Architecture, Author Ivy Truong// Editor Karim Mourad, Interior Design, Real Estate

House Styles 101

When I was a first-time home buyer I was drawn to certain architecture styles, but as someone whose native language is not English, I was not able to communicate what I liked to my agent. My husband and I went on countless house tours to give my agent a good understanding of what we were looking for. Unsurprisingly, not everyone is as clueless as I was, however for the purpose of helping as many readers as possible, I’m going to present a basic, but comprehensive summary of the most common housing architecture styles in this country.

Cape Cod Architecture: typically a single-story frame building with a moderately steep pitched roof. They are often low and broad with a large chimney and  little embellishment.

Cape Cod
Cape Cod Architecture House ( Photo source:

Cabin’s key features are their porches and decks, which are designed to expand in good weather. Cabins have a modest and cozy feel. You’ll see natural wood material (at least the natural wood look) almost everywhere: wooden ceilings, wooden beams, wooden poles, wooden floor, etc. You can often find this kind of architecture around lakefronts, the beachside, and in mountain getaways.

A beautiful dreamy cabin ( Photo source:

Colonial Architecture: one of the most popular styles in the United States in early 18th century when England, Spain and France had colonies scattered all over. The original colonial houses have kitchen and living room on first floor and all bedrooms on the second floor. Occasioanlly you can find these houses have third stories. This type of house has specific features that make them easily recognizable. The main features to look for in colonial house are:

  • Square and symmetrical architecture
  • Door at central with decorative crown above it
  • Several narrow windows: 2 windows on each side and 5 windows on second floor
  • Paired chimneys
    Colonial Architecture ( Photo Source: Better Home & Garden)


    Contemporary/ Modern: in the experts’ world, contemporary and modern are two separate styles. However, unless you have specific reasons for more detail descriptions for each of these style, I find that they share enough common features to be categorized as one. We can call it contemporary-modern style. This type of house may have one or two stories with a simple, clean look overall with lot of glass and flat rooflines. They have asymmetrical façade and large windows that are symmetrical with each other. Contemporary-modern houses’ floor plan are open and are easily adapt to different space usage and maximize usage of indoor and outdoor space. This is why this style has become so prevalent in urban areas. Some of the newer units are built with eco-friendly materials, such as bamboo flooring, green heating, air-conditioning and plumbing systems to conserve energy.

    contemporary HGTV.COM
    Contemporary Architecture with the use of a lot of glass ( Photo Source:

    Craftsman architecture: typically made of wood and 1 to 1½ stories. They have low roof and large front porches that have thick square columns and stone porch supports. Another characteristic of craftsman houses are the exposed beams inside and outside the house.

    Craftsman Pintest photo


    Loft & Studio: both refers to an open space that are used for residential use. Lofts are usually created in old commercial properties or factories that are spacious with high ceilings & abundant of large windows. Studios, on the other hand, are small and cozy. Studios in expensive areas can be as small as 400 square feet. Lofts usually are at the higher range in rent compared to studios in the same area.


    Townhouse & Condos: Both share the same characteristic of being units in a community that share community areas. Townhouses are often identical units on same row that share walls.  Condos are not necessary identical in their appearances and may or may not share walls. Townhouse owners own the interior and exterior of the house including roof, lawn, driveway but not community areas. Condo owners on the other hand only own the interior of their unit. The rest of the building including lawn, building exterior and community areas are property of Homeowner’s Association (HOA). HOA fees for townhouses are usually less than that that for condos.

    Tudor Revival architecture: This style is originally from Great Britain and made its way to the United States in late 19th century. The most recognizable features of Tudor Revival houses are steeply pitched roofs, asymmetrical floor plan, and decorative half-timber framing. Other characteristics you can find in this kind of house are their oversized fireplaces, embellished doorways, and the use of brick siding


    Victorian architecture: These homes usually are complicated; tedious in details yet very charming. Victorian style houses are usually two to three stories with asymmetrical shape, asymmetrical porch and asymmetrical facade. Other features to look for in this type of architecture are steep roofs of irregular shapes, decorative trim, and textured wall surfaces.

    gothic-revival-Victorian-house-style Source
    Gothic Revival Victorian House ( Photo Source:
    Italian Victorian House ( Photo Source:
    queen-anne-Victorian-house-style Source
    Queen Anne Victorian House ( Photo Source:


    Obviously not all of the characteristics of each architecture style were mentioned in a less than two page summary.  The information was condensed to give you a quick snapshot.  I truly hope that my brief descriptions of the main features and pictures of each style will be helpful to you for your search of your dream home, remodeling, or just having better a understanding of this topic.

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