A-frame homes typically have roofs that start at the foundation and meet at a sharp peak at the top of the structure, creating a shape similar to a capital “A” letter. The roofline subsequently creates an interior with steep-angled walls. The A-frame was made popular in the 1950s through the 1970s; especially in snowy places because the shape of the roof allows snow to slide off easily rather than stay in place and cause damage.
Art Deco architecture began as a decorative take on a modernist design from the early twentieth century. Sometimes referred to as Architecture Moderne, it was defined early on by large, geometric decorative elements and a vertically oriented, urban design with clean lines. Art Deco was made popular by Hollywood movies of the 1930s with flat roofs and smooth stucco walls but was more commonly used for commercial design than residential. By the 1940s it had evolved to include curved corners, rectangular glass-block windows, and a nod to the nautical with porthole windows, giving it an almost boat-like appearance.
One of the oldest American architectural styles, the ‘Cape Cod’ originated in New England in the late eighteenth century by English settlers. The design of the home was familiar to those in England with modifications to fit the new weather elements and material limitations. Cape Cod architecture is fairly simple with one or two stories, a steeply pitched roof, and square or rectangular shape with brick or shingled siding.
The Cape Cod style of home persisted as the main architectural style through the late nineteenth century and then experienced a revival in the 1940s and 1950s after WWII because they were easy to construct and relatively affordable after the war.
Colonial architecture was originally popular during the 1700s as European settlers were developing their homesteads along the East Coast of the United States. An offshoot of the Cape Cod style home, it features a symmetrical, rectangular design with a central front hallway and second-floor bedrooms. The style was revived at the turn of the nineteenth century as the Centennial inspired renewed interest in Colonial roots.
A condominium is a dwelling in a multi-unit building that is differentiated from an apartment through ownership. Condos are popular in urban areas, but any multi-unit building can be a condominium if individuals are allowed to purchase units. While condo owners can modify their unit’s interior, use and management of common facilities and areas, such as hallways, elevators, heating systems, and exterior spaces, are controlled by a governing body that represents the interests of all the condo owners. Typically, owners pay monthly condo dues which in turn fund common area maintenance costs.
Contemporary architecture borrows many of its core elements from the long history of modern design, including clean lines, open spaces, and minimalist design. Many contemporary homes emphasize natural light through the installation of large windows and outdoor entertaining areas, as well as highly functional interior spaces with sparse ornamentation and a focus on intelligent materials.
Housing cooperatives are a legal hybrid between an apartment and a condo. Typically, cooperative housing units are part of a multi-unit building, but rather than paying a mortgage, you are a shareholder in the building, entitling you to an apartment with legal documentation similar to a lease agreement. Like condos, the rules of the co-op are regulated by a governing association with appointed board members.
Cottage / Bungalow
Commonly considered the precursor to the Craftsman, Cottages, and Bungalows are both architectural styles that describe a small, cozy, single-family dwelling. Historically, these types of homes were more commonly found in rural or semi-rural areas, but nowadays cottage-style dwellings and bungalows are popular choices in cities as well. The footprint of these homes is typically small with low-pitched gabled roofs and small covered porches at the entry. Interesting historic fact: the Bungalow became so popular in the early 1900s that Sears and Roebuck sold ready-made kits to homebuyers through their mail order catalog.
The Craftsman originated in Southern California in the early twentieth century and quickly became very popular along the west coast, influenced by rapid industry and population growth. Craftsman homes featured techniques inspired by the arts and crafts movement, using natural materials and techniques to highlight the true qualities of these materials, such as staining wood rather than painting it. Common features include handcrafted wood, glass, and metal work, and objects that are simple and elegant, yet highly functional.
Dome structures have a long history as architectural features in building design, from ancient times to sophisticated modern homes. Domes have many uses in modern-day design, including sports stadiums, single-family homes, and religious structures. Domes come in many styles and can be made with a variety of materials, from steel, glass, brick, and concrete, to more lightweight or temporary materials, such as fabric and plastic. The Geodesic dome, invented by Buckminster Fuller in the 1950s, is one of the strongest dome structures. Although it was never widely adopted for housing, it still influences modern-day dome architecture.
