Whether Victorian or contemporary, find out about the popular home styles in Indy.
Emotions play a strong role in people’s preference for home styles, says Joe Shoemaker, managing broker and Realtor at MacDuff Realty Group in Indianapolis. “My grandma had a huge Victorian when I was growing up, so I have memories of running around those wooden stairs,” he says.
Sometimes, people just prefer an aesthetic, but it often comes down to practicality as to what home will suit an individual or family best.
Whether you’re looking for a home in Indianapolis or just want to learn more about the home you already live in, check out this guide to popular architectural styles.
Construction period: 1880-1910
Traditional features: Two to three stories, wood exterior, complicated asymmetrical shape, ornamental trim, textured wall surfaces, steep multi-faceted roof, vibrant colors, large porch with decorative spindles, tall brick chimneys, bay windows, stained glass, ornate interior woodwