Suburbs and cities throughout the United States have several different architectural house styles available. No matter if you’re looking for an investment property or a new home, you’ve most likely noticed that there are lots of terminology surrounding house styles in general. Understanding what people mean when they use this specific terminology can help you narrow down your search for the perfect house, learn the benefits associated with each house style, and know common issues that could crop up in home inspections.
The style of the home and the structure type are the two biggest parameters that help classify what a house is. The structure is talking about the building type, including a condo or single-family home. A house style refers to the design and architectural features found on the home.
Since this can be confusing and there are many home styles to choose from, we’re going to highlight some of the most popular house styles to help you narrow down your search to find your ideal home.
When someone refers to Victorian architecture, they’re talking about a design era with one style. Victorian homes usually date between the very early 1800s to the early 1900s when Queen Victoria was reigning. Since this era tends to highlight increasing wealth with a rising middle class, it’s very common to see more elaborate and larger home styles.
Also, this type of architecture had influences from varying cityscapes and a few prolific architects. Today, you can easily pick out these grand older homes throughout the United States. Many of them are widely considered to be historic buildings, and any renovations have to be period-specific to preserve the aesthetic.
2. Cape Cod
When someone says Cape Cod, chances are, you can most likely imagine this type of home. They’re very common dotted along suburban communities throughout the United States, and they saw a huge spike in popularity in the 1950s in the U.S. Originally, English settlers introduced this style in the late 17th century, and they derived the name from the Massachusetts coast.
Generally speaking, Cape Cod home styles are usually a story and a half high. You’ll find a centralized doorway that is usually very inviting, and they feature dormers. If you look at the original designs of these types of homes, you’ll see English half-timbered houses from a few centuries ago. The frame underwent alterations to help it survive the New England climate better.
Frank Lloyd Wright was the brilliant turn-of-the-century architect to create the Prairie house style. This style of home was directly inspired by their relationship to nature. As a direct result, you get dozens of handcrafted details in the house like stained glass, simple woodwork, and a host of built-in furniture that lends a very elegant and classic look to the space.
This particular style had a very heavy influence from the Arts and Crafts movement, but it’s very different from traditional craftsman-style homes. Unfortunately, only a handful of the original houses still exist, and you can find a lot of them in the Midwest in the United States. However, this is still an excellent example of architecture that directly originated in the United States.
Any Colonial home style you come across dates way back to the 17th century, and you can find a huge range of variations with this style. Each different style had influences from early settlers to America, depending on which country they originally came from. However, most of the Colonial-style homes feature a dormer and symmetry in the design with pretty landscaping.
You’ll see this very commonly in Georgian or British colonial homes because a large area in the United States was originally under British rule. You could also find a few more popular styles, including the Dutch colonia, federal colonia, and the Spanish colonial. They’re extremely common throughout the East Coast, but you can find this home style across the country.
When you talk about contemporary home styles, you’re looking for homes that have designs that are very popular today. Since the trends change, the contemporary style can vary greatly. However, they generally tend to practice a fusion of exterior design with interior design to give the whole house a sense of flow from one area to the other that is seamless and easy.
This style is also very minimal and clean for the most part, but you typically go for rounded or soft edges. You can find this style home dotted across the country, and it’s especially popular with new builds. However, a newer build doesn’t have to be contemporary as a general rule.
A ranch-style home is either a split-level or a single story home that started showing up around the United States in the first half of the 20th century. People started building this home style during the 1930s by taking inspiration from the Southwest’s Spanish Colonial-style homes. They’re still incredibly popular today, especially the single-story design with elderly people or people with mobility issues.
If you look at later examples of this style of home, it’s easy to confuse them with midcentury modern designs because you’ll notice a lot of the same design characteristics. They both have a very streamlined look with manicured landscaping surrounding the house. However, this style generally features open floor plans that flow to the outdoors via a patio and French-style doors.
Very modest cottage-style homes were originally found in villages or small towns throughout Europe. You can now find them throughout the United States, and they’re especially popular in smaller residential communities. You usually define a cottage by the smaller size, and they usually feature a wood or stone face, but you can also get ones with more traditional siding.
You’ll typically find a small porch on the front of these homes with this house style, and they range between one and one-and-a-half stories high at the most. For the interior, you’ll typically find a very informal and cozy style to help carry the cottage vibe from outside to inside.
If you’re after a farmhouse-style home, you’ll get a slightly more modern interpretation of a rural family farm house that came with a lot of acreage surrounding it. It was typical to see older farmhouses spread out across the United States in the 1700s and 1800s, and many people like to embrace this homey and rustic style for their kitchens, exterior, and interiors.