A duplex is a stand-alone structure with two units that share a common wall, but separate entrances. A townhome or row house consists of a row of similar or identical dwellings that are individually owned. Townhomes are typically closer to that of single-family home ownership, without monthly dues or Home Ownership Associations. Each type of unit shares a wall with adjacent dwellings. Townhomes are common in dense urban spaces.
Foursquare / Prairie Box
The Foursquare home is one of the most straightforward designs in the American architectural vernacular. With a room occupying each quadrant of the box construction, these homes feature simple designs and can be found throughout the United States. Though these homes are not typically ornate in appearance, they can include front porches with columns and dormer windows set in their hipped roofs. Later models also have arts and crafts details, such as built-in shelves, benches, and other features.
A traditional Foursquare home has common spaces on the main floor, including the living room, dining room, kitchen, and entryway with bedrooms located on the second floor. Building materials vary from brick to wood, depending on the region, and the square structure and interior layout make the most of the small lot sizes.
In early American architectural history, architects and designers found inspiration from ancient Greek styles. Greek Revival architecture is grand in stature and style; it is often defined by large-scale floor plans, broad verandahs, grand entries, and formal rooms for entertaining. Details may include extravagant decorative and structural features inspired by the Parthenon, including towering columns, ornate carvings, and moldings with medallions.
These homes are quite large and require a spacious lot to accommodate the footprint. America’s take on Greek Revival architecture was at its most popular around the time of the Civil War and is still quite prevalent in its most traditional form in the American South.
The movie “Sleepless in Seattle” made the Houseboat synonymous with Seattle, but the floating home can be found on rivers and lakes throughout the world. Houseboats are usually moored, not driven from location to location, and float on the water adjacent to a pier. They are typically connected to power and water sources and sometimes boast additional amenities and close-knit communities.
Houseboats are generally modest in size due to the limitations of being a floating structure. Building materials vary from wood construction and fiberglass to steel and glass. You can find houseboats in a variety of styles, such as nautical and modern inspired designs, and cozy bungalows. Houseboats are ideal for empty nesters and single occupants who enjoy the access and beauty that living on the water offers.
If you ever dreamed of living in an Italian villa, Italianate architecture and design may be a good way to turn your imagination into your everyday reality. Italianate homes are square and symmetrical and generally built from brick, stone, or stucco. True Italianate homes also have well-constructed masonry walls. The Italianate aesthetic is usually defined by rounded windows, columned entry ways, tile flooring, carved wood detailing, and interior columns. Italianate homes come in a variety of sizes, from row houses to large palatial mansions.
When we think of loft-style architecture, we typically think of big cities, but cities of all sizes around the world with an industrial past have warehouses and other commercial structures that have been converted into loft spaces. Lofts became popular in new construction projects in the early 2000s, combining the traditional utilitarian loft aesthetic with additional modern amenities and storage.
Loft architecture is traditionally large open spaces with exposed industrial features, such as ductwork along the ceiling, bare wood or concrete beams, large windows, concrete or wood flooring, and open floor plans with few walls or segmented “rooms”. Some lofts have platforms or an elevated space that can be used to create a more private area for a bedroom or office.
Modern architecture has had a presence throughout most of the twentieth century and is defined by contemporary building techniques. First influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement of the 1880s, architects designed modern spaces with open floor plans, an absence of ornamentation, and an emphasis on the natural materials and surroundings of the home. Within a few years, the new modernist aesthetic evolved to include more industrial and modern materials, emphasizing the emergence of craft traditions, fine art, and technology. Form and function also became equally important under the new modernist mentality.
At the turn of the nineteenth century, Frank Lloyd Wright took modern architecture in a new direction by pioneering the Prairie-style home, which saw an even greater importance given to open space and the flow of the house. The style focused heavily on the natural character of the building materials, while blurring the line between indoor and outdoor through the use of large glass walls and sliding doors, creating extended entertaining and living spaces.
Both “Northwest” and “Contemporary” are broad terms used to explain an eclectic and diverse architectural style of an equally eclectic and diverse region. The climate and influences of the Pacific Northwest have led to a home design that enhances the experience in a region where much of the season is spent indoors. Modern architects influenced much of the Northwest’s home design, especially the international design movement led by Frank Lloyd Wright, because of the incorporation of natural elements in the construction. Indigenous tribal art and Japanese design aesthetics are also commonly found in Northwest Contemporary homes.
