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Understanding Architectural Styles


Home design tends to evolve from earlier architectural styles while adapting to the needs of present-day home buyers. Social and economic factors also influence design movements. If you were to drive through a residential neighborhood today, you would see a myriad of styles drawing from a large variety of cultural influences. Some of the earliest homes in the United States were log cabins built for their ease of construction and the abundance of available natural resources.


Soon home styles started to reflect the background of early settlers who came from many parts of the world and the American Colonial styles were born. Colonial style homes include New England Colonial, Dutch Colonial, French Colonial, German Colonial, Spanish Colonial, and Colonial Cape Cod. Chances are, many design features seen in new homes today reflect at least a few of the influences from America’s colonial days.


After the American Revolution, architectural styles started to reflect the ideals of the new democracy, and the neoclassical home came to prominence. These home styles include influences from ancient Greece and Rome such as Greek Revival, GeorgianFederal, Antebellum, and Tidewater. The Neoclassical home style is a more refined style for a more refined time. Symmetry is the prevailing feature in these neatly ordered homes. They are built on a grand scale with large columns and pillars often present. These are stately homes with many decorative details defining each distinct style.


With the explosion of new technology and building materials, home styles soon started to incorporate many new features and new ornamentation, which welcomed in the Victorian home style. These homes include styles such as Italianate, Second Empire, Gothic Revival, Queen Anne, Romanesque, Folk Victorian, and Shingle Style. The unique features distinguishing each of these architectural styles evolved from blending new technologies and ideas, with historical influences. Victorian homes are characterized by ornamental brackets, towers, turrets, spindles, arches, and dormers.


The evolution of home styles then started to mirror the economic path of the maturing country. Leading up to the Great Depression money and excessiveness heavily influenced new home styles. The Gilded Age of America introduced the Renaissance Revival, Tudor Revival, Rococo, and Beaux Arts architectural styles. This was a time of splendor and the homes reflected much grandeur in their elaborate and palatial designs.


After the Great Depression more affordable home styles began to emerge reflecting the humbled and frugal nature of the recovering country. These home styles include Arts & Crafts style homes, Bungalows, Cottages, American Foursquare, and Spanish Mission houses. These homes were much more compact and economical, reflecting the simplicity and comfort of the early part of the 20th century. They reflected an informal lifestyle and exhibited early hints of present day layouts. The renowned architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, also heavily influenced the architectural styles of this era making Prairie Style and Usonian Style homes a prominent fixture in the American lexicon of architecture.


By the mid twentieth century, new styles continued to emerge in addition with reviving and modernizing earlier styles. Examples of styles from this era include Mid-Century Modern, Ranch Style, Minimal Traditional, and Modernist. Modest homes with little to no ornamentation became prominent. These homes were simple and functional with clean lines often characterizing them.


Most homes today are built with trace elements characteristic of all these earlier styles. Neo-Eclectic homes represent the largest hodgepodge of styles and also comprise the largest share of the current market. Part of the reason for this is that these homes are promoted by builders and contractors often without an architect involved. The Neo-Eclectic style typifies American suburbia. Applying a mixture of historic styles can work, but needs to be done artfully to avoid the creation of unnecessarily large spaces without warmth or personality.


Other current home styles prevalent in the United States include new takes on old classics such as Craftsman, Mediterranean, Southern, and Traditional homes. The ever-popular and perpetual revivalism of Colonial styles and European styles are also alive and well.


Let whatever style appeals to you guide your design philosophy. An architect is a highly trained professional ready to translate your ideas into a beautiful and functional new home. Your home should reflect your personality, lifestyle, and interests. Your home should be an expression of who you are and the way you live, or in other words, an Expressive Home.