Most Common House Styles — Is Yours on the List?

Here at we tend to either write about real estate as an industry and how to navigate it or as a location — i.e. a property — where people live and interact. We tend to either go deep into its hard-facts or twist it altogether to consider some “out-of-the-box” ideas. But we rarely talk about the surface, right? And why is that? Although banal, the surface is equally part of it all, and, as such, deserves to be covered from time to time.

In comes: architecture.

If you think about it, architecture is nothing banal. It’s the first thing that catches someone’s attention in a house. And, so, because first impressions do matter, it can be one of the biggest factors to the home buyer when falling in (or out of) love with the property and ultimately making an offer on the house. With that in mind, we decided to make an article of the most common house styles in the country, so that you learn if your house is one of them and your chances of finding a buyer for it are bigger.

But first, we feel it’s important to talk a little bit about the history of American architecture.

History of American Architecture

Our very first house styles were the Native Americans huts. Don’t think for a minute that they were all the same. North America is one huge continent; different tribes had different weather hurdles to overcome, which impacted deeply the architectural engineering of its huts. Not to mention the different lifestyles and culture from tribe to tribe. A tribe in hot Arizona was very different from one in Alaska. And an agricultural tribe — which stayed put for centuries in productive lands — also required different materials and construction methods than a nomadic tribe that needed portable and easy to build huts. Some were cone-shaped, others were like domes. You had igloos, plank houses, earthen houses, adobe houses, chickees, tepees…

But immigration — from England and Spain — completely altered everything bringing a mix of influences from Spain in the West, and from Britain in the east. And pretty soon references to Greek Architecture with big pillars — think the White House and most of that era’s governmental buildings (no wonder it’s called “Federal Era”) — then Victorian and Gothic elements, the rise of the first skyscrapers, the rise of modernist architecture and ultimately the mix of all those styles and many other regional trends.

As you can see, in countries of the “New world” like America, immigration is a central point to understand the development of its Architecture. Every new “people” that arrived brought their own sense of style from their motherland, and through that prism, adding up to environment necessities of weather etc. the history of American Architecture was written.

Ok, with that short panorama of the history of American Architecture, hopefully, you will be able to understand why, where and how some of the most common house styles in America came to be.

Colonial-Era Houses

From the 1600s to the last decades of the 1700s, “The Colonial era” was the sole architectural style practiced in America. With the declaration of Independence, the idea of American values and culture started being developed and those expressions trickled down to architecture as well, which meant, in a way, a depart from anything related to the Colonial era. So much so, that the era after is called “Federal Era” — which introduced different elements from what was usual when building houses back then. Pretty soon, the Colonial Era died altogether.

However, on the occasion of the Centennial Exhibition of 1876, probably because there was no animosity toward the British anymore, all of that was forgotten and the remembrance of that era brought joy and pride to Americans, which also translated to architecture, and a Colonial Revival started happening. Through the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th there was a big boom in the construction of houses –influenced by the “second industrial revolution” brought upon by the invention of the automobile and Henry Ford — which pushed for a large supply of colonial-like homes that are, still to this day, beloved by home buyers in America.

Due to so many comings and goings of this common house style — it also had a brief revival during the 1930s — a lot of other styles borrowed from some of its influences forging through this mix a new style in its own way. Colonial-era houses characteristics have a strong influence of Georgian architecture, built in a simple rectangular shape, usually with a centralized door, two stories and the ridge pole running parallel to the street. Symmetrical windows on each side of the door and front façade with an accented doorway. Sometimes painted white (sometimes no paint at all), built in brick with wood trim and wooden columns. Some had two chimneys (one on each side of the home; one for the living room, other for the kitchen) and windows/attics coming out of the steep roof.

Craftsman Style Houses

This one might be *the* most common house style in America. Its popularity came in the aftermath of the industrial revolution of the late 19th century. There was a backlash to all the fast-and-furious way of living technology brought for people’s lives, thus making Americans join the “arts & crafts” movement. It valued manual labor and the artistry gift. With architecture, it sought a return to uniquely-crafted decorative details, with the implementing of stones and wood to its exterior. The driveway, the chimney, and other pillars are usually made of stones (whether cut like a brick or in a more rough way) and the wood brings the more traditional touch to the rails in the stairs of the doorway etc.

