Types of Residential Architecture: Characteristics and Some History Too, part 1

Does anyone else marvel at the many types of beautiful residential architecture we have on display throughout communities across our country? It’s amazing that we can see examples of the most popular styles of homes in each little corner of the nation, and better yet, we get to live in them!


There are more than a dozen major architectural styles, and beyond that there are many subcategories and “blends” as well. It would take an expert to outline all the details of each style of home and how they differ from one another, but I thought it would be interesting to highlight some features of a few of the most well-known types of homes we see in residential real estate. The commonality of each style home will vary based on geography, but my research confirms the notion that these are the most well-known and recognizable.



As I see all the time with clients, the connection we have to a home is very personal and unique. We all love different types of homes and certainly have varying tastes when it comes to what style we would buy, but we can all appreciate the beauty, functionality, and history that accompany some of the most popular styles of dwellings.  Let’s examine a few of the most popular:


Georgian Home Characteristics:

residential architectural stylesThis type began in New England and the South from 1700-mid 1800s.

  • It features a stately, square appearance;
  • Balanced front elevation with a central front door, often featuring an overhead molding or transom;
  • Many symmetrical windows, sometimes in pairs;
  • Finished with a wood or brick exterior; and
  • Chimneys on each end of the house.



Cape Cod Home Characteristics:

This variant began in the 1600s, but regained mainstream popularity in early 1900s.

  • It is very popular in coastal communities.
  • Many are under 2,000 square feet to reflect simplicity of colonial buildings.
  • Characteristics include steeply pitched roof, originally designed to prevent snow and ice buildup during New England winters;
  • Simple cottage look with shaker shingles, shuttered windows, wood exterior; and
  • Centered front door, central or side chimney, and two upper dormers.



Craftsman/ Bungalow Characteristics:

This type originated in Southern California in the early 1900s.

  • Features low-pitched roof, wide overhangs, a front porch and distinctive tapered columns often accompanied by stone accents; and
  • Wood front door with window panes, many windows, muted and early colors to reflect the connection to nature.
  • Sometimes this kind has a single dormer.
  • Functional space is a major component in floor plans.


Mid-Century Modern:

Popularized from 1930s-1970s, the best examples of true mid-century modern are in Palm Springs, California.

  • Features include flat or “butterfly” pitched roof;
  • Stucco or stone exterior;
  • Very open at the back of house with walls of windows;
  • Private front façade of home; and
  • Open, breezy floor plan with many multi-functional rooms; and
  • Simple, clean aesthetic.
  • True mid-century examples often feature a carport.
  • There is a large influence from architect Frank Lloyd Wright.


American Farmhouse:

Earliest examples were constructed in the 1700s with local materials because they were built by owners, not architects.

  • Professional builders were only used by the wealthy and farmers were not part of that class.
  • Not actually a style of architecture, more about function of the home.
  • If a home was built on a large plot of agricultural land, it was considered a farmhouse.
  • Built out of necessity historically, not style.
  • Features vary based on location, climate and available materials.
  • Today, farmhouses blend many styles because as people bought land and moved to rural locations, they incorporated characteristics from many other types of homes.
  • There are a few commonalities: functional, unpretentious, and comfortable;
  • Large porch, often wraparound for informal living space;
  • Siding or wood exteriors; and
  • Often feature barn or other type of structure on property.


What other styles of homes do you love, or do you fall somewhere between a few categories? We are actually seeing more beautiful blends of styles in current floor plans. Share your thoughts with me because I would love to put together another post that features some of the other favorites, especially in various locations across the U.S.!

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