Have you thought about what your house’s style is?
You can live just fine in your digs, whatever they are, without knowing a thing about the architecture and styles of houses.
We found the subject fascinating, however, and fun to talk about. Now we look at houses a lot and try to figure out how they originated.
A lot of homes really are hybrids or combinations of older styles. But there are also many that are exactly like the stereotyped original designs.
Or close enough that you can readily identify them.
Some are clear derivatives that represent the countries of origin of many of our inhabitants. Others were newly created here.
Just Getting Started In Your First Living Quarters
Chances are that when we buy or rent our first (or any!) house or apartment we do it for location. We need it to be near work or transportation or family. Or it is what we can afford.
Most of the time we have not chosen a specific style of design or architecture and gone out and looked for that. Or included that in our decision-making. We may not even know what it is.
After we move in, we start to look at what we’ve got and considered the possibilities of how to live in it and how to decorate it.
Sometimes Others Have Made Choices For Us
Frequently, at that point, we have the main furniture chosen for us already. It may come from our previous locations, our parents or cast-offs from neighbors. We have fun at garage sales and pull those items home.
We’ve started out on really extreme budgets at the start, just having left home, finished school, attained our first job, or gotten married. From first place to second, and so on, we drag on the soon fraying couch, the now sagging bed, the wobbly dinner table with mismatched chairs.
We got used to them because they came to mean “home”. And truly, or somewhat later, budgets are not so much bigger than we feel we can splurge on plushy new items when we move on.
Time To Upgrade Into A Good New Place
At some point, we are ready to really sit down for a minute and look seriously at our house and its contents. Our materials means are doing a bit better, we’ve kept to a fairly good job and made our budgetary decisions pretty well. We’ve got enough money saved for a few months that we can consider meaningful decision-making for our next or made-over abode.
What Kind Of House Are You Living In?
America has long been called a “melting pot” based on the histories and stories of its human inhabitants. It should not be surprising that that same term applies to residential architecture.
- First: craftsman bungalow
- Second: ranch
- Third: contemporary
- Fourth: modern
Huh, you say, what’s that? Silly, we say, yes and your neighbor lives in one also. It is the commonest type of small single home in our States, and it is loved.
It became popular soon after the beginning of the 20th century during the Arts and Crafts movement. There are large homes, too, but we are talking about the smaller ones since they were what became almost ubiquitous in the U.S. for some years.
Why Did These Become So Well-Liked?
When you look at one of these, a number of things strike you visually. First, the compact feeling since it’s all pretty tight up and squared into 2 stories.
- 2 stories
- low-pitched gable roof
- overhanging roof with brackets
- chimney, in stone, visible on the outside
- front porch with large tapered columns
The most characteristic feature right up front is the welcoming and oh-so-comfortable spacious front porch. Also, there are prominent columns that taper from the bottom and can be found at the corners and to guard the front door. In addition, often there are several steps up from the front walkways. You see that brick, stone, and wood balance it all together.
This Design Has Several Distinguishing Features
Notably, the roof is not very steep (also called “low-pitched”). It is a common cable shape (highest point in the center with equal slopes to each side).
The windows are also typically double-hung (both top and bottom can move). We think this always looks so classy! The main window at the front of the bottom story is usually fairly large and visible from the porch. On the upper story, the windows have “divided” panes (the glass is not all one big section, but in several sections).
Even modern-built houses of this kind keep fairly true to the original design. To us, they look a bit “dated”, which of course they are! That also means they have a comfortableness that can only come from the fact that this kind has been around for so many years. Many of us spent our childhood in one of these, so they call out “family” and “happy home” like no other.
Nothing says “California” to us, and to many of you, like this sort of place. And they did come into marked popularity there after the Second World War and well into the next 4 decades at least. Also called Ramblers. Of course, they were soon found throughout the country.
- single story
- low-pitched roof
- attached garage in front
- open-feel floor plan
- sliding glass doors
The widespread use of automobiles encouraged the need for this kind of residential architecture.
Surprise! “Modern” is actually an old type! It came into being after the beginning of the 20th century, mainly after WW1.
- low or flat roof pitch
- plain, clean-looking, rectangular lines
- open feel to the spacious rooms
- large windows, with large panes of glass, in a horizontal orientation
Mid-Century Modern, a term more frequently applied to furniture and interior decor, dates more specifically in the middle of the last century, after WW2. It’s a subtype, if you would, of the later years of Modern.
A lot of people confuse “modern” with “contemporary”. The latter is definitely a moving target: It really means whatever is popular and common today.
- 2 stories
- no front porch
- somewhat formal looking with stylish front stone or brick facade
- 2 car garage in front
- open floor plan
In fact, however, in the early 21st century, the appearance is a bit eclectic, but it does all hold together.
By name, these were among the first built in the U.S. colonies and are seen still today, with some modernization, as with all these styles. Therefore we find that they are the most popular on the East Coast and in the South.
- 2 stories
- steep roof
- dormers (windowed area protruding from the roof side)
- the chimney may be emphasized
- symmetrical rectangle or square building shape
- small vertical windows with small divided panes
Oh, how we adore these ice cream and cake buildings.
- 3 stories (often, or more)
- varied roof types
- asymmetrical styling
- round turrets
- front porches, extending beyond the front
- wood exterior with curvilinear window trimmings
- many smaller windows
Queen Victoria (19th century Britain) is the inspiration for these since they originated during her reign. U.S. colonists constructed them over here, where their popularity continued.
If you live in the city, especially one of our older ones, it’s likely that you live in one of these. Examples have been around for a couple of centuries.
They are also called “townhouses”, but we hesitate to use that word since people use the same term for different-appearing suburban structures.
- multiple stories (3 – 5)
- side-by-side “stacked” look, sharing a wall
- shallow front overhang, if any
- variable height front steps with metal railing
- tall, narrow front windows
Note: we haven’t included all kinds of dwelling designs here, but the ones that are most common, popular, and exhibit prices not limited to the pocketbooks of the rich and famous. Everyman lives in these.
What Is Your Age, Home Lover?
Interestingly, a poll that was carried out by Trulia, real estate company, that was described in Time magazine, identified a big age difference in home buyers about which of the most common 2 types was preferred.
Older age people (55 years old and over) favored Ranch style, whereas, young adults (up to 35 years old, also known as millennials – you know who you are!) liked Craftsman better. Both age ranges made Colonials the third choice.
There Are Lots Of Other Types For You To Consider
We’ve been talking about only the most obviously popular features. The truth is there are lots of additional ones you may run into, or be living in already. Among them are:
- Cape Cod
The Cottage is a relative of Craftsman.
Cape Cod, that we expect to find in New England, may be a type of cottage.
The Country, Farmhouse, and Traditional homes appear to be later interpretations of Colonials.
The Mediterranean, so striking on the West Coast, derives from the tiled edifices of the warm reaches of southern Europe.
The Southwestern is a less uniform description, common to that desert area of our land. It has major Spanish influences and similarities to the Mediterranean. Santa Fe or Pueblo are other names.
There are quite a few naming variations. There is also some overlap among the various styles’ designs.
Tudors, often seen in the northern and eastern regions of the U.S. herald from England and Western Europe. Their influence reaches all the way back to the Middle Ages.
Is There An American Style?
As you can tell from this discussion, there is no single “American” style of a house. You can’t even make a single hybrid or sum out of 2 or several of these designs. They are pretty diverse as you can tell.
Doesn’t that reflect what we know about our interesting country already? We have such variety and beauty. Beautiful diversity is the name of our cultural game.