Select Page

Colonial Cape Cod

Cape Cod Revival

Cape Cod Style


Cape Cod Overview

The Cape Cod style is one of the most enduring colonial influences on American architecture. English colonists settled in Cape Cod, Massachusetts in the 1600s and adopted the style as a practical adaptation to the harsh New England winters. The low ceilings and central chimney efficiently kept the heat where it was needed. This allowed each room in the home to link to the chimney. The homes were a simple and functional expression of the utilitarian lifestyles of these early colonists.

Like all architectural movements, the Cape Cod style evolved from the original styles of the 1600s to what is known as the Cape Cod Revival during the first half of the twentieth century. Now, Cape Cod influences can still be felt in our current architectural styles.



Cape Cod homes generally take on a rectangular shape and are one and one half stories. They are frequently symmetrical, although Cape Cod Revivals often include a single story appendage to either side of the home. Often, additions are built on to the back of the house to preserve the historical authenticity of the front.


Front Door

The front door was usually centered on the home and served as the decorative highlight.



Colonial Cape Cods did not include porches, although later reincarnations of the style started including them.



Colonial Cape Cods used an assortment of smaller panes to create larger windows. Multi-paned double hung windows still characterize the style today. Shutters originally existed for protection from storms when closed. Shutters continue to be present today, although only for decorative purposes.

A full Cape has two windows on either side of the central door. A half Cape is defined by a door on one side of the home’s front with two windows on the other side of the front. A three-quarter Cape has one window on one side of the door and two windows on the other. A quarter Cape (also known as a widow’s Cape) had the door on one side of the home’s front with only one window present on the other side.



Cape Cod homes are historically sided with wide clapboard or wood shingles. Later styles also introduced brick masonry.


Roof & Dormer

Cape Cod homes are characterized by steeply pitched roofs with side gables. Colonial Cape Cods did not include dormers; however, in the early 1900s Cape Cod Revivals included one or more dormers often found on either side of the chimney. This in turn helped increase attic space while adding light and ventilation. Many Cape Cod Revivals also started putting the chimney on one end of the home or eliminating it altogether.



The Cape Cod home is minimally detailed on the exterior with the exception of the plain front door, wooden shutters, and central chimney. Hardwood floors are typical for the interior with a center hall and parlor floor plan.

Return to the sub-menu for Understanding Architectural Styles.