Architectural Styles Defined

Amber RandhawaHomeowner and Homebuyer Tips, Interior Decorating, Real Estate Listings

Photo Credit: Dillon Kydd @kyddvisuals

When you are perusing listings of homes for sale, you’ll like see each home described as a particular architectural style. Some of these are easy to recognize – many of us know what a bungalow is, and we can recognize the specific details that make a residence Victorian. Other terms might be less familiar, and some styles may sound very similar. Residential architecture involves many different designs, from rustic country cottages to modern urban condos and apartments. Even styles with some similarities still have their own unique characteristics, such as the use of particular materials, details, and overall aesthetic. It’s important to understand these terms, so that you can narrow down your search, whether you are interested in a classic country style or something modern and unique.


Photo Credit: Ian MacDonald @ianmacdonaldstudios

You might be surprised to learn that the bungalow style of residential architecture actually originated in India, but it quickly spread to other countries, particularly the United States. Bungalows typically feature low-pitched roofs, wide overhangs, and large front porches that invite neighbors and guests to come over and sit for awhile. The exterior of these houses can be made of brick, stucco, or wood siding, though sometimes a vinyl siding with a wood-look may also be used. The Bungalow interior also has specific unique features, such as an open floor plan, a fireplace in the family room (and there is usually only one of these common areas), and built in shelving, cabinets and window seats throughout the home. Rooms tend to be arranged around a central hallway, which lends a a cozy, intimate feel to the space. Large windows throughout a bungalow serve to allow in plentiful natural light. These homes are usually limited to only two or three bedrooms, to they may be best suited for singletons, small families, or anyone looking to downsize.


Photo Credit: Jacques Bopp @JacquesBopp

The Cape Cod style originated in New England in the 1800s, which is how it came about having this geographical name. Cape Cods are characterized by simple and elegant lines in their design, a symmetrical façade, and a steeply pitched gable roof. Other features of a Cape Cod home include clapboard or shingle siding, single hung windows, small porches, and shutters. These homes rose to national popularity in the time directly before and after World War II, around the same time that bungalows were also rising in popularity. Inside the Cape Cod usually has wood floors, one or more fireplaces, and paneled walls. Cape Cods remain popular to this day because of their classic appearance and cozy interiors.


Photo Credit: Irene Rego

As the name would imply, Colonial architecture is a classic style that dates back to the 1700s in America. Colonial homes usually feature a a symmetrical design – the front door is located in the center of the home, and window placement is balanced, with an equal number of windows on each side of the central door. Homes are usually two or occasionally three stories high, and windows are spaced in the same manner on each floor. The exterior is usually made of brick or wood, and the roof normally has a gabled design. Moving on to the interior, you will usually find a central hall that runs the length of the house, with identically sized rooms on each side. You won’t often find a master on main in a Colonial style home – the main floor is usually made up of common areas with a lot of space for entertaining. An open staircase leads up to the second and sometimes third floor bedrooms. Colonial homes often feature ornate details, from the formal handrails along the staircase to grand lighting features on the main floor.


The Contemporary architectural style is somewhat fluid, and refers to whatever is trendy in home building at the moment. That means that what is contemporary now may not be considered contemporary anymore in 20 years. This style is often seen as a combination of other styles, as it borrows from whatever is most popular. There are several ongoing similarities though. Contemporary homes typically have open floor plans and mixed materials – one side of the home may be made of brick or stone while the rest is composed of vinyl or wood siding. Current contemporary architecture often incorporates energy-saving features such as solar panels, natural light, and certified energy efficient appliances. Additionally, these homes often have large windows to maximize that natural light and offer up panoramic views of the world outside.