You can find various designs with this house style, including colonial and Victorian. However, the most common structure is a very simple rectangular-shaped house with clapboard on the outside and a long porch. A modern farmhouse will usually mimic this style, but they’ve gotten much larger over time.
It’s very easy for people to confuse modern house styles with contemporary styles, but there is one easy way to tell them apart. To do so, you want to take a look at when the house was originally built. A modern-style house was generally built anywhere between the 1930s and 1970s. In the United States, you’ll find a subcategory of this style called mid century modern that most houses fall into.
On the other end of the spectrum, contemporary homes didn’t get built for several more decades. Modern house styles usually feature a minimalistic style with sharp, clean lines. You won’t find a large amount of ornamental details with these homes, and you can find them scattered across the country. However, they’re extremely popular on the West Coast.
A Tudor house style is usually very recognizable at a glance because they come with a huge amount of timber details with a light-colored stucco siding on the exterior. They also tend to showcase very ornate brick detailing throughout the home’s exterior that helps draw the eye along it.
This particular style came from England’s historic homes, and it had a huge popularity surge in the United States at the start of the 20th century. You’d find this style in wealthy suburban neighborhoods across the United States. Today, you can find many of these homes in northern climates because they do very well in cold or wet weather.
Rowhouses or townhouses, are house styles that get built right next to one another and feature an adjoining wall. You’ll find this house in bigger cities across the United States because these places tend to feature narrow and long lot sizes. San Francisco is one city that has a ton of this house style.
Also, it’s very common to commission one architect to build most or all of the rowhouses on a single block to ensure that they have a very uniform look. The design style will range, and it’s all up to the chosen architect’s preferences. This house style first got very popular in Belgium and the Netherlands in the 16th century, and they came to the United States during the Industrial Revolution.
This is another very popular house style in the United States, and it has a very obvious influence from the Mediterranean. This style became very popular throughout the warmer areas in the United States more recently in the early 1900s, and they’re still very recognizable today.
This house style usually comes with a very warm tone with stucco for the siding. Also, it has gorgeous ornamental details in both the woodwork and tile on the interior and exterior of the house. The homes are meant to be airy and open, and they have wood beams, stones, and a host of other natural details that all blend seamlessly together.
13. Greek Revival
As the name suggests, this house style was originally inspired by ancient Greek buildings. It first came to Britain in the 1700s, but it was relatively unpopular for years in the United States. In fact, it wasn’t until the 19th century that it really caught on. Americans wanted to find a way to pay tribute to democracy’s birthplace because they were a new democracy, and they chose this style.
This is exactly why a lot of governmental buildings feature the Greek revival style, and you can easily find a huge amount of examples across the country. The style’s defining features include a white facade, symmetrical shape, and very large, even columns in the front of the house or building.
There have been smaller log cabins built for hundreds of years, and European settlers introduced this house style to North America. It’s a very primitive building style that was originally very modest homes with one room placed out in the wilderness. However, this changed because people build more modern style cabins as their primary homes in suburban or rural settings because they like the rustic design style.
A hallmark of this house style is the exterior, and it typically features logs. If you don’t want to go that true-to-style, you can clad the house in wood as a nod to the originally log outer layer. The shape of this house is usually very simple, and the interior is usually very open with rustic elements.
Antebellum architecture is also known as Southern architecture, and it was very prominent before the Civil War in the Southern portion of the United States. The design was supposed to be practical and very impressive. For example, many of these houses had high ceilings with very large windows. This lended a very dramatic look to the house, but it also massively improved the air circulation.
You also found very large porches that wrapped around the structure with this house style, and this allowed people to get shelter from the hotter sun while enjoying the outdoors. Columns and winding staircases were also hallmarks, and it’s still very common throughout the Southern United States. For modern versions, you’ll see larger porches with vaulted ceilings.
16. French Country
As the name suggests, this house style draws the design inspiration from the historic homes dotted in the French countryside. You’d generally see more lived-in and natural elements in and on these homes than the ornate French architecture that was so popular in bigger cities or more urban areas.
There are a few key features to this house style to help you identify it. Usually, you’ll see natural stone facades, dual chimneys, a gently sloping roof, and natural stone or wood flooring on the interior. Today, you can find these homes all over in residential communities in the United States.
17. Queen Anne
The Queen Anne house style is another that falls under the Victoria architecture umbrella, and it was very popular in the late 1800s. It continued to be popular throughout the United States until the 1920s. If you’re looking for this style, you’ll find a large percentage of it in the Eastern portion of the United States today.
