House Styles

Learn about 10 house styles: Cape Cod, country French, Colonial, Victorian, Tudor, Craftsman, cottage, Mediterranean, ranch, and contemporary.

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    What Style is Your House?

    Whether remodeling, adding on, or just giving your home some extra curb appeal, knowing the style of your house can help you develop a successful plan. You'll also gain a greater appreciation of the way your house was designed and built.

    The following slides offer ideas for 10 house styles. There are many variations within different styles--more than can adequately be discussed here. You can find architecture guides in the library or in larger bookstores that will help you identify a particular style or design. Using the original style of your house as a starting point for an exterior makeover is usually the best technique, but--in some cases--mixing styles can energize a design.

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    Cape Cod Homes

    With roots dating back to 1675, Cape Cod was a popular style for homes built in the 1930s. Typically one story--sometimes 1-1/2 stories--the Cape Cod style features a steep roofline, wood siding, multi-pane windows, and hardwood floors. Original Cape Cod homes were fairly small. They often boast dormer windows for added space, light, and ventilation.

    If you're in need of more space, an addition can go on the side or back depending on the site. Many original Cape Cod-style homes did not have a finished space upstairs, so you may find that the upstairs area is either incomplete or previously remodeled and can easily be changed to fit your needs.

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    Country French-Style Homes

    Country French-style homes in the United States date back to the 18th century--when France occupied much of eastern North America with settlements scattered along the principal waterways, such as the St. Lawrence, Great Lakes, and Mississippi valleys. French building traditions started to fade after Jefferson purchased Louisiana in 1803, but continued in New Orleans and other areas for another half-century.

    Country French homes are often one story with many narrow windows and paired shutters, steeply pitched roofs (either hipped or side-gabled), stucco walls, and a half-timbered frame.

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    How to Choose a Home Plan

    Are you in the market for a new home? Use these tips to choose the perfect plan for your lot size, lifestyle, and location.

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    Colonial-Style Homes

    The Colonial style--dating back to 1876--is one of the most popular styles in the United States. Colonial homes usually have two or three stories, fireplaces, and brick or wood facades. The classic Colonial house floor plan has the kitchen and family room on the first floor and the bedrooms on the second floor.

    Colonials are easy to add on to at the side or the back. A brick facade may be difficult to match, but a builder or designer can help you find complementary siding materials. Search online for reproduction Colonial-style materials, such as divided-light windows, to help you make a smooth exterior transition.

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    Victorian Houses

    There are several styles of houses--such as the Queen Anne--that fall within the Victorian Era, which lasted from about 1860 to 1900. Homes of the Victorian Era were romantic, distinctive, and abundant with detail, from the fabrics and patterns to the colors and textures. Contemporary Victorian house design retains the traditional characteristics but uses more modern fabrics and colors. Traditional and contemporary can be combined nicely in these houses.

    Victorian homes often feature a steeply pitched roof, a dominant front-facing gable, patterned shingles, cutaway bay windows, and an asymmetrical facade with a partial or full-width front porch.

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    Tudor-Style Houses

    The name of this style suggests a close connection to the architectural characteristics of the early 16th-century Tudor dynasty in England. But the Tudor houses we see today are modern-day re-inventions that are loosely based on a variety of late Medieval English prototypes.

    Common features include a steeply pitched roof, prominent cross gables, decorative half-timbering, and tall, narrow windows with small windowpanes.

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    Play Up Tudor Style

    Watch and learn how to enhance your home's elegant Tudor style using these signature exterior details.

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    Craftsman Houses

    The Craftsman bungalow (also known as Arts and Crafts) was a popular house style between 1905 and the 1930s, and it's making a comeback today. A distinguishing feature of the style is the large amount of interior woodwork, such as built-in shelving and seating. As for the exterior, Craftsman-style homes often have low-pitched roofs with wide eave overhangs, exposed roof rafters, decorative beams or braces under gables, and porches framed by tapered square columns.

    Craftsman bungalows often have unfinished but usable space in the attic. Web sites, magazines, and other resources are available to help you with renovating ideas and tips for your Craftsman-style home.

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    Add Craftsman Style

    See how to play up your home's charming Craftsman aesthetic with these curb appeal ideas.

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    Cottage-Style Homes

    Medieval styles of the English countryside inspired American architects to design the charming and cozy cottage-style houses we know today. The style became especially popular in the United Stares during the 1920s and 1930s.

    Common features include a warm, storybook character, steep roof pitches and cross gables, arched doors, casement windows with small panes, and brick, stone, or stucco siding.

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    Mediterranean-Style Houses

    Mediterranean styles of architecture, such as Spanish Colonial Revival--also known as Spanish Farmhouse or Spanish Eclectic--flourished in Southern California during the 1920s and 1930s following a noteworthy appearance at the Panama-California Exposition of 1915.

    Spanish-style homes often feature a low-pitched red tile roof, arches, grillwork, and a stucco or adobe exterior. The typical U-shape floor plan is oriented around a central courtyard and fountain, making the garden an extension of the living space. Rooms open to the courtyard, promoting cooling cross-ventilation and the flow of fresh air.

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    Traditional Ranch Homes

    Traditional ranch-style homes usually have simple floor plans, attached garages, and efficient living spaces. The style dates back to 1932 and is still being built today. It was one of the most popular styles in the suburban home-building boom of the 1950s and 1960s.

    Although they may appear plain on the outside and are sometimes derided as undistinguished cookie-cutter houses, ranch-style homes offer great potential for additions. Bilevel and trilevel homes evolved from the ranch style and were built during the same era. They're great houses to upgrade with additions.

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    Contemporary-Style Homes

    Referring specifically to architect-designed homes built from about 1950 to 1970, the term "contemporary" has come to describe a wide range of houses built in recent decades that concentrate on simple forms and geometric lines. The International style paved the way for contemporary homes, which reflect the experimentation and dynamism of the postwar Modern period in which many Modernist ideas were integrated into the American aesthetic.

    Many contemporary homes feature lots of glass, open floor plans, and inventive designs. Void of elaborate ornamentation and unnecessary detail, drama on the flat-face exteriors of contemporary homes often comes from a dynamic mix of contrasting materials and textures, exposed roof beams, and flat or low-pitched roofs.

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    New Home Additions

    Juxtaposing building materials and mixing window shapes create architectural intrigue between this home and its addition. Although they were built at different times and feature radically contrasting materials and elements, they are connected by a playful use of angles and a passion for strong geometry.

    You will often see elements of different styles combined in one home. It's a product of one era moving into another while retaining some features of the previous period, and it can easily be adapted to your design scheme. Although you should avoid a hodgepodge of styles, you can alter a particular style for your addition, especially considering the many house styles to choose from. Once you understand the style of your existing home, you can thoughtfully move forward with the design of your addition.

  • Next Slideshow Before and After: Home Exteriors

    Before and After: Home Exteriors

    Maximize curb appeal with an exterior makeover. See how these facades went from ordinary to unforgettable.
    Begin Slideshow »

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