Use this quick guide to design themes to identify the era and style of your house's details
Many people have some familiarity with architectural eras and styles and how they look on a grander scale. But in most homes, the hallmarks of architectural style are diluted, and the square footage has been reduced to build a more affordable house. These homes are the ones you see in neighborhoods all over the country. Though they're small and often unassuming, it is amazing how many attributes they have in common with their bigger versions.
But how can you tell what era and architectural style your modest-size older home belongs to? Below you'll find some of the details and influences of Spanish, Cape Cod, colonial revival Cape, minimalist traditional, Craftsman, Prairie, ranch, International and midcentury modern styles on homes you may encounter today.
Spanish mission, Spanish colonial and their offshoots, Spanish eclectic and Spanish revival, are some of the oldest architectural styles in the country. They tend to be most commonly seen in Arizona, New Mexico, California and Florida. Some of their distinguishing characteristics include broad, undecorated wall surfaces and a shallow gable (or hip) roof made of red clay tiles laid up or down in an alternating sequence.
There is usually a stucco exterior, painted white, cream or tan. Arched doorways and windows, tile vents, decorative tiles, wrought iron railings, a heavy and solid wood door, and brick paths and patios are common elements of these styles.
Roots of Style: Spanish Eclectic Homes Find a Place in the Sun
The Cape Cod started out small and was later adapted into the larger colonial revival Cape. The original Cape Cod house could withstand extreme weather conditions and blend into the natural landscape. Early Capes did not have dormers or porches, and usually faced south to take advantage of the sun. They had very little exterior ornamentation and were covered with shingles or lap siding that weathered and grayed with time. The windows were usually surrounded by working shutters. The house above is an example of a full Cape, with the front door centered on the home and two windows on either side. This simple house design has been often copied throughout the United States.
More: American Architecture: Elements of Cape Cod Style
The minimalist traditional house became popular in the 1930s as a response to the Depression. It is a simplified form of the colonial revival house in varying degrees. In the minimalist traditional house, the second floor is usually stacked on top of the first.
Do You Live in a Minimalist Traditional House?
The Victorian style was most popular from 1860 to 1890. Shown is an example of folk Victorian style. These homes usually occurred in more rural settings between 1870 to 1910, built as materials became more affordable to working-class families. More people could afford to build homes with added ornamentation. Ready-made, elaborate, mass-produced wooden trim pieces made their way to rural areas on the expanding train lines.
Global Architecture Style: Victorian
The Craftsman style was mastered by brothers Charles and Henry Greene, who created masterpieces like this one — the Darling-Wright residence. The brothers had an appreciation of Japanese and Swiss architecture and used wood in amazing ways. Their work started the move toward modernism in architecture.
See What Defines a Craftsman Home
This Prairie style building, the Darwin Martin Complex, was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1904. Wright's Prairie style is one of the most influential architecture styles of the 20th century; details include a low-pitched roof, deep overhangs, brick walls and horizontal windows.
Getting It Wright: Today's Prairie Style
Ubiquitous throughout America, the ranch house owes a lot to Wright's Prairie style. The low-pitched roof, deep overhangs, brick exterior base and horizontal planes and windows are all visible in this home design.
Ranch Architecture Roams Across U.S.
Walter Gropius is considered to be one of the masters of modern architecture, or the International style. While directing the Department of Architecture at Harvard University, the German-born architect built this home for his family in Massachusetts.
The big three architects of the International style are Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Gropius. The most recognized elements of their work include a square or rectangular footprint, an extruded rectangle form, windows running in horizontal rows that form a grid, and all facade angles at 90 degrees.
International Style Celebrates Pure Form
Joseph Eichler developed a fascination with architecture after living in a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. (Modern architecture somehow all goes back to Wright, doesn't it?) Eichler wasn't a trained architect and never held a hammer, but as a developer, he created homes different from the average suburban tract homes.
Some of their most recognizable elements were floor-to-ceiling glass windows and sliding glass doors, large beams, tongue and groove ceilings, flat roofs, steeply pitched gables, wide overhangs, triangular windows placed between horizontal joists and the roof, and indoor atriums.
It's fitting to end this ideabook with Eichler, because his goal was to create homes for the average person that were stylish, functional and affordable. Many of his homes are being lovingly renovated today.
Your turn: What style(s) do you see in your house?