Typical characteristics of Colonial homes include a basic rectangular footprint, symmetrical facades and double-hung windows with many small, equally sized square panes. This classic home style can be found throughout the deep South, East Coast and parts of the Midwest.
With humble beginnings, Colonial designs grew into some of the most distinguished and well-to-do homes in America:
- Cape Cod – small single story cottages with shingle siding and no dormers
- Georgian – five second story windows over four first story windows and a centered front door
- Federal – formal, ornamental detailing of swags and garlands, elliptical windows and a second story arched Palladian window -- after renown 17th century Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio -- over the front door
- Greek Revival – Grecian inspired elements include full-width colonnaded porches, front pediment gables and hipped roofs
Architecture during the Victorian Era took a significant departure from the simple, rectangular designs of Colonial homes. Mass-produced materials from the Industrial Revolution inspired complex, angular shapes and ornate detailing. Victorian style homes are found throughout the country.
A Style with Many Looks
The classic look of Victorian homes culminated with one of the last designs to evolve, Queen Anne. Notable features of these homes include:
- Asymmetrical, multifaceted forms with two or three stories
- Towers, turrets and wrap-around porches
- Wooden gingerbread trim in scrolled and rounded fish scale
patterns on gables and porches.
Distinctive features of other Victorian styles include:
- Medieval windows with pointed arches for Gothic Revival homes
- Square shaped with flat topped roofs and fanciful bay windows – Italianate
- Cast-iron crested, double pitched shingled roofs – Second Empire
- Gothic roof lines, rugged stone and natural materials with little ornamentation – Romanesque
Evolving from bungalow-style homes, the American Craftsman home was made famous by architect and furniture designer Gustav Stickley. Emphasis was placed on hand-crafted elements made from natural materials such as wood and stone. Homes typically feature low-pitched gable roofs with exposed rafters and deep bracketed overhangs. Wide front porches are supported by massive piers and pedestal-like tapered columns.
A prominent mid-20th century home inspired by Spanish haciendas, Ranch homes are characterized by one story floor plans, low-pitched roofs, built-in garages, picture windows and sliding glass doors leading out to patios. Ranch style homes were designed to accommodate the suburban lifestyle of the 1950s and evolved to include split-level floor plans in later decades.
Modernistic homes, built between 1920 and 1940, contain Art Deco details such as curved stucco walls, flat roofs, horizontal lines on balustrades, zigzag or geometric designs and glass block walls.
Inspired by European architects in the 1920s and '30s, International style homes feature flat roofs, asymmetrical facades and clean, unadorned lines. Homes are constructed from modern materials of concrete, steel and glass and often contain exposed elevator shafts or floor-to-ceiling plate glass windows.
Shed and Contemporary Homes
Shed homes -- favored during the 1960s and 1970s -- contain multiple roofs similar to the single-angle roofs used on sheds, creating multiple geometric shapes with virtually no symmetry. Contemporary style homes built between 1950 and 1970 feature tall, oddly sized windows and a mix of wall materials including brick, stone and wood. These homes styles both incorporate the surrounding landscape into the overall design.