The shape of the house is unique from property to property — the goal to understand the craftsman style houses is thinking of the movement as a way to build and emphasize a relationship of the home with nature and craft and construction, instead of just the regular rectangular symmetrical box of the colonial era — barely changing from one house to the other. Because of this relationship with nature, it’s especially common in mountainous places. Think Colorado, Montana etc.

Ranch Style Houses

Ranch and Farm Houses are concepts that pertain more to the environment where they are located; that’s what guides its architectural choices more than anything else. So the “one-story house or two-stories house” debate usually has the former as the answer 9 out 10 times when it comes to Ranch style houses. Ranch style houses are usually single-story, open floor plans with attached almost barn-like front garages and low rooflines. The spacious ranch/farm land allows for the construction of a wide house, with lots of walking space and a design reminiscent of the west and the south — places where ranch and farms were (and still are) abundant. The whole idea of this common house style and architecture is providing above anything else, quick and easy access to outdoors with functional porches and transitional spaces that created a much more informal and inviting exterior, often inhabited by the residents looking over their farm/ranch under the shadows of their porch. Because of that preference to function over style, a lot of other house styles — especially Victorian and Colonial — were, from time to time, incorporated to this scheme with little details, pillars etc.

With the population exodus from rural areas to big cities of the second quarter of the 20th century, in the 1950s and 1960s this style of home, reminiscent of many people’s childhood imagery, became the quintessential modern house style of that time, and, to this day, it remains one of the most common house styles in America. Nowadays, noticing the accessibility preoccupation of its house design, smart Real Estate Agents specialized in homes for the disabled have been targeting ranch houses for clients with special needs, so we bet it will continue to be a popular modern house style.

Modern Homes

To understand modern homes, think glass.

But also flat one-story homes with clean lines and a minimalist approach to the decoration — since, because of the glass, it sort of becomes part of the outside; you can see a lot of the inside from outside the house if the blinds aren’t shut.

Though it wasn’t originally contemplating this, because of its use of lots of glass doors and windows with a lot of natural light, it has become the go-to house for Millennials that can afford an expensive house. It’s perfect for them as it is ecologically more sufficient and responsible, while still conserving a “vintage” feeling — though the name is “modern”, the first house in this style was built in 1910 — that makes it feel soulful and unique to them that are such visually-driven people.

Southern Style Homes

Again, a common house style that’s originated not by aesthetic choices but conditioned by its environment. Southern homes came to be due to the humid hot weather of the south. They have large porches/verandas to create more shaded spaces, large roofs, and overhangs for the air to circulate and cool the home. In fact, a lot of southern houses are also built on elevated foundations built on bricks or stones — in coastal areas on top of stilts — to make way for the hot air close to the ground to circulate making sure the rooms don’t overheat, and also because it’s a way to deal with constant flooding of the south’s high tides — which is, of course, ingenious but not a reason for you not to get flood insurance, okay?

Like ranch houses, southern style homes can have elements of other styles, but because of southern attachment to traditions, they all tend to lean to a more romantic Colonial Victorian approach and will rarely have hot materials on its construction. Additionally, the $$$ize of the southern style home can also vary — from the pompous big house to the more modest home.

Contemporary Style Homes

To finish off, this is not one of the most common house styles — it’s just the current style that is in fashion when building a home. It’s possible that, in the future, should there be new developments — our money is on 3D-Printed Homes and the explosion of the fascinating trend of Tiny Houses — this house style becomes known as something like “Green Style homes” because “contemporary” just means “now”; it doesn’t really say what it is. In fact, in their early days, some of the styles mentioned in this article were called the same. However, the current contemporary style equals the worrying for a responsible construction via the use of lightweight materials that do not harm the environment. And not only materials: the way they are manipulated( and the impact the construction of the dwelling makes) matter as well.

Contemporary style homes have a design that favors natural light just like modern homes, use a lot of bamboos, have natural plants taking a central role to the décor, helping cool down the home as well, and a big preoccupation with solar energy.

So, what’s the verdict? Is your home one of these styles on the list? In or out, contact one of our real estate agents and let them help you find the right crowd for it — or find the one you like the most if you want to buy rather than sell!