Everytime I visit the United States, I am always captivated by the various styles of residential architecture that line the streets. Sometimes a single road will have three or four different styles represented, from Tudor-Revival to Colonial to Shingle-Style. The wide variety of home styles reflects a nation rich in history and one that has been heavily influenced by its diverse geography, as well as its English, Spanish and French heritage. Many of the home styles are ‘revival’ styles, meaning they have borrowed architectural details from historical periods; Greek-revival homes, for instance, are usually white and often feature temple-like pillars at the front entrance, referencing the ancient Greek and Roman monuments. The White House is an example of this form of architecture.
There are at least 23 different home styles that are quite unique to North America: the log cabin, the saltbox, Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, Italianate, Second-Empire/ Victorian, Queen Anne, Shingle, Richardsonian Romanesque, Folk Victorian, Colonial Revival, Cape Cod, Neoclassical, Tudor Revival, French Revival, Spanish Colonial Revival, Pueblo Revival, Craftsman, Modernist, International and Ranch/Bungalow.
With the Fourth of July in mind, I’ve shared five of my personal favourite American styles with a description of their distinct architectural features. Happy Independence Day!
1. GOTHIC REVIVAL: 1840 to 1880
Features: Steeply pitched roof with decorated bargeboard and cross gables with spires, arched gothic windows and doors with arched panels, first-floor porch.
The Gothic Revival is another trend that started in England and made its way to the U.S. The style mimics the shapes found on Medieval churches and houses. It is almost always found in rural areas.
2. SHINGLE: 1880 to 1900
Features: Exterior walls and roofs of wood shingles; asymmetrical house shape, often organic to the landscape around it; large porches; intersecting roofs of different shapes, including gambrel.
This style is distinctly ‘seaside’ and was mostly popular along the coast in the Northeast. Shingle houses were usually large, free-form mansions built into the rocks and hills of the shore. Many smaller Shingle homes exist today.
3. SALTBOX: 1607 to early 1700s
Features: Steeply pitched (catslide) roof that reaches to first story in the back; massive central chimney; small windows of diamond-paned casements or double-hung sash with nine or 12 lights.
Most saltboxes existed in and around New England. Their steep roof pitch is a remnant of the days of thatching, but early settlers learned that wood shingles were better at funneling off snow and rain. Few original saltboxes survive today but the style is often copied because of its charming simplicity.
4. ITALIANATE: 1840 to 1885
Features: Hip roof with deep, bracketed eaves; arched 1-over-1 or 2-over-2 windows with elaborate crowns; paired-door entryway with glass in the doors.
Again modeled after a fashion started in England, the Italianate style rejected the rigid rules of classical architecture and instead looked to the more informal look of Italian rural houses.
5. TUDOR REVIVAL: 1890 to 1940
Features: Steep-pitch side gable roof with cross gable and half timbering; double-hung or narrow, multi-light casement windows, some with diamond panes; semi-hexagonal bay windows; walls of stucco or stone (later examples).
More Medieval than Tudor, the style’s details loosely harken back to an early English form. Though the style began in the late 19th century, it was immensely popular in the growing suburbs of the 1920s. A version of Tudor came back into vogue in the late 20th century.
Which style would you choose as home sweet home? Tell us in the comments section below