The Queen Anne House

All pretense of symmetry has been abandoned in the Queen Anne House style.

By Bob Vila | Updated Nov 10, 2013 7:19 PM

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Milton Slater Brown House,. Photo: Flickr

Many Octagon, Second Empire, and Stick Style houses survive, but it was the Queen Anne House that inherited the mantle of Most Popular House Style from the Italianate House in the 1880s.

Again, we have to reach back in time for the origins of the style. Anne ruled England between 1703 and 1714, and there was a revival in England during the nineteenth century of the architecture popular in Queen Anne’s time. Following the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, at which half-timbered designs of Englishman Richard Norman Shaw were displayed, the American variant of the Queen Anne style began its run, which lasted until the turn of the century. Queen Anne and her contemporaries, however, probably wouldn’t have recognized the houses that bore her name.

All pretense of symmetry has been abandoned by the builder of the Queen Anne House. The steeply pitched roofs are irregular, typically a complex fusion of hipped and gable roofs, chimneys, dormers, and turrets. Seemingly at random, bay windows protrude from the side walls. Porches add to the asymmetrical effect but the main facade of the typical Queen Anne House usually features a gable that dominates the elevation, giving it a single center.

The details of the house are a complex mix of shapes, textures, and colors. Like the Stick Style House, there are miscellaneous walling textures, often including varied clapboard treatments, shingle patterns, and moldings. Combinations of spindles, brackets, finials, and columns are also common. Paint schemes add to the busy effect, as bold, rich, bright colors gave the Queen Anne visual impact.

In the same Queen Anne House, a number of different window designs are often found. Most would be double-hung sash windows (2/2s, sometimes 6/6s or 6/ls), but round-headed windows and round (oculus) windows are also common. Windows with colored panes of glass (“picture windows” they were called at the time) were also an element of many Queen Anne homes. The Palladian window also made a big comeback in the Queen Anne House, with its central arched window flanked by two shorter, flat-topped windows.

REMODELER’S NOTES. The Queen Anne House was widely popular—so popular, in fact, that many earlier houses were updated at the end of the nineteenth century, and had turrets, bay windows, or porches added to make them appear to be Queen Anne Style homes. In inspecting your house, be alert for inconsistencies in the house that suggest a Victorian renovation that might have transformed the place, such as a timber frame or the traditional geometric shape of a Basic House or Classic Colonial to which later Queen Anne elements have been added.

The Queen Anne House is typically large so additions may not be what you require; more often, interior renovations can address changing needs without affecting the exterior. On the other hand, these houses tend to have such a variety of features that thoughtful additions can actually add to the character of the house without calling attention to themselves.