What Style Is My Old House?

There are so many different architectural styles that dot the landscape of America. And knowing what style your old home is can tell you a lot about its history and how to renovate it properly.

Each architectural style has its own unique characteristics that set it apart from the rest. Knowing these defining characteristics and how to tell one style apart from another is key. So, I assembled this page for anyone who isn’t sure what kind of house they are looking at. I’ll walk you through some of the most popular architectural styles and give you a thorough breakdown of each.

I’m always adding more to this page, so if you don’t see a particular style you want to know about contact me and I’ll add a post about it soon enough.

 

Architectural Styles of America

Gamble HouseAmerican Craftsman – This is one of my favorites styles. Craftsman Bungalows were a big hit in America from 1905-1930. Their humble stance and return to building with natural materials set them apart from other styles. Exposed rafters, natural unpainted wood and extraordinary craftsmanship made these homes incredibly unique. Read more…

 

 

 

 

American Foursquare – The simple a easily adaptable Foursquare was the perfect house to fit the most space into the small city lots from the 1890s-1930s. It received its name from its perfectly square shape and massing of four rooms per floor most times. These houses could be as plain or ornate as as the owner wished and their skins were any range of components like brick, stone, stucco, shingles, clapboards. Read more…

 

 

 

Poyntz-O’Neal House (1887)American Queen Anne – Only the grandest homes of this period were Queen Annes. The simpler expressions of this style fall into the Folk Victorian category. Intricate detailing and ginger breading, showy paint schemes all encompass the style that swept the nation from 1870-1900. The machine age was in full swing and the railroads carried huge new inventories of new materials and patterns available for homes of this time. Read more…

 

 

 

Brick Colonial RevivalColonial Revival – One of the longest lived and heavily varied architectural styles in the country. From 1876 – 1955 this style appeared in neighborhoods across the country in varieties like the Classic Box, Dutch Colonial Revival, Brick veneer, clapboard, etc. The variety is vast and so is the popularity of this home. Read more…

 

 

 

 

Cross Gabled Folk VictorianFolk Victorian – Popular the same time as Queen Annes, but even more popular. These were the “everyman” version of the fanciful painted lady Queen Annes. Simple designs with as much colorful detailing as the owner could afford at the time. These houses were often beautiful in their utilitarian simplicity. Read more…

 

 

 

 

Gothic FarmhouseGothic Revival – 1840-1870 was a turbulent time in our nation. The civil war was raging through the later part of this period and the new nation was struggling with it’s identity. The Gothic Revival style though not the most popular style of it’s time was very popular in farmhouses across the country. Think steeply pitched roofs with ornate bargeboards on the gable ends. Read more…

 

 

 

White HouseGreek Revival – America had just celebrated its 50th birthday when the Greek Revival style came into popularity. Our country embraced the original birthplace of democracy and the style spread throughout the entire country until finally giving way to the Queen Anne style in the 1860s. The proud pediments and ionic, dorian and corinthian pillars on these homes usually make them easy to spot. Read more…

 

 

 

Mission Style Home

Mission Style – In the early 20th century Americans in the southwest, Florida, and Texas got a renewed interest in the Spanish style buildings and techniques that had preceded their presence in the land. Natural colors, bright red clay tile roofs and stucco walls brought together in a nod to spanish style and architecture spread quickly throughout the area in the Spanish and Mission styles. Read more… 

 

 

 

Half Timbered TudorTudor Revival – America once again embraced its English roots architecturally speaking between 1890-1940 when the Tudor style burst back onto the scene. The unique half-timbering and steep roof pitches set these homes apart. Whether they are stone, brick or timber they are beautiful all the same. Read more…

 

 

 

 

If you’d like even more detailed information about any and every form of architecture from Teepees to Log houses I recommend the book A Field Guide to American Houses. This book is an invaluable resource that sits prominently on my bookshelf. It not only has the specifics of each style but also includes hundreds of pictures to help you get acquainted with them.

46 comments

  1. Jill Wilson on said:

    I just bought a 1906 home and didn’t know what style it is could you help me identify it it I send a picture

  2. Victoria Williams on said:

    Hi Scott! I’m having a hard time figuring out what style my home is! It was built in 1904. All brick with Cross Gable. It has 10 foot ceilings. Here is a picture

    http://m.imgur.com/0Bz5Xuz

    • Victoria, you’ve stumped me too! Maybe a vernacular style which is more local building traditions and not any particular formal style, but really not sure.

