The Cape Cod House

Compact and simple, the Cape Cod house is the perfect starter home.

By Bob Vila | Updated Mar 10, 2021 9:53 AM

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Cape Style Architecture - House Styles


The word snug comes to mind when I think of the Cape Cod House. These are efficient and economical houses, putting the one-story Basic House back in business. The main living spaces are on the first floor, laid out in most instances around a center entrance. Most Capes are symmetrical, with two windows on either side of the front door. Upstairs there may be dormers to add light to rooms built in what is essentially converted attic space.

The Cape is a perfect starter house. In fact, many Capes built immediately after World War II were sold initially with their upper stories left unfinished. That strategy meant the house was more affordable to a larger audience, and as the buyer’s family grew and more space was required, the rooms upstairs could be finished to suit specific needs.

It was an intelligent marketing strategy, but it also meant that in your Cape Cod House, you may find the level of finish upstairs is of a lesser quality than the work downstairs. Many homeowners did the work themselves and their inexperience may be apparent. As you consider making changes in your Cape Cod House, look for indications that the house was finished over time.

You may wish to remove and remodel work that came later and was done less well. You may be able to rethink the upstairs spaces, too, since the partitions are probably not structural, giving you the freedom to remove or reposition them to enlarge one or more rooms or entirely reconfigure the floor plan.

Cape Cod House Style House Plan


There are a variety of Cape-style house plans available from providers such as ePlans.