26 Architectural House Styles: Homes That Built American Neighborhoods
House styles have evolved for centuries to accommodate changes in taste, lifestyle, and environment. Exploring the house styles that create American neighborhoods allows you to envision your dream home and know exactly what you’re looking for before you’re ready to buy.
Understanding the foundation of your home’s design can also help you plan your decor and landscaping — making a house your home.
We’ve gathered the most popular American house styles and their characteristics so you can learn more about the history of home design and choose your ideal architectural style before you move.
1. Colonial Style
Colonial-style houses are simple rectangular homes that became popular in the 1600s as colonists settled the East Coast. These homes have many variations due to the fact that new communities all over the world built Colonial-style homes to suit their culture.
British Colonial style is the most common and recognizable Colonial home. Its key features include:
- A side-gabled roof
- Two floors
- A centered front door
- Symmetrical windows on either side of the door
The rectangular shape and interest in symmetry are seen in other Colonial house styles, too. Materials and decorative features can vary by region, as some Colonial houses sport brick exteriors and ornate trim, while others showcase shingle siding and simple shutters.
2. Cape Cod Style
Cape Cod homes are similar to the British or American Colonial homes, though they originated further north in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. These are often seen as the classic American family home since the style’s revival in the 20th Century.
Cape Cod homes are identified by their:
- Shingle exteriors
- Modest size and ornamentation compared to British Colonial homes
- Originally single-story homes
- Large central fireplaces
- Attic lofts (20th-century revival)
- Dormer windows (20th-century revival)
Cape Cod homes are built of local wood and stone to withstand the north-eastern weather. This exterior weathering provides an iconic weathered-blue color to these homes.
3. Dutch Colonial Revival Style
Most Dutch Colonial homes you find today are actually from the Colonial Revival period of the early 20th Century. Original Dutch Colonial homes feature flared roof eaves and creative wood and brickwork. They are much more ornamental than classic Colonial homes, though the Dutch Colonial Revival style tends to be more subdued than the original Dutch Colonial homes.
Dutch Colonial Revival houses feature:
- Broad gambrel roofs that are visually similar to barn-style roofs
- Open-floor plans
- Flared roof eaves
- Split doors
The large barn-style roofs are the most identifiable feature of a Dutch Colonial home and even became known as “Dutch roofs.”
4. Federal Colonial Style
Federal-style homes became popular after the American Revolution and were a refined upgrade to the popular Georgian house style. They have the same recurring shape and symmetry as other Colonial house styles, but their delicate ornamentation sets them apart.
Federal Colonial homes often feature:
- A layout built around a central hall
- An elliptical fanlight and two flanking lights (windows) around the door
- Paladin or tripartite windows
The elliptical fanlights and paladin windows are key distinguishing features from Georgian-style homes.
5. French Colonial Style
The French Colonial house style can be seen around the world and has significant variety among its sub-styles.
French Colonial houses have the same symmetry as other Colonial homes with these distinct features:
- Dormer windows, including one centered above the door
- External stairs to enter higher floors
- Iron stairs and balconies
- Slightly raised basements to support the floor
French Colonial houses are most similar to Spanish Colonial houses and easily identified by their elaborate iron balconies, stairs, and entrances.
6. Georgian Style
Georgian-style homes were one of the most common styles in the 18th century and showcased formal and classical details that previous homes didn’t. Georgian houses are similar to Federal houses, though they can be distinguished by:
- A crown and pilasters framing the front door
- Decorative quoins or bricks at the corners
- Smooth decorative blocks as moulding
You can also find regional variations with hooded front doors and pent roofs between levels.
7. Contemporary Style
Contemporary homes resemble the modern homes of the mid-20th century with a renewed emphasis on sustainability. Current contemporary styles are rooted in minimalism, which you can see in these key features:
- Asymmetrical exterior
- Clean lines
- Open floor plan layout
- Geometry highlighted in its structure
- Sustainable building materials and features
Contemporary homes aim to find beauty in a simple and appealing design with ties to nature and more warmth than modern home styles offer.
8. Cottage Style
Cottage-style homes are often quaint and cozy — emphasizing charm and comfort over ornamentation. Cottage houses come in a variety of styles and can mimic bungalows, Tudor house styles, and more.
Look for these designs to identify a cottage:
- Asymmetrical exterior
- Typically one to one-and-a-half stories
- Traditional aesthetics that aren’t too rustic
- Open floor plans with wide halls and doorways
A cottage house style is extremely versatile, and its small size makes it great for small families or guest houses.
9. Craftsman Style
There was a renewed interest in handcrafted art and design following the industrial revolution. This became the “Arts and Crafts” era and paved the way for the Craftsman home, or “arts and crafts” home.