      • Thank you for getting back to me! Ah its so frustrating because it has a mix of different styles! My mom’s house which is next door is all brick like mine but I get a Italiante feel, here is her house

  3. Jimmy on said:

    Hi….
    I am trying to restore my house that was built in 1915 according to the original blueprints and building material sheets. Its a large home with prominent outside features that are all original. as far as I can tell it is neither a four square or a craftsman. I have not seen another house like it in my town nor on line.
    Please help.

    • Jimmy, there are a lot of homes that would be considered Frame Vernacular which is a fancy architectural way of saying it doesn’t have a specific style but is more of a combination of local styles and traditions. That may be your house though it’s hard to tell without seeing it.

  4. Melissa on said:

    Our old house was built in 1920 or so after the first version burned. It’s a farmhouse on a working farm in central Kentucky. The interior has a lot of craftsman influence including enlaid wood floors, but its a big airy house with an 8 foot wide central hallway front to back. I’ve been trying to figure out the style. Could it just be a blend of several different styles?

    • Melissa on said:

      *inlaid 🙂

  5. Kaye Graybeal on said:

    Thanks Scott –your blog is very helpful and informative.

  6. Cathy A on said:

    Our house looks like so many homes in this area in Washington, they have two front doors, and they face sideways to the current street, they were built in the early 1940’s and are small solid wood bungalows. None of us can figure out why the doors don’t face the street.

    • Lauren on said:

      I don’t know about Washington, but I know in parts of Texas, we see homes with two doors like that. I have always been told that it was to help with ventilation. They would open both doors and the air would pass in one, through the house, and out the other. I don’t have any sources for this and I am not 100% sure this is true but it is what I have always been told!

  7. Kelli Nichols on said:

    Is there any way you might be able to help me identify what style my home is? I’m thinking it is either a colonial revival or American craftsman but I’m not certain. It was built by my paternal grand father in 1937-1937. I’ve been told that he drew the blue prints himself. I started making a few repairs on the home & I’m interested in restoring it to its original glory as much as possible.

      • MotherWit on said:

        Looks bungalow to me. Are there any built-ins?

        • Kelli Nichols on said:

          It doesn’t really have any built-ins. The kitchen has cabinets but they are actually pretty difficult to utilize (odd depths &positioning). That’s the closest to built-ins. Originally the bedrooms didn’t even have closets… Apparently that wasn’t unusual for the area at the time

      • Brett on said:

        It appears to be a bungalow. It also appears that he tried to follow the classicist rules of architecture. Biggest problem is that someone must have been sold on vinyl siding and the contractor had a free for all! The vinyl siding must be removed and under the needless vinyl soffit you should find large arched corbels supporting those large overhangs. They should definitely be celebrated, not disguised. The other big thing they did was remove mounding by the proper orders and just flashing the window frames with flat pine and wrapping them. They also removed attic windows for ridiculous vents. I am an architecture student if you would like further advice on restoring the home just post an email address!

        • Kelli Nichols on said:

          From the old pictures I have found with the house in the background the original corbels were very simple. It did look much better than the current vinyl coverings. The house had exterior damage from a tornado during hurricane Eloise. By then my grandfather had died & sadly my granny was taken advantage of by a repairman. His shoddy work left my dad with a disaster of repairs. He finally decided to go with the vinyl to make it somewhat easier. At some point it will come off, but I don’t want to do that until I’m relatively sure of what I want it to look like afterwards. I vaguely remember the mess that the vinyl is covering. I seriously doubt I can find enough one foot tongue& groove pine clapboard in a reasonable price range to restore the mess the other repairman left… I would be interested in hearing your suggestions, kellikat36318@live.com

  8. Lori on said:

    Our house had a craftsman bungalow 1890 something. It was jacked up in the air and the rest of the house(mostly brick)was built under it. It looks a lot like the American Foursquare picture you have. How can I send you a picture? The outside needs painting badly!!!! We would like to get it close to original. It was remodeled in 1923 I believe, on the outside.

  9. Sheila on said:

    I have a house that has Victorian and Craftsman style maybe 4 square? I’m not really sure. It has a jerkinhead roof with front and rear dormers. It has beautiful woodwork with small bookcases topped by columns between the dining and living rooms. Also a lot of leaded glass windows. 2 story with pocket doors between the dining room and an office/library. 2 story. Has two porches but I believe those were added on later. Any ideas?

