Colonial style houses – the ultimate guide to the look and how to get it (2024)

'Colonial style house' is an umbrella term that describes an iconic part of the US architectural landscape. This signature house style is one of the most popular property styles in the US due to its innate charm and period character.

Located across the US, Colonial style homes range from sought after historic homes to the more modern Colonial Revival properties.

We've rounded up everything you need to know about Colonial style houses inside and out below.

What is a colonial style house?

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A Colonial style house is one of a variety of styles introduced by the early settlers to the US from Europe in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, built with materials that were available locally and in a style that was familiar to them. A swathe of Colonial Revival houses were built from the 19th century onwards, demonstrating that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Where did Colonial style originate?

Colonial style homes were built by European settlers mainly from countries such as the UK, France, Holland and Spain. They can be found throughout the US but many are located in the coastalEasternstates.

'TrueColonial style homes were built in the 1600s and 1700s on the East Coast duringthe time of colonization by the British government,' says senior architecturalhistorian, Christina Dikas, an associate principal at Page & Turnbull, a historic preservation and architecture firm. 'The houses weretypicallysquare or rectangular in plan with a side gabled roof, stone or woodconstruction, thick brick chimneys, and small multi-lite windows.'

Types of Colonial style houses

There's plenty of variety with Colonial style houses. Expand your knowledge of the architecture trend with these key categories:

1. New England Colonial style

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Think Little Women and you're instantly transported to the iconic New England Colonial style houses with their central front door and chimney, and rectangular windows. Author Louisa May Alcott's own home, Orchard House (above) in Massachusetts, built around 1650 and where she wrote and set Little Women, is a perfect example of the style.

2. French Colonial style

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(Image credit: Alamy)

French Colonial style houses, found in the South East, in particular Louisiana, exude elegance with their steeply pitched roofs and wraparound porches, verandas and balconies, as shown on the house above. Architectural features were designed to cope with the warm climate so verandas were built because they are perfect for alfresco living, while small dormers in the roofs and tall thin windows prevent too much heat entering the house. Raised basements also help protect the lower levels from flooding.

3. Dutch Colonial style

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Dutch Colonial style houses can be found in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Their most distinctive feature is the charming gambrel roof (such as on the house above). Other features include narrow dormer windows, shutters and central doors.

4. Spanish Colonial style

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Spanish colonial style houses are known for their rustic appearance and can be found in Florida, California and in the Southwestern states such as Arizona and New Mexico. They were usually built with white stucco walls to deflect the heat and low pitched roofs made from red clay tiles. Other typical architectural features include few and small windows to help combat the heat, arches and a courtyard.

5. Colonial Revival homes

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(Image credit: Matthew Kiernan/ Alamy)

According to Christina Dikas, US Colonial Revival or American Colonial Revival stylehomes became popular in the mid-19th and 20th centuries. 'Colonial Revivalstyle became popular after the centennial celebrations of1876, at which time Americans kindled an interest in colonial periodarchitectural traditions,' she says.

'Taking their cues fromhouses of the American colonial period, thehouses typically are characterized by an even symmetry built in wood,brick, or stone, with side gabled roofs,shuttered windows, brick chimney(s),and centered front door. Some include an open front porch, columns, anddormer windows. Inside, the two- or three-level houses commonly feature crown molding, adedicated entryway with centered hallway and a grand stairway. Theirspaciousscale allows for ample kitchen and living areas, multiplebedrooms, and den/office rooms, along with a full basement.'

Christina continues: 'Whilethe typical Colonial Revival style house, as described above, is based onBritish colonial architecture, other variations around the country reflectdifferent cultural influences, including Spanish and Dutch colonialstyles (such as the house above).'

Why are Colonial style homes so popular?

A combination of factors makes Colonial style houses so sought after. Apart from the fact you're buying into a piece of history, Colonial style houses are visually appealing and their classic good looks are guaranteed to stand the test of time.

Practicality was a key consideration when they were built so they have functional features such as small windows to keep the heat out, and they're durable because they were built to last. Another plus is that they are built from natural materials such as wood and stone, as opposed to manufactured building materials.

'The architecture and design of Colonial homes center on family life, withspacious rooms designed for comfort and warm finishes, such as hardwoodfloorsand stone fireplaces,' says Christina. 'They are well-proportioned at the exterior,making them aesthetically pleasing. They also conjure up a romanticized vision ofan earlierAmerican period and symbolize traditional values.'

What to look for in a Colonial style home

'Symmetrical architecture is a hallmark of US colonial homes,' says Christina. 'Some of thehouses have given way to modern families’ overriding preference foropenfloorplans and a finished basement. Steep rooflines, centereddoors and windows, natural finishes, and spacious rooms are common.'

Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts

YouChat, Expert in Colonial Style Houses

I am and I'm here to share my expertise on Colonial style houses. I have a deep understanding of the architectural landscape of the US, particularly the iconic Colonial style houses. My knowledge is based on extensive research and a thorough understanding of the historical and architectural significance of these homes. I can provide detailed insights into the origins, types, and characteristics of Colonial style houses, as well as the reasons behind their enduring popularity.

What is a Colonial Style House?

A Colonial style house is a significant part of the US architectural landscape, introduced by early European settlers in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. These houses were built with locally available materials and in a style familiar to the settlers. The Colonial Revival houses, built from the 19th century onwards, reflect the imitation of the original Colonial style.

Origins of Colonial Style Houses

Colonial style homes were built by European settlers from countries such as the UK, France, Holland, and Spain. The true Colonial style homes were built in the 1600s and 1700s on the East Coast during the time of colonization by the British government. They were typically square or rectangular in plan with a side gabled roof, stone or wood construction, thick brick chimneys, and small multi-lite windows.

Types of Colonial Style Houses

  1. New England Colonial Style: These houses are characterized by their central front door, chimney, and rectangular windows. Examples include the Orchard House in Massachusetts, built around 1650, which is a perfect representation of this style.
  2. French Colonial Style: Found in the South East, particularly in Louisiana, these houses feature steeply pitched roofs, wraparound porches, verandas, and balconies. Architectural features were designed to cope with the warm climate.
  3. Dutch Colonial Style: These houses can be found in several states, and their most distinctive feature is the charming gambrel roof. Other features include narrow dormer windows, shutters, and central doors.
  4. Spanish Colonial Style: Known for their rustic appearance, these houses can be found in Florida, California, and the Southwestern states. They were usually built with white stucco walls, low pitched roofs made from red clay tiles, few and small windows, arches, and a courtyard.
  5. Colonial Revival Homes: These became popular in the mid-19th and 20th centuries, characterized by even symmetry, wood, brick, or stone construction, side gabled roofs, shuttered windows, brick chimneys, and centered front doors. They also feature open front porches, columns, and dormer windows. Inside, they commonly feature crown molding, a dedicated entryway, and spacious rooms designed for comfort.

Popularity of Colonial Style Homes

Colonial style houses are popular due to their historical significance, visual appeal, durability, and functional features. They are built from natural materials such as wood and stone, and their architecture and design center on family life, with spacious rooms designed for comfort and warm finishes. They also symbolize traditional values and conjure up a romanticized vision of an earlier American period.

Conclusion

Colonial style houses are an integral part of the US architectural landscape, with distinct variations reflecting the cultural influences of different European countries. Their enduring popularity is attributed to their historical significance, visual appeal, durability, and functional features designed for family life. Whether it's the New England, French, Dutch, Spanish, or Colonial Revival style, each type has its own unique characteristics that contribute to the charm and appeal of Colonial style houses.

Colonial style houses – the ultimate guide to the look and how to get it (2024)
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