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Seven home architectural styles you should know

Whether you’re looking to buy your next dream home or sell your current home, knowing the style of your home (and the style you like) can be useful. This knowledge can help you explain what you want in a house and even help replicate the interior design you’re envisioning. Below are seven common architectural styles you’ll most likely come across.

1. Colonial Revival

Defining features: Symmetrical façade, evenly spaced windows, multiple stories, wood or brick exterior, pitched roof, prominent front door.

This style dates back to 1876 and has become the most popular architectural style in the United States, notably in the Northeast. In fact, Colonial Revival homes are the most widespread and distinct type of home found in Virginia.*

They boast decorative details and often have a lavish front door and hooded entryway with columns that form a small porch. Inside, you’ll find a grand entrance hall with plenty of doors and hallways to distinguish different rooms and areas of the home. Larger versions of these homes may be asymmetrical due to an added garage or sunroom.

Want to bring touches of the Colonial Revival exterior inside your home? Add elements like chandeliers, mahogany furniture, gold-leaf accents and light-colored wallpaper. This timeless design lives on in millions of homes, and is a classic choice for any homebuyer.

2. Cape Cod

Defining features: Steep roof with overhang, shutters, central chimney, shingle siding.

Cape Cod homes are a popular New England style (not surprisingly abundant in Massachusetts). Carpenters from England brought the style to America in the 17th century as a way to adapt the English cottage design to America—with a few Northeastern adjustments. Its steep roof was designed as a solution to snowy winters; the central chimney and low ceilings provided warmth and kept the heat contained.

Although the original Cape Cod homes had no dormers, (jutting-out windows), you’ll now see this feature to provide extra light and space. Simple, charming and quintessentially American, the Cape Cod cottage can serve as the perfect beachside or vacation home.

3. Craftsman

Defining features: Low roof with overhangs, cobblestone or stucco exterior, covered entry porch with columns.

For Craftsman homes, it’s all about the craftsmanship. Popular in the 1900s, this style surfaced during the Art & Crafts movement when skilled artisans believed that a less pretentious style would make for a better life. As a result, each Craftsman-style home is unique in design with its own artistic wood and stone details.

These homes are easy to fall in love with, both inside and out. They have beautiful architectural features like porches, exposed wood beams, fireplaces and stone details. If these features are something you admire, a Craftsman home might be right for you.

4. Victorian


Defining features: Narrow, tall structure, decorative woodwork, complicated shape, wrap-around porch, curved windows.

There’s no such thing as too extravagant with a Victorian house. These majestic homes reflect a distinct architectural style that became popular during Queen Victoria’s reign, (1837-1901), with decoration at the forefront. The interiors are typically as ornate as the outside.  

Victorian architecture is more for aesthetic reasons and less for practical functions. These homes have smaller rooms and typically no garage. However, its high ceilings, rounded porch, intricate staircases and fireplaces are just a few reasons to love this style. Coinciding with its asymmetrical design, you’ll often see rounded towers with large windows on a Victorian design. Between the style’s decorative trim, grand entrance and tower rooms, you may imagine yourself living in a castle.

5. Ranch

Defining features: Single-story, long and low roof, overhanging eaves, large windows, U or L-shaped, attached garages.

Interested in one-level living? A Ranch home might be right for you. You most likely have been inside one, or even grew up in this style of home. They rose in popularity in America in the 1920s and made up the majority of U.S. homes by the 1950s. They were originally designed to ward off the Southwestern heat, and the style still reflects Southwest vibes.

With simple exteriors and detailing, they’re easier to remodel than a Victorian or Craftsman home. Split-level ranch homes have become popular, yet still consist of simple floor plans and an open concept. The long-shape design of a Ranch home is perfect for a backyard pool and/or patio, and ideal for laid-back living.

6. Modern

Defining features: Simple lines, flat roof, exposed steel, minimalism, glass materials, open-living concept.

If you like minimalist living and design, Modern homes may be just for you. Characterized by geometric elements, they boast airy rooms and lots of light. This style reflects homes built from the 1920s to 1980s as a contrast to the overly decorated styles from an earlier period. Large glass windows (or even glass walls) are common, as modern architects aimed to blend the outdoors with the indoors.

Looking to complement the Modern style with interior design elements? Metal accents, glass tables and industrial elements work because of its clean horizontal and vertical lines. Keeping your home clutter-free will enhance the modern lifestyle. A Modern-style home will give you a simple design with fewer frills.

7. Contemporary

Seven home architectural styles you should know

Defining features: Asymmetrical, geometric shapes, large windows, natural or recycled building materials.

Not to be confused with Modern homes, Contemporary homes are the newest type of homes. They’re “what’s happening now”—often changing and influenced by combining styles of centuries past. For example, modern elements can be combined with craftsmanship for a unique look and feel.

But one thing is true: Contemporary homes are typically eco-friendly and energy-efficient, reflecting the current times. Natural and sustainable materials are often used, in addition to skylights and large windows with UV-blocking glass. Installing energy-efficient appliances can supplement a contemporary lifestyle. Relaxation and peace are at the core of contemporary living.

Ultimately, choosing features and styles that work for you, while being conscious of the environment, is always a win-win.

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