Bob Vila's Guide to Historic House Styles

In the United States, a dizzying number and array of house styles are to be found, each one unique.

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  1. Cape Cod


    Among the earliest and most common building types, a Cape Cod-style home is characterized by its one-story eaves and front five-bay central entry plan. Typically these houses are two rooms deep, sometimes with a series of smaller rooms along the back. Original Capes had massive central chimneys. Roofs are usually low to moderately pitched, beginning just above windows.

  2. Classic Cottage


    Similar to the Cape Cod, the Classic Cottage has a slightly higher eaves-front wall, which can accommodate small windows in the upstairs knee wall. Roofs are proportionately shallower, and chimneys may appear in the middle or at either end.

  3. I House


    Two stories high but only one room deep, these modest houses earned their name when it was determined that many of the original builders hailed from Illinois, Iowa, and Indiana. These eaves-front, gable-roofed homes were great for small lots—and small pocketbooks.

  4. Shotgun


    Found primarily in Southern states, these one-story, one-room wide houses maximized potential on narrow building lots with construction that maintained a front-to-back alignment, theoretically allowing a shotgun blast to go from the front door out the back.

  5. Colonial


    The Colonial house is regarded as a one- or two-story, rectangular, eaves-front symmetrical building with a central entrance. In a Georgian Plan, this is sometimes referred to as "five-over-four and a door". It's always two rooms deep, and the entry is frequently decorated in a classical style with pediments, pilasters, fanlights, or columns.

  6. Dutch Colonial


    The Dutch Colonial houses built between the 17th and early 19th century were constructed of brick or readily available local stone. The Dutch house in early America was one-and-a-half stories tall with a steep gable roof; when the style reemerged in the suburbs of 20th-century America, the gambrel roof had become standard.

  7. Saltbox


    This is the shape of a Colonial or I House when a one-story lean-to addition, or linhay, is added to the rear. The name is derived from this style of home's similarity in shape to 18th-century salt containers.

  8. Gable and Ell


    These one- or two-story wood-frame homes were widely popular across the United States after the arrival of the railroad. They featured a central, gable-front mass with an intersecting, perpendicular wing of the same height, effectively making the building L-shaped.

  9. Four Square


    Economical to build, these two-story square homes with hipped or gable roofs saw great popularity in the U.S. in the years after 1900. The boxy, four-room-over-four-room homes frequently had a dormered attic and a wide front porch.

  10. Bungalow


    By definition only a one-story house, these low, broad dwellings typically have large porches with substantial overhanging eaves and a roof dormer set in a gable, hip, or jerkinhead (clipped gable) roof. Variations may include an additional half or full story with tapered columns, particularly associated with the signature Craftsman style.

  11. Suburban Ranch


    These homes are characteristically one story with a low, pitched gable or hipped roof with limited detailing. They were usually designed with either double-hung sash or newly engineered metal casement, awning or slide windows, though picture windows became a central feature of the 1950s Suburban Ranch home.

  12. Split-Level


    Part of a modern design movement, Split-Levels were intended to separate living activities within a home by removing them to different planes. Sleeping quarters are separate and raised from dining and communing areas, which are themselves separate from other levels, which might include vehicle storage.

  13. Raised Ranch


    A stylistic variation of the Suburban Ranch, the elevation of the upper floor over a raised foundation gave the advantage of full-size windows and additional finished living space in the lower level. This adaptation saw its greatest popularity during the 1970s.

  14. Spanish Colonial


    Homes from early Spanish settlements are found in Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. Though some were built of stone, most have adobe walls, which consist of bricks of sun-dried clay. Most are one-story buildings with flat or low-pitched roofs that extend over covered porches. Pictured here is a latter-day adaptation of Spanish Colonial style.

  15. Style IQ


    For more on architectural history, don't miss Know Your House Styles and be sure to browse our House Tours section. 

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