A Queen Anne home usually comes with overhanging eaves and a front gable with a very asymmetrical facade. It’s also very common to see a porch that spans the front of the home, and it’s very popular to have it as a second-story balcony.
18. Romanesque Revival
The Romanesque revival house style comes from Britain in the 19th century, and it came to the United States during the 1840s. As the name suggests, the inspiration for this style of housing design came from medieval European architecture. In turn, it usually consists of huge load-bearing columns, thicker stone walls, and big arches.
This style also took the liberty of simplifying some of these features. However, it still kept the essence of these essential design elements. So, you’ll usually see round towers, prominent arches, and brick or stone exteriors. You’ll typically find this design style in college campus buildings or churches in the United States.
You saw saltbox-style houses in New England in the 1600s, and this is the same area where this house style is the most common to this date. This is an extremely simple structure, and it allowed early settlers to build it with whatever supplies they could find or that they had on-hand. This was mostly local timber.
Most saltbox-style homes had an asymmetrical, slanted roof on them, and you’d see a very large chimney prominently displayed. The front of the house is extremely flat, and most of these houses were two stories. The front of the house usually slopes down to one in the back of the house.
This type of architecture and house style was another one that is part of the Victorian era, and it rose to popularity in the United States during the 19th century. It drew inspiration from the 16th century’s Italian Renaissance architecture. If you want to see this housing style, you’ll find it all over the Eastern portion of the United States, and it’s less popular out west.
There are several key characteristics of this house style that can help you identify if when you see it. They usually have a wood or brick clapboard facade, roofs that have little or no pitch to them, eaves that overhang, and they can be between two and four stories high.
21. Art Deco
Although art deco is a decor style, it’s also a house style. It started to get very popular in Paris during the 1920s, and it wasn’t more than a few years before it came to the United States and gained traction. You can see many larger buildings coast to coast like skyscrapers and the Empire State Building embodying this style.
There are several trademarks of this style, including geometric and very ornate detailing, bright and bold colors, parapets, decorative doors and windows, and spires. This is a very eye-catching and in-your-face type of home style that comes designed to catch your attention when you see it.
22. Gothic Revival
Defined by having a host of pointed arches and originating in France, the Gothic revival house style was very popular throughout Europe in the 12th to the 16th century. It saw another surge in popularity in the 19th century, and you can see it in several buildings in the United States like cathedrals.
However, it’s very rare to see a home completely outfitted in this style. Most people prefer to pull in aspects of this design style rather than go all-out. A few trademark things you can incorporate including stained glass windows, pointed arches, and very ornate touches like gargoyles by the entryway or spires.
Eastlake is a house style that is also part of the Victorian era, and it’s very similar to the Queen Anne design style. The 19th century saw it rise in popularity, and you can now find it spread out across the United States. The style drew inspiration from Charles Eastlake, and he was a British architect who excelled at promoting decor and furniture that featured notched and angular looks over curved designs like you’d find in French styles.
In turn, the Eastlake house style usually has railings or posts that feature angular, intricate shapes. You will also usually see lattice work. For the paint colors, the homes normally have warm earth tones with the trim being much lighter to make it stand out.
This home style was another inspired by the Arts and Crafts Movement, and it gained huge popularity in the early 20th century. This home has a huge focus on motifs and materials that are nature-inspired. In turn, they feature a lot of geometric stained glass, toned woodwork, and built-ins scattered throughout the house.
The color palette on this house style usually has earthy elements to it, so you’re usually going to see a lot of rusty oranges, forest greens, and natural browns. There are variations to this decor style, including bungalow, mission, and Stickley. You can easily see them all over the United States.
The split-level house style came about right when the ranch-style homes got very popular throughout the 1950s and 1960s in the United States. What sets this style apart from a ranch-style house is how the architect separated the living spaces inside the house. This also impacts how the exterior of the house looks.
This type of house style has several floors that get connected with very short flights of stairs, unlike traditional two or three-story homes that have longer stair flights between levels. Some people love this unique design element, and other people find it too troublesome to transverse multiple short staircases.
The final popular house style is the condo. It’s great for people who love the convenience that comes with living in an apartment building but they also want to own their home. Since you buy it, you won’t have a landlord or apartment manager to oversee any repairs, and you’ll be in charge of all of the upkeep and repairs as the need arises.
They’re a great choice for people who want to live in the city or who are older adults who want to own their home and have a mortgage without having the upkeep that comes with a single-family home. You can get high or low-rise condos, and most of them are as large as a standard apartment building.
These 26 house styles are all popular throughout the United States, and it’s easy to find one that fits your personal style, wants, and needs without a huge amount of effort. We invite you to take a look, figure out which house style appeals to you, and find your dream home.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.