    • Sheila on said:

      Oh, it was built in 1920.

    • Hard to tell without seeing a picture, but 1920 leads me to think its a Craftsman.

      • Sheila on said:

        here are pictures:

        skylarksmh.wix.com/ssemmens

        THANKS!!

        • Tim on said:

          neo-classic revival

        • Brett on said:

          It appears that your home is a Colonial Revival Cape probably built in the late twenties or early thirties. It has a lot of very nice charm, but distracting problems as well. The biggest I would say is that somebody probably between 1965-75 enclosed the porches and put those terrible stoops on one of the porches. It is a major distraction from the architectural beauty that home has to offer. The siding is a very close second though. If you would like reply with your email address and I can help you the best I know how to. I am an architecture student and it always is useful to flex these muscles!

  10. Melinda Wolfe on said:

    I have a cross-gable cottage, built in 1896. These homes tend to be the same size as bungalows, but are characterized by steep roofs that form a cross when viewed from above, and from the ground, appear as a triangle on each side of the house. They typically have nice porches that are on one side of the front of the house or the other, unlike the bungalows which have porches going all the way across the front of the homes.

  11. Brian Weston on said:

    What do you know about the “Shotgun” style? Is this the official style? Thanks!

    • Brian, I don’t think the Shotgun style is an official style, but it’s a great looking old house!

      • Jeana Koerber on said:

        A shotgun most definitely is a style of house.

        • Tim on said:

          It’s a building type, but it isn’t an architectural style, which I believe is the actual subject …

  12. Beth Cloud on said:

    My house was built in 1906 in the Florida panhandle. It has a wrap around porch, a carport, columns, a widows walk, 12 foot ceilings, tall ornate pocket doors, a butler’s pantry, a huge unfinished attic that is accessible through a small door above in my closet. The original kitchen was located at the farthest end of the house from the living area. No idea what the style is.

  13. Monica on said:

    Is there something similar to the American Foursquare that is rectangular? I’ve never been able to figure out what style my house is. Built in 1925, tons of woodwork and built ins make the inside feel craftsman but the outside looks a lot like the Foursquare. 2 1/2 story with dormers, pyramid roof, offset front porch that only gets you in the door; it is not the full length of the house.

    • It sounds like a Foursquare Monica. There are plenty of variations and your rectangular one may be one.

      • Monica on said:

        Thanks Scott! In a neighborhood full of bungalows it sure stands out.

          • Dan on said:

            I have a similar problem; my house was built in 1912, is rectangular on a narrow city lot in an old industrial town in Indiana. It is 2 story, no dormers, a small porch that encloses the front entrance only, lots of woodwork inside which was painted over downstairs and left original upstairs. It has quite a steep roof which is pyramidal north to south, and east to west sides. It makes me think Folk Victorian and sadly, was aluminum sided in the 1970’s with the porch bannisters replaced with vinyl so I don’t know if it ever had the ornate woodwork of the original. I see many homes in this community with this type of layout, some definitely Folk Victorian.

  14. Val on said:

    I am looking into a 1914 Florida Cracker Farmhouse! Just wondering if you have any information? Thanks!

    • Don’t have anything posted about Florida Cracker houses right now but I definitely should. They are a very cool style!

  15. Sherri Mize on said:

    My husband and I are looking to restore a 1846- 1850 Antabella home. We want to keep original as much as possible. It was used as a field house(according to my husband)When they were planting the fields they used the house. His family, used it as a summer house. the house is in Alabama. I seen a lot in Ms.and Ga. but not many in Alabama.

    • Very cool Sherri! Best of luck with the project.

    • Kelli on said:

      If you have the chance to go to the black belt region of Alabama (central: Perry/Dallas counties) you will find several homes of that style

    • Tim on said:

      antebellum

  16. Marcos Padilla on said:

    I have a huge craftsman home. But the exterior is plaster and stone but the inside is all craftsman. I don’t know what it is called. I have heard everything from Ventian Craftsman to English Craftsman, etc.

  17. Jim Settle on said:

    You don’t seem to mention the American Foursquare style popular from about 1890 to 1930? We have tons of them here in Omaha, and I am getting ready to restore one that we are purchasing. It’s also a popular kit home. I enjoy your blog and agree with most of what you post. Thanks!

    • Thanks Jim! I am continually adding architectural styles to the list. Actually American Foursquare is next on my list to write on. One of my favs too!

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