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Guide to American Homes, 1600 - Present

Residential Architecture in a Nutshell


Even if your house is brand new, its architecture draws inspiration from the past. This index traces important housing styles from Colonial to modern times. Learn how residential architecture has changed over the centuries, and discover interesting facts about the design influences that helped shape your own home. For more information about residential architecture, be sure to also visit our house styles picture dictionary.

American Colonial House Styles

Colonial home, white house with black shutters, center chimney, one story
Colonial homes in New England often had chimneys in the center. Photo © Jackie Craven

1600s - 1800
When North America was colonized by the Europeans, settlers brought building traditions from many different countries. Colonial architecture includes a wide range of styles, including New England Colonial, German Colonial, Dutch Colonial, Spanish Colonial, French Colonial, and, of course, the ever-popular Colonial Cape Cod.

Neoclassical House Styles

Greek Revival House
Democratic ideals are expressed in classical details of Greek Revival homes. Photo © Jackie Craven

1780 - 1860
During the founding of the United States, learned people such as Thomas Jefferson felt that ancient Greece expressed the ideals of democracy. After the American Revolution, architecture reflected the classical ideals of order and symmetry—a new classicism for a new country.

Victorian House Styles

Queen Anne home in Saratoga, New York
Queen Anne was the reigning style of the Victorian era. Photo © Jackie Craven

1840 - 1900
Mass-production and factory-made building parts carried over a system of rail lines enabled the building of large, elaborate, affordable houses throughout North America. A variety of Victorian styles emerged: Italianate, Second Empire, Gothic, Queen Anne, Romanesque, and many others. Each style had its own distinctive features.

Gilded Age

Beaux Arts Mansion
The Vanderbilt Marble House in Newport, RI was a Beaux Arts mansion. Photo © Flikr member Daderot

1880 - 1929
The rise of Industrialism brought the period we know as the Gilded Age. Business leaders amassed enormous wealth and built palatial, elaborate homes. Some homes, known today as Chateauesque, imitated the grandeur of old French estates and castles or châteaux.

Frank Lloyd Wright Styles

Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie Style houses were low and compact.
Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie Style houses were low and compact. Photo © Steve Estes

1901 - 1955
American architect Frank Lloyd Wright revolutionized the American home when he began to design houses with low horizontal lines and open interior spaces. His buildings introduced a Japanese serenity to a country largely populated by Europeans, and his notions about organic architecture are studied even today.

Bungalow Styles

California Bungalow
Affordable bungalows swept across America in the early 1900s. Photo © Diana Lundin / iStockPhoto

1905 - 1930
Named after primitive thatched huts used in India, bungaloid architecture suggested comfortable informality. However, not all bungalows were small, and bungalow houses often wore the trappings of many different styles, including Arts & Crafts, Spanish Revival, Colonial Revival, and Art Moderne.

Early 20th Century House Styles

American Foursquare Style House
The practical American Foursquare style. Photo © Jackie Craven

1905 - 1930
In the early 1900s, builders begin to reject the elaborate Victorian styles. Homes for the new century were becoming compact, economical, and informal as the American middle class began to grow.

Mid-20th Century House Styles

Levittown Jubilee design
Levittown Jubilee house, Twin Oaks, PA ©Jesse Gardner, CC BY-SA 2.0, flickr.com

1930 - 1965
During the Great Depression, Americans moved toward increasingly simple housing styles. Affordable Minimal Traditional, Ranch, and Cape Cod houses became the mainstay of the expanding suburbs in developments such as Levittown (in both New York and Pennsylvania). As soldiers returned from World War II, real estate developers raced to meet the rising demand for inexpensive housing. The era brought a flurry of innovations, from the metal prefab Lustron houses to the eco-friendly geodesic domes.

Modernist Houses

Postmodern home by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Robert Venturi. Pritzker Prize image.
Postmodern home by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Robert Venturi. Pritzker Prize image.

1930 - Present
Modernist houses broke away from conventional forms, while postmodernist houses combined traditional forms in unexpected ways.


Continue to the next page for facts and photos for more house styles, including Spanish and Mediterranean styles, French styles, earth houses, prefab homes, and dome homes.
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