Craftsman homes focus on simplicity to counter the ornate stylings of Victorian homes. They’re also designed to highlight the craftsmanship of its builders and include:
- A low-pitched roof with overhanging eaves
- A covered porch
- Woodwork including exposed beams and built-in features like shelving
- Natural tones to complement the warmth from woodworking
Craftsman homes are favored for their character and are another versatile style that may borrow common elements from other home styles.
10. Farmhouse Style
The American Farmhouse is a simple and timeless style. Farmhouses are designed to be practical first and foremost. They’re common across the US and often showcase regional variations, like wrap-around porches in the South.
Farmhouses have evolved with time and location, but often feature these elements:
- Rectangular floor plan
- Large front porches
- Natural wood and stone materials
- Few and small windows
- Formal front rooms separated from family rooms
Of course, the easiest way to identify a farmhouse is that they’ll often be situated on a large plot of farmland.
11. French Country Style
A French Country home has a rustic yet upscale charm. French Country architecture is designed after French chateaus and became popular with American soldiers returning from World War I.
French Country homes offer a unique house style featuring:
- Steep pitched or hipped roofs
- Tall ceilings and windows
- Traditional materials including clay, stone, and brick offer a rustic appeal
- Exposed wooden beams in ceilings and walls
French Country homes are designed with their environment in mind. They often feature neutral colors with soft, nature-inspired pops of color like sunshine yellows and grass greens.
12. Greek Revival Style
Around the 1820s, Americans experienced a renewed interest in classic Greek and Roman culture. This cultural shift was a natural fit for architects, who brought the Greek Revival house style to life.
Greek Revival architecture became popular in homes as well as businesses, banks, and churches. Prominent features include:
- Easy to identify shapes, including a rectangular building and triangular roofs
- Gable-front designs
- Large porches and protected entryways
- Greek-inspired columns both square and round
Greek Revival homes often have decorative trim and moulding around the front door and windows. These ornate features and columns are easy ways to identify Greek Revival architecture.
13. Mediterranean Style
Mediterranean home styles are made of stucco, so they’re most common in warm climate states like Arizona and California. These homes grew in popularity in the 1920s and ‘30s after being featured as homes for the rich and famous on the silver screen.
Mediterranean-style homes include Spanish and Italian architectural elements. These key features make them easy to spot:
- Stucco walls painted white or brown
- Classic red tile roofs
- Arched doorways and windows
- Ornamentation including wrought iron, heavy doors, and decorative tiles
Mediterranean homes still carry the feelings of class and luxury they were built with over 100 years ago, with an added element of history and charm.
14. Modern Style
Modern home design became popular in the early 20th century and has a heavy influence on today’s contemporary designs. The core of modern designs can be seen in their:
- Use of geometric shapes
- Large, floor-to-ceiling windows
- Clean lines and flat roofs
- Open floor plans
These styles attempt to connect with nature through minimalism and fluid design between outdoor and indoor spaces. Modern house styles branch into a few key sub-styles.
15. Mid-century Modern Style
Mid-century Modern designs are nothing new and have influenced interior design, graphic art, and house styles. Mid-century Modern homes are designed to embrace minimalism and nature. They’re also often modeled to appeal to a futuristic or abstract concept.
Mid-century Modern homes can be identified by their:
- Flat planes and clean lines
- Monochromatic brickwork
- Asymmetrical home layouts
- Nature-inspired interior
- Interior level shifts between rooms
Mid-century architecture is still widely popular today, as are Mid-century Modern interior design and furniture trends.
16. Prairie Style
Prairie-style homes were made famous by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. These homes celebrate and complement the natural beauty of the Midwestern landscape with low and long shapes in the floor plan and building elements.
Prairie-style houses showcase:
- Long and low-to-the-ground builds
- Flat or shallow roofs with overhanging eaves
- Thin bricks or stucco exteriors to match the house shape
- Minimalist yet stylized ornamentation
Prairie houses inspired the flat planes and natural elements popular in Mid-century houses.
17. Pueblo Revival Style
The Pueblo Revival was inspired by the indigenous Pueblo people’s architecture in the Southwestern US. Pueblo homes were made of adobe or stucco and designed to handle the extreme temperatures of the desert.
Architects in California began to explore the Pueblo style in the late 19th century and the Pueblo Revival style spread across New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado.
The Pueblo Revival hit its peak in the 1930s in Santa Fe, and these Pueblo-style elements are still popular in the Southwest:
- Rounded corners and irregular shapes
- Earth tones that reflect the desert colors
- Stepped effects with higher floors becoming smaller
- Flat roofs with parapet trim
- Exposed roof beams extending past the walls
The Pueblo Revival style is also commonly called Adobe or Santa Fe style architecture.
18. Ranch Style
Ranch house styles are the most searched style in the US today and are common in cities and suburbs across the country. There are various ranch house styles, including California and split-level ranch homes. The main distinguishing features between these styles are living space and home layout.
