18 Colonial House Styles with Enduring Charm

blue front door white colonial style home
Photo: David A Land

With origins that date back to our country's beginnings, Colonial-style houses have a restrained yet stately appearance. The timeless aesthetic offers a sense of history and an elegant look that remains popular today. These Colonial homes feature classic American architecture and enduring curb appeal.

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Colonial House Styles

Colonial home with brick walkway
Laura Moss

As the name suggests, Colonial house styles began with the colonists who settled in America around the 1600s. They constructed homes using the available materials, basing the designs on the architectural styles of the countries they had left. Because of this, the Colonial style encompasses several different types of homes, including Georgian, Federalist, Dutch Colonial, Spanish Colonial, and more.

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Colonial House Design

Colonial style brick house exterior
David A Land

​​Colonial house styles typically include two or three stories stacked directly on top of each other. Historically, this simple layout made the homes easier to heat in the winter, a practical necessity for early colonists. In addition, separate rooms, as opposed to open-concept layouts, and relatively low ceilings helped retain warmth more efficiently.

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Modern Colonial House

exterior shot of julia miller house during fall
Kim Cornelison

With roots in the 17th century, Colonial homes are examples of one of the oldest house styles in America. However, there are plenty of ways to update these classic houses for contemporary life. For instance, a fresh color palette can modernize the exterior, and additions such as front porches or sunrooms can boost available living space.

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Colonial House Colors

white colonial style home with black shutters
Emily Followill

​​Look at a Victorian home, and you'll likely be treated to a visual feast of color and detail. Colonial house style is the flip side of that architectural coin, with few ornaments and restrained color schemes. These facades often rely on white to play up the geometry and proportion of the homes.

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Symmetrical Colonial House Plans

gray symmetrical colonial style home
Michael Partenio

Many Colonial-style homes exhibit a soothing visual symmetry. On the exteriors, windows, doors, columns, and other elements are typically reflected from one side to the other. Colonial home interiors also often feature a mirror-image setup, particularly on the main level.

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Geometric Colonial Architecture

blue front door white colonial style home
David A Land

One of the hallmarks of Colonial house style is the simplicity of its geometry. Most homes are squares or rectangles and have few flourishes. The straightforward design often makes Colonial houses easy to modify with additions and other renovations.

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Colonial House Details

black shutters brick colonial style home
Werner Straube

Centuries ago, many Colonial-style homes were built with operable shutters used to keep out inclement weather. Today's Colonials might still use this design element, although it's more often just for show. Shutters flanking each window help establish a uniform exterior facade.

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Colonial Home Exteriors

clapboard siding colonial style home
John Bessler

When many Colonial homes were constructed, builders used local materials that were readily available. For the East Coast, that often meant wood, and clapboard siding became a regular feature of this home type. Although many more siding types are available today, some modern Colonial homes still incorporate traditional materials for a more authentic look.

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Colonial Roof Styles

pitched roof colonial style home
Edmund Barr

Many Colonial-era house builders saved time and resources by creating a dormered half-story on the upper level instead of a full second floor. Also, Colonial-style houses were often built with a steeply pitched roof that enabled practical drainage and access to an attic space. Dormer windows eventually became popular as a way to provide light and ventilation for the upper level, adding to the home's usable living space.

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Colonial Home Window Placement

gray brick colonial style home
Kim Cornelison

Many of the design influences of Colonial homes worked in tandem with one another. Precise geometry and symmetry deterred the random placement of details such as windows. Colonial-style houses typically feature a window on each side of the entry door and three to five windows on the upper level, with one directly above the entry door.

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Brick Colonial House

brick colonial style home
Gordon Beall

Regional availability influenced the design and construction of Colonial homes. As the style extended from the East Coast to the Southern states, brick began to appear in these restrained home designs. Some Colonial houses feature only a brick facade, with less expensive siding around the back, to save on building expenses.

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Colonial Home Landscaping

greenery surrounded brick colonial style home
Beth Singer

Like the stripped-down details of Colonial house styles, their landscapes usually lack conspicuous ornamentation. Instead, many rely on geometric combinations of shrubs and trees as a restrained accent. This more formal landscaping underscores the style's refined appearance.

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Simple Colonial Houses

large windows white colonial style home
Brie Williams

Many Colonial houses, which are notable for their lack of interior flamboyance, have similar exterior facades. Although this house's size gives it an impressive presence, the single decorative exterior flourish is the arch atop the ground-level row of windows. The facade is otherwise simply designed.

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Colonial-Style Entry

on-center entry colonial style home
Alise O'Brien

The front door of a Colonial-style house is traditionally placed directly in the middle, reflecting their symmetry while also a practical layout choice. An on-center entry typically opens into a foyer or hall with rooms on either side. This allows stairway placement in the middle of the home, with a hallway that cuts through the upper level's center.

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Colonial House Portico

covered portico colonial style home
Gordon Beall

Unlike the wraparound, two-level porches common in many Victorian homes, classic Colonial home design incorporates humble entryways. Many rely on a no-frills, covered portico to mark the front door. Decorative molding or columns around the portico sometimes provide minimal embellishment.

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Colonial-Style Chimneys

chimneys topped colonial style home
Gordon Beall

As with many other details on Colonial homes, chimneys are a reminder of the historical beginnings of this style. Many Colonial homes had double chimneys on either side to provide warmth throughout. Inside, fireplaces are often found on every level of the house.

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Columns on Colonial Houses

front porch columns colonial style home
Richard Leo Johnson

Colonial homes were influenced by the history and architecture of the colonists' home countries. Many of them were from Europe. Although Colonial-style homes are relatively understated, though some do have columns supporting the front porch or portico. This detail has its origins in Greek and Roman architecture and can be found in many of the grand buildings of Europe.

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Four-Over-Four Colonial Home

yellow and white colonial style home
Helen Norman

If you look closely at a Colonial home exterior, you might be able to guess the floor plan of the interior. Many of these spaces were designed as four-over-four: four rooms downstairs, four rooms upstairs. Respectful additions such as this home's sunroom increase square footage while maintaining the original design aesthetic.

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