Craftsman style homes rose to popularity in the early 20th century and reflect an emphasis on natural materials, simplicity, and attention to detail. Because of these characteristics, the term “craftsman” was given to these homes that reflected a high level of craftsmanship. Characteristics of the Craftsman style include low-pitched roof lines, exposed rafters, large front porches with tapered columns, and large windows. The interior of a Craftsman style home will often showcase built-in cabinetry, detailed woodwork, and other decorative elements that were made by craftsman who were masters at their trade. These homes are often designed to blend into their natural surroundings, so the exteriors will showcase materials such as stone, brick, and wood.


The 1940s and 1950s saw a subtle change in architecture, as the Baby Boomers began building homes in a post-World War II American economy. The Mid-Century Modern style is characterized by simple, clean lines, geometric shapes, and a blend of natural materials such as wood, stone, and concrete. Inside you will find an open concept, with large windows that clearly seek to bring the outdoors in. These homes are almost always built in the ranch style, with all of the main living space located on one floor, though sometimes they are built on a basement rather than the more common concrete slab. Because of the footprint of the home itself, these ranch houses were normally built on larger lots than you would find accompanying a home built today. In urban areas, these houses made up the first subdivision style neighborhoods, with rows of Mid-Century Modern homes filling multiple connecting streets.


Photo Credit: Vita Vilcina @vvvit

It is no surprise that Mediterranean style home architecture was originally inspired by the warm, sunny climates of the Mediterranean region of Europe. Mediterranean homes showcase bold, bright colors, stucco walls, tile roofing, and dramatic archways. Another unique characteristic is the open courtyard found in the central part of many Mediterranean homes. Multiple common rooms will have an entrance into this courtyard areas. There is also a heavy reliance on terracotta, wrought iron, and intricate stone work. This style of architecture provides a relaxed, inviting atmosphere, seeking to make you feel as though you have stumbled upon a private Mediterranean villa. These homes are perfect for people who enjoying entertaining, due to the plentiful outdoor living space.


Photo Credit: Zac Gudakov @zacgudakov

Just because a house is labeled as having a Modern architectural style, doesn’t mean it was just built recently. The Modern home style actually emerged at the turn of the 20th century. These homes are characterized by minimalist design that emphasizes function over solely appearances. Modern homes are distinguished by their rectangular forms, lack of ostentatious adornment, and frequently have whitewashed exteriors. Many modern homes were also built with the surrounding landscape in mind. For example, the lines of a roof might reflect the lines of natural components of the nearby surroundings. Modern homes usually showcase expansive glass windows or walls, which helps further integrate the home into its natural surroundings.


Photo Credit: Abbilyn Rurenko @maalie.f

Tudor architecture is an older style of home architecture, originating in England during the late 15th century. The style was most common among the upper classes in England, and then the style gradually spread to the higher classes of English immigrants in the colonies. Tudor homes feature steeply pitched roofs, decorative half-timbering, large chimneys, and tall, narrow windows. The exterior of Tudor homes incorporate a combination of brick, stone, and stucco, while inside you’ll find hardwood floors, walls paneled with wood, and they are often furnished with ornately carved wooden furniture. Another typical interior feature of a Tudor house is multiple large fireplaces, along with vaulted ceilings that include exposed wood beams.


Photo Credit: Jennifer R.

Victorian architecture is named after England’s Queen Victoria, who reigned from 1837 to 1901, and is the style that was most popular in England during this time period. These homes are typically characterized by ornate decorative details, asymmetrical facades and elaborate trim. With Victorian architecture you will often find large bay windows, and huge and inviting wrap-around porches. Roofs are steeply pitched and there is a lot of detail in all of the exterior wood. These homes often feature towers, turrets, and decorative gables, and adornments such as spindles and gingerbread trim. Neutral earth tones are not often seen on these houses, and instead you will find them many Victorian homes painted in bright, cheerful colors, like yellow, green and blue, and occasionally even pink. When it comes to materials, Victorian homes often feature clapboard siding, brick and stone, with slate and asphalt roofing. Inside, Victorian homes may have hardwood floors, fireplaces, and pocket doors.