Cape Cod-Style Home Ideas

home exterior
A close relative of the Colonial-style homes scattered across the South and the East Coast, Cape Cod houses were an economical answer to Americans' homeowning ambitions. Here are a few key elements that distinguish this modest style.

Symmetrical Window Placement

Many Cape Cods are recognizable for symmetrical front windows -- two to one side of the front door, two to the other side.

Restrained Size

Lack of resources, lack of time, lack of money: These factors and more led to an intimate size for many Cape Code-style houses so popular in the middle of the 20th century.


Unlike the Victorian homes popular in the earlier part of the 20th century, Cape Cod homes are distinguished by their symmetrical designs.


Dormers became a useful solution for many Cape Cod homeowners because they allow some breathing room for the half floor on the second level, making it suitable for bedrooms and other spaces.

The exterior of this Cape Cod-style home went from drab to fab, thanks to an improved facade and fresh landscaping. Use the tips from its transformation to boost your home's curb appeal.

Cape Cod Curb Appeal

See how this Cape Cod-style home went from dull to dazzling with an improved facade and landscaping.

Unadorned Entrance

Although later versions sometimes had a small portico, most Cape Cod homes have a plain front entry, with little to no trim or other details. Some may have painted pilasters or, in the case of very elaborate setups, columns.

One-and-a-Half Stories

A half story on a second floor was a way for Cape Cod homeowners to gain square footage but save on building costs. Although there are some usage limitations, the half story is well worth it for the extra space.

Roof Pitch

The historical tie from Colonial to Cape Cod is apparent on the pitched roofs on many of these houses. They offer practical drainage as well as height for the half story, often included in a Cape Cod. Another notable element that goes hand-in-hand with Cape Cod roof pitches: gables on either side of the structure.

Simplified Paint Schemes

Although original shake shingles are sometimes left to weather gray, Cape Cod homes also sport painted shingles. Most of the color schemes are, like Colonial style homes, very neutral and austere.

Centered Entrance

A deviation of Colonial houses, the Cape Cod has many of the same details as those historic homes, including an on-center detail. Inside, their modest size often includes just a few simple rooms -- living, kitchen, bath downstairs, and two small bedrooms upstairs.

Wood Clapboard or Shingle Siding

Shingle shakes or wood clapboards are another distinguishing feature of Cape Cod homes, which originated on the East Coast. Before premilled lumber, cedar shakes were hand-split from blocks of wood using a mallet.


Because modest size often translated into modest use of details, Cape Cod homes are often sited to maximize available sunlight, with the biggest windows facing south.

Center Chimney

Because of their small size, Cape Cod homes can be heated more efficiently. That means only one fireplace -- often in the center -- is included in many of these homes. In later versions, the chimney was often just to one side of center, or sited to both ends of the home.

Tall Windows

A modestly scaled interior meant that original Cape Cod homeowners had to maximize whatever details they included in their homes. To gain sunlight whenever possible, windows were often extended very high -- often up to the roofline.

Lack of Extraneous Details

Many Cape Cod-style homes were built before the Civil War; although the style faded a bit, it found a resurgence in the early to mid-1900s, when it was called Cape Cod Revival. Even though the styles were separated by about a century, they still share several commonalities, including a conspicuous lack of exterior details.

Plain Rooflines

Geometry, modest size, and building constraints also equaled a stripped down roofline for most Cape Cod homes. This, too, distinguishes them from the more cornucopia of roof angles and details often found in Victorian homes.

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