a Cape Cod house is a cozy and charming option.

4) Victorian

Victorian houses are named after Queen Victoria, who ruled from 1837 to 1901. These homes are famous for their ornate details, including decorative trim and bright colors. You often see them in older neighborhoods where they stand out with their unique look.

Victorian homes come in many styles. For example, the Second Empire style features a mansard roof, which is a four-sided roof with dormer windows. This style is more geometric and boxy compared to others.

Another style is the Gothic Revival, which includes pointed arches, steep gables, and intricate woodwork. These features give the homes a fairy-tale appearance.

Victorian homes are also known for their asymmetrical shapes. This means these homes don’t have a uniform look but instead have towers, turrets, and bay windows. These elements make each house unique.

Despite their beauty, Victorian homes can be a bit tricky to maintain. The detailed trim requires regular upkeep, and the older construction can mean higher repair costs.

For more information, you can explore Victorian Houses or see what Victorian Style is about.

5) Greek Revival

Greek Revival architecture, popular in the early 19th century, draws inspiration from classical Greek temples. You might recognize these homes by their tall columns and pediments.

One key feature is the use of large, white columns, often in the front of the house. These columns can give the home a grand, stately appearance.

Greek Revival homes also have symmetrical shapes and heavy cornices. They often feature painted white exteriors, which mimic the look of Greek marble.

Another common feature is the wide, plain frieze. This band runs along the top of the walls, just below the roofline.

In the South, Greek Revival plantation houses usually include spacious porches. These porches provide much-needed outdoor space in hot, humid climates.

Notable examples include the Brandenburg Gate and the Fitzwilliam Museum. This style is also visible in many public buildings and homes across the United States.

When you see Greek Revival architecture, you’ll notice strong, clean lines and classical elements that make these buildings timeless and elegant.

6) Craftsman

Craftsman homes, popular from 1902 to 1930, were a response to the mass-produced items of the Industrial Revolution. The style emphasizes handiwork and natural materials.

You’ll often find these homes as bungalows or 1.5-story residences. They usually feature low-pitched roofs and large covered front porches. This makes them recognizable and unique in their design.

Looking at a Craftsman home, you might notice exposed beams and stained wood trim. These elements highlight the craftsmanship involved. Interiors often have built-in furniture, like bookcases and window seats.

Gustav Stickley, a key figure in the movement, promoted good home design with functional and beautiful furniture. His influence is still seen today in Craftsman homes. He even offered house plans to help popularize the style.

For more details, you can read about Craftsman homes here and here.

The Arts and Crafts movement, which began in Britain, is the root of the Craftsman style. It came to the U.S. in the late 1800s, largely through newspapers and journals. This style remains loved for its charm and attention to detail.

7) Mediterranean

Mediterranean house styles are influenced by the architecture of the Mediterranean region, especially Spain and Italy. These homes often feature stucco walls, red tile roofs, and arched doorways and windows.

You might notice that the roofs have a low pitch. This helps with the drainage while giving the home a distinctive look.

These houses often have large outdoor spaces. Courtyards, balconies, and patios are common.

Mediterranean homes also use materials like terracotta, wrought iron, and wood. These natural elements complement the warm, earthy colors of the exterior.

You’ll often see lush gardens filled with plants like pomegranate, pittosporum, and Japanese maple, which add to the Mediterranean feel.

Many Mediterranean homes also feature columns and rounded arches. These elements add a touch of elegance and are often found in Italian Renaissance style homes.

This style became popular in the U.S. during the 1920s. It began as part of the Roaring Twenties’ trend for luxury and leisure, especially in seaside resorts.

For further reading and inspiration, you can explore examples of Mediterranean homes and learn more about their architectural elements.

8) Mid-Century Modern

Mid-century modern architecture emerged in the middle of the 20th century. It was shaped by the optimism after World War II and the exploration of new materials and technologies.

You’ll notice clean lines, large windows, and open floor plans in this style. The goal was to bring the outdoors inside and create a sense of spaciousness.

One hallmark is the split-level design, which efficiently uses space. This design became popular in the 1950s.

Famous examples include the Farnsworth House by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. This house, built in 1951, is known for its minimalist interior and seamless integration with the surrounding landscape.

Another prominent aspect is the use of natural materials, like wood and stone, blended with new materials like steel and glass.

Many mid-century homes, like those in Palm Springs, still stand today. They often feature flat planes, large glass windows, and open spaces.

These homes often have a timeless appeal, blending functionality with a sleek aesthetic.

9) Queen Anne

The Queen Anne style was popular from 1880 to around 1910. This style is known for its decorative and ornate features. You can spot a Queen Anne house by its complex shapes, bay windows, and towers.

You might also see patterned shingles or wooden trim. Often, porches wrap around the house, providing a great spot to relax.

Some Queen Anne homes have stained glass windows. These colorful windows add charm and character to the house. Roofs are usually steep and gabled, adding to the dramatic look.

One famous example is the Watts-Sherman House in Newport, R.I., built in 1874. This house set the trend for many others to follow.

In Australia, the Caerleon house built in 1885 is another iconic example. It features red brick walls and intricate chimneys.

Another key figure in spreading this style was Richard Norman Shaw, an English architect. Shaw and his followers made the style widely popular.

Queen Anne houses are often colorful, adding to their lively appearance. They’re a reminder of a creative and artistic time in architectural history.

10) Federal

Federal style houses emerged in the United States during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. These homes are known for their simple shapes, symmetry, and elegant details.

One key feature of Federal homes is fanlight doors. These semi-circular windows above doors add a touch of elegance.

You might also notice large windows and decorative moldings. These elements bring light and a sense of grandeur to the home.

In some instances, Federal homes have curved or polygonal floor plans. The Octagon House in Washington, D.C. is a famous example of this.

Another hallmark is the use of columns and clean lines. This creates a balanced and refined look.

Federal style homes are often associated with prominent historical figures. Harrison Gray Otis had three such houses built in Boston.

These homes reflect the rich history and architectural innovation of early America. They are a favorite among those who appreciate classic and timeless design.

With their combination of beauty and historical significance, Federal style houses remain a beloved part of American architecture.

Sarah Jameson
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