What Is Tudor Architecture?

tudor style house

Jesse Roberts / Unsplash

Picture a storybook English cottage set in the countryside with a soft white exterior that is accented with rich wood beams. Inside there is a fire in the hearth and picturesque wood beams on the ceiling. Chances are you're picturing a home that has several other Tudor-style elements. Tudor architecture is a quirky yet stately style of building that originated in England during the Tudor period. 

From 1485 to 1558, craftsmen built sophisticated two-toned manor homes with a combination of Renaissance and Gothic design elements. This transitional style continued to pop up in villages throughout England until Elizabethan architecture took over in 1558, and Tudor architecture fizzled out. It wasn't until centuries later that the design style was reborn in the United States. 

Fun Fact

While Tudor architecture rose in popularity during the Tudor Dynasty, it fell out of favor when Elizabeth I came to power. During her reign, the regal, intricately-detailed Elizabethan architecture style exploded.

Tudor Revival architecture is less common than some other American architecture styles, but its unmistakable charm makes it a fan favorite. The revitalization of this design style began in the 1890s and lasted through the 1940s. The majority of Tudor Revival homes are located in the northern US since their facade is ideal for colder climates.

How to Identify a Tudor-Style Home

Some uncommon yet striking features make a Tudor-style home relatively easy to identify. These fundamental elements can help you distinguish a Tudor-style home from others:

  • The most common design feature of Tudor-style homes is the half-timber detailing. These long beams are usually vertically placed and are strictly decorative. A lighter-colored stucco or stone fills the gaps between the timbers to create a two-toned exterior. 
  • Many Tudor Revival homes were constructed entirely out of red-toned brick, which eliminated some of that two-toned detailing that is characteristic of original Tudor architecture in England. The brick detailing is generally very ornate around windows, chimneys, and entryways.
  • These homes have several front-facing gables that are often in intricate, asymmetrical patterns. Each gable has steep roof lines that sometimes extend from the highest elevation of the house to just 10 or so feet from the ground. 
  • Long, rectangular windows are often positioned in clusters. You might also find oriel or bay windows with several panes of glass on either story of the home. 
  • There is usually a prominent front door that's not at the center of the home. Doors might have arches or decorative concrete detailing to make it stand out from the rest of the home's facade. 

Common Materials Used

Builders use a combination of materials like brick, stucco, and wood for the exterior of Tudor style homes. Chimneys, windows, and doors were accented with some spectacular and labor-intensive brick and stonework. 

Builders accented the interiors spaces with dark wood detailing on the floors, walls, and ceilings. You'll also find plaster walls and porcelain tile throughout the living spaces.

More About Tudor Revival Architecture

Tudor layouts are intricate and custom.

After the Industrial Revolution, homes were being built faster and more affordably than ever. For example, the American Foursquare was a popular design style because its symmetrical footprint was practical and fit comfortably on city lots. On the contrary, there is nothing typical about a Tudor Revival-style home. They had complex and often custom layouts that worked best on larger lots. The floor plans had to be formatted in a way to make sense with the home's exterior. Because of this, these homes were more expensive to build and were found in more prominent suburbs. 

Tudor homes became known as "Stockbroker Tudors."

Particularly in the 1920s and 1930s, several European-trained architects made this style home a staple of more well-to-do families. Purchasers and admirers of Tudor style homes even coined the term "Stockbroker Tudor" as an homage to the people who built houses with their newfound wealth from the stock market. 

A Tudor house comes in large and small sizes.

Even though Tudor revival homes were pricey to manufacture, you can still find them in all sizes. There are sprawling mansions and small 1000 square feet cottages, each with the main design elements that make it a Tudor.

The trend went out of fashion after WWII.

This elaborate house style eventually went out of fashion because of WWII. If you drive through an older suburban neighborhood, it will be easy to designate a street that was built pre-WWII or post-WWII. Before the war, you would find a lot of brick Tudors. After WWII, there were tight budgets that demanded a more simple way of life. In the 1950s, Tudor style homes were replaced with efficient and straightforward Cape Cod-style homes

In summary, Tudor Revival architecture is an extension of the Tudor homes found in England during the 15th and 16th centuries. In the United States, this style of home was built in prominent suburbs from the 1890s through the 1940s. The exterior is a mix of lighter wall colors that are accented with vertical half-timber detailing. There are several steep gables and an asymmetrical footprint that is characteristic of this style.