Ranch style homes feature:
- Single-story floor plans with low-pitched roofs
- Rectangular, “U,” or “L” shaped open floor plans
- Patio or deck space connected to the home
- Often includes a finished basement or attached garage
Ranch homes are the most popular homes in 34 US states — particularly in the Midwest and on the East Coast.
19. Townhouse Style
Townhomes are common in cities and densely populated neighborhoods. Townhouses are tall and narrow homes designed to make the most out of vertical space without too much of a yard or garden area.
Homes are considered townhouses when they:
- Share one or two walls with adjacent homes
- Have their own entrances
- Are built with multiple floors to maximize vertical space
- Often share a similar style to their neighbors’ homes and may operate under an HOA
Townhouses can be built to mimic other architecture styles, like Italianate and Greek Revival, while maintaining the condensed, vertical floor plan.
20. Tudor Revival Style
Modern Tudor homes are inspired by Medieval European Tudor homes and often have a charming cottage aesthetic. They’re popular on the East Coast and in parts of the Midwest.
Tudor homes are an easy style to identify. They feature:
- Steeply pitched gable roofs
- Exposed and decorative half-timbering with stucco exterior
- Mixed-material brick or stone walls
- Casement windows in groups or with diamond shapes
The Tudor Revival reached peak popularity in the 1920s and is still widely popular today.
21. Victorian Style
Victorian homes were built between 1837 and 1901 while Queen Victoria reigned in Britain. “Victorian” actually refers to multiple styles that vary in influence, but each features ornate detailing and asymmetrical floor plans.
The key features of a Victorian-era home include:
- Elaborate woodwork and trim
- Towers, turrets, and dormer windows
- Steep gabled roofs
- Partial or full-width porches
Victorian homes are all about ornamentation — industrialization allowed these homes to be produced en masse and across a variety of architectural styles.
22. Gothic Revival Style
Gothic Revival architecture grew in the mid-19th century and was one of the early styles of Victorian-era homes. The Gothic Revival style takes influence from Medieval Europe and was designed as a country home. Architects believed the asymmetrical design and ornamentation complemented the nature of rural America.
Gothic Revival homes can be identified by their:
- Pointed arch in windows, doors, and decoration
- Elaborate wood trim vergeboards and bargeboards
- Steeply pitched roofs and front-facing gables
- Towers and turrets resembling medieval castles
Gothic Revival architecture was a popular style for schools and churches as well as rural homes.
23. Italianate Style
Italianate architecture continues the trend of asymmetrical design, romanticism, and Medieval influence — this time borrowing features from Medieval Italy. Italianate style is common up and down the East Coast and peaked in popularity between 1850 and 1880.
Italianate architecture features:
- Belvederes for natural light and airflow
- Overhanging eaves with decorative support brackets
- Tall and narrow or pedimented windows with rounded crowns
- Cast iron detailing and decor
Pattern books were becoming a popular way for craftsmen to build homes in different styles. This flexibility meant Italianate features were accessible for a variety of homes including large estates and urban townhouses.
24. Queen Anne Style
Queen Anne homes were popularized in the later Victorian era, beginning around 1880. This style is the quintessential Victorian home for many, with ornate woodworking and decor inside and out.
Queen Anne homes have key regional differences across the country, but maintain these essentials:
- Textured walls with decorative shingles or half-timbering
- Large round or polygonal tower at the home’s corner
- Steeply pitched and asymmetrical roof
- Decorative spindles on porches and trim
- Decorative single-pane or stained glass windows
Queen Anne architecture is most common in homes, but can also be seen in schools, churches, and office buildings.
25. Second Empire
Second Empire homes were a modern Victorian-era style that started in France before spreading through the Northeastern and Midwestern United States. Second Empire architecture features similar ornate Victorian trends, though generally offers a simplified Victorian aesthetic.
These elements help identify a Second Empire home:
- Uniquely shaped Mansard Roof
- Decorative window framing and dormers
- Decorative rails or balustrades around terraces and staircases
- Iron roof crest and eaves with support brackets
Second Empire homes are also easy to identify since they’re the only Victorian-era style that often features a symmetrical, rectangular floor plan.
26. Shingle Style
Shingle-style homes took influence from Colonial architecture rather than Medieval Europe. Ornamentation became simpler towards the end of the Victorian-era and Shingle-style homes are best known for their creative floor plans and signature shingles on exterior walls.
Shingle Victorian homes are identified by these interior and exterior features:
- Shingles cover the entire exterior
- Asymmetrical interior layouts without a central hallway
- Emphasis on horizontal planes
- Custom built to meld with the nature surrounding the house
Shingle-style houses were designed as a work of art and encouraged creativity in their use of shapes and features.
House styles will continue to evolve with influences from history, culture, and our lifestyles. All of these house styles can be seen and celebrated across the US and have their own stories to tell. Choose the house style that fits your lifestyle, location, and, of course, personal style best. Then check your credit score, get pre-approved, and start house-hunting.