Cities and suburbs across the United States are home to several different architectural house styles. Many old homes are still full of the character that reflects their particular style. But if you want to incorporate old house charm in a newer dwelling, you'll have to learn about some of the key characteristics that make each style stand apart.
Here are 24 popular house styles and what makes them so special.
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Cape Cod homes are extremely common in suburban communities. They became increasingly popular in the United States during the 1950s. The style was originally introduced by English settlers during the late 17th century and is named after the coast of Massachusetts. These homes tend to be a story and a half and include dormers and a central doorway. The original design was inspired by English half-timbered houses from centuries prior, but the frame was altered to suit the New England climate.
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Victorian architecture refers to an era of design instead of one specific style. Victorian homes were built from the early 1800s through the early 1900s during the reign of Queen Victoria. Since the era is generally associated with a rising middle class and increasing wealth, these homes tend to be larger and more elaborate. Victorian architecture was influenced by several prolific architects and varying cityscapes. Today you'll find these homes dotted across communities in the U.S.
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Colonial-style homes date back to the 17th century, and the homes come in many variations. Each style was influenced by early American settlers depending on their country of origin. The homes usually feature symmetry and some type of dormer. You'll commonly see examples of British or Georgian colonial-style homes because a large portion of the U.S. was under British rule early on. You might also find these styles: federal colonial, Dutch colonial, French colonial, and Spanish colonial. They are especially popular on the East Coast but are common throughout the country.
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The craftsman-style home came about in the early 20th century during the Arts and Crafts movement. These homes put a particular focus on materials and motifs that are inspired by nature. You’ll commonly find naturally toned woodwork, geometric stained glass, and several built-ins. The color palette of a craftsman-style home tends to be earthy in nature and includes shades such as forest green, rusty orange, and natural browns. Some of the common variations of the craftsman style include mission, bungalow, and Stickley. Craftsman homes are found across the country.Continue to 5 of 24 below.
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This house style was first crafted by an innovative turn-of-the-century architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. Prairie-style homes are inspired by their relationship to nature. And they feature lots of handcrafted details, such as simple woodwork, stained glass, and built-in furniture. This style of home was heavily influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement, but it is distinct from craftsman-style homes. Only a handful of original homes exist, with many being in the Midwest. But the style is still an iconic example of architecture that originated in America.
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Ranch homes are single-story or split-level houses that started popping up across the United States during the first half of the 20th century. In the 1930s, people built these homes that were inspired by Spanish colonials in the Southwest. Later examples of ranch homes can sometimes be confused with midcentury modern homes because they share some characteristics, such as their streamlined appearance. In general, ranch-style homes have open floor plans and connect to the outside.
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Tudor-style homes are easily recognizable thanks to their timber details against a light-colored stucco. They also tend to have ornate brick detailing. The Tudor style came from historical homes in England. This home style became popular during the early 20th century in wealthy suburban communities across the U.S. Many Tudor homes can be found in northern climates because the solid architecture is ideal for cold weather.
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This popular American home style was influenced by homes in the Mediterranean. It became popular in the warmer parts of the United States during the early 1900s. Mediterranean-style homes often feature warm tones, stucco exteriors, and beautiful ornamental details incorporated into the tile and woodwork. The homes are made to be open and airy with stone, wood beams, and other natural details.Continue to 9 of 24 below.
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It’s easy to confuse modern homes with contemporary ones, but the best way to tell the difference is to look at when the home was built. Modern-style homes were generally built between the 1930s and the 1970s in the United States, with midcentury modern being a subcategory of this style. In contrast, contemporary homes weren’t built until decades later. Modern homes are generally minimal in style and have clean, sharp lines. There aren't many ornamental details. These homes are found across the country with a lot being on the West Coast.
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Contemporary architecture essentially refers to the building styles that are trendy in present day. Contemporary homes can vary greatly, but they generally tend to fuse the interior design with the exterior design, so there is a sense of flow. While the style is typically clean and minimal, edges can still be soft and rounded. Contemporary-style homes are found across the country, especially in new builds (though a new build doesn't necessarily have to be contemporary).
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A farmhouse-style house is a modern interpretation of the rural family farm homes that were situated on lots of acreage. Old farmhouses were erected across the United States starting in the 1700s and 1800s. They came in various design styles, including Victorian and colonial. But the most common farmhouse was a simple rectangular structure often with a long porch and a clapboard exterior. Modern farmhouses mimic that simple structure, though they have grown in size.
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Modest cottage-style homes originated in Europe in small towns and villages. And they now dot the United States, especially in quaint residential communities. Cottages are defined by their small size, and they are usually faced with stone or wood, though siding also has become common. They are typically one to one-and-a-half stories high and often have small porches. The interior is cozy and informal.Continue to 13 of 24 below.