The Pacific Lodge evokes the feeling of a cozy log cabin and is influenced by materials found in the Pacific Northwest region, as well as indigenous design and frontier styles. Cedar is a common building material; the wood is often left exposed both inside and out, creating a warm and cozy interior. Common rooms are generally large with high ceilings and interlocking exposed beams. Pacific Lodge style homes can range from small cabins to large mansions. Interesting fact: Seattle native Bill Gates’ waterfront mansion is built in Pacific Lodge style.
Prefab, or prefabricated homes, have made a resurgence as a dwelling style over the last few years. During the first half of the twentieth century, one could order a home from the Sears and Roebuck Catalog and have a kit shipped by train, but now prefab homes are far easier to come by. Modern kits are ideal for smaller lots and have become an eco-friendly – and affordable – option for someone looking for a highly efficient new construction dwelling.
As the name indicates, prefab homes are primarily constructed off-site in pieces or portions, and then fully assembled on the lot itself. Prefab homes come in a wide variety of styles, from backyard cottages to modern, single-family homes.
Pueblo style architecture is emblematic of the American Southwest and is modeled on the dwellings that have been built by the area’s indigenous tribes for thousands of years. These structures are specially designed to withstand the intense heat and arid environment in the desert by keeping the interior cool throughout the day while insulating the warmth during cool nights. Traditional pueblo buildings are built with adobe, a sun-dried mud, but new buildings can also be built from concrete or stucco. Other features include large wood doors, exposed wood ceiling beams and porch posts, and plaster walls.
Generally referred to as the “California Ranch”, this single-story sprawling home became popular in post-war America. The home takes cues from modernist homes with its open layout, indoor/outdoor entertaining spaces, and large windows. The ranch/rambler style house experienced the height of success in the 1950s and 1960s with the boom of the suburbs and can be found all over the United States. As the style evolved, split level homes became available. The ranch/rambler style home was also one of the first architectural styles to incorporate a garage into the housing design to accommodate the needs of the modern American Family.
Native American, Mexican, and Spanish missionary styles all converge to create the Spanish Eclectic aesthetic. Architecture in the American Southwest has been heavily influenced by the unique history of this architectural style. Similar to the Pueblo Revival, Spanish Eclectic dwellings are traditionally built from adobe, but can also be made from concrete, stucco, or brick to form thick structural walls, and rounded corners and doorways. Spanish missionary style can be ornate with inlaid tile, wooden floors, and round, flower-like windows traditionally known as “Quatrefoil”.
Tudor style homes originated in England and experienced their American revival in the early 1900s. Today, Tudor-style homes can be found in modern-day suburbs all across the U.S. These homes come in varying sizes but are all identifiable by their unique look. Tudor homes most notably have steep-pitched, interlocking gabled roofs, making them ideal for regions with rain or snow. They are generally built of stone or bricks, with a façade of stucco and exposed decorative timbered framing. Another common feature is a large central fireplace which was designed to function as the primary heating source for the Tudor home.
Victorian architecture was at its most popular at the turn of the nineteenth century. Victorian homes were popular because much of the building materials, including detail work, was done by machine and could be easily shipped around the country by train.
There are multiple styles within the Victorian theme. The Stick Victorian has been said to resemble a gingerbread house with its steep gables and detailed, decorative cladding and trims. The Queen Anne style is highly ornate, asymmetrically built with cross-gable rooflines and towers, and highlighted by coquettish detailing and eclectic materials. Queen Anne style Victorian homes were very popular, and originally came painted in a variety of bright colors. The Folkstyle Victorian is a simplified version of Queen Anne; it typically had less ornamentation, was built symmetrically, and was more accessible to the middle class. The Shingle-style Victorian is less ornate than its predecessors and is entirely covered with shingles, which are left unpainted to highlight the bold architectural features; such a recessed balconies, towers, and dome roofs. The Shingle Victorian also incorporated more of an open concept in the living spaces, versus the smaller compartmentalized formal rooms of other Victorians.