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Small log cabins have been built for several hundred years with European settlers bringing the style to North America. This primitive style of building originally consisted of modest one-room homes in the wilderness. Nowadays, people build modern cabins as their primary residence in rural and even suburban settings for the aesthetic. The exterior still often is formed with logs, or it is at least clad in wood as a nod to the original style. And the shape is simple, usually with a fairly open interior.
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Rowhouses, also known as townhouses, are homes that are built directly next to one another with an adjoining wall. This type of house is common in major cities across the country, where the lot sizes are long and narrow. Often the same architect will build most, if not all, of the rowhouses on a block, giving them a uniform look. The design style can range depending on the architect's preferences. Rowhouses first popped up in the Netherlands and Belgium during the 16th century, and they spread across U.S. cities during the Industrial Revolution.
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Greek Revival architecture is inspired by buildings from ancient Greece. The style first arrived in Britain during the 1700s, but it didn't really gain steam until the 19th century in the United States. As a new democracy, Americans wanted to pay tribute to the birthplace of democracy through architecture, which is why many government buildings use the style. Home examples now can be found across the country. The style is defined by large columns, a symmetrical shape, and a white facade.
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French country homes draw inspiration from centuries-old homes in the French countryside. These homes featured more natural and lived-in elements than the ornate French architecture that dominated cities. Some key features of French country homes include natural stone facades, a sloping roof, two chimneys, and natural wood or stone flooring. Such homes can be found scattered in residential communities across the U.S.Continue to 17 of 24 below.
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Antebellum architecture, or Southern architecture, arose prior to the Civil War in the Southern U.S. The design was meant to be both impressive and practical. For instance, the homes featured large windows and high ceilings, which both looked dramatic and allowed for better air circulation. And they had large, covered, wrap-around porches to enjoy the outdoors while being sheltered from the hot sun. Winding staircases and columns also were trademark features. This style is still most common in the South, and the modern versions still feature vaulted ceilings and large porches.
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Saltbox houses first popped up in New England during the 1600s, and they’re still most common there to this day. They were simple structures that early settlers were able to build with the supplies they could get their hands on, namely local timber. Saltbox homes feature a slanted, asymmetrical roof and a large chimney. The front of the house is flat, and there are typically two stories in the front sloping down to just one in the back.
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Art Deco style took off in Paris during the early 1920s, and it arrived in the U.S. soon after. Many U.S. skyscrapers and other buildings from coast to coast, including the Empire State Building, are in Art Deco style. Trademarks of this style include ornate and geometric details, bold colors, decorative windows and doors, and parapets and spires.
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Queen Anne style is part of Victorian architecture and was popular during the late 1800s. It persisted in the United States into the 1920s, with most buildings in that style being seen in the eastern portion of the country. Queen Anne homes generally feature an asymmetrical facade with a front gable and overhanging eves. There is also typically a porch that stretches across the front of the home, potentially with a second-story balcony.Continue to 21 of 24 below.
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Italianate architecture also was of the Victorian era and was popular in the U.S. during much of the 19th century. It’s inspired by Italian Renaissance architecture from the 16th century. Most Italianate house styles are in the eastern U.S., but examples can be seen out west as well. Key characteristics of the style include a brick or wood clapboard facade, two to four stories, roofs with little to no pitch, and overhanging eves.
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Also part of the Victorian era, Eastlake style is quite similar to Queen Anne style. It too arose in the 19th century, and examples now can be found across the U.S. The style takes its inspiration from British architect Charles Eastlake, who promoted furniture and decor that was more angular and notched than the curved designs of other French styles. Thus, Eastlake-style homes generally have posts and railings with intricate, angular shapes. Lattice work also is common. The homes are traditionally painted in earth tones with the trim in a lighter color to make it pop.
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Romanesque Revival architecture developed during the 19th century in Britain and arrived in the United States in the 1840s. It draws inspiration from medieval European architecture, which featured thick stone walls, huge load-bearing columns, and large arches. Romanesque Revival buildings simplified some of those features but still retained their essence. The style uses prominent arches, round towers, and stone or brick construction. Romanesque Revival architecture is often seen in churches and buildings on college campuses across the U.S.
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Originating in France and defined by pointed arches, Gothic architecture was popular in Europe from the 12th century all the way to the 16th century. Gothic Revival arose in the 19th century. Many buildings in the U.S., especially cathedrals, feature Gothic Revival style. It’s not common to see a home fully in the style, though residences will have aspects of it. Trademark elements of the style include the pointed arches, stained glass windows, and ornate features such as spires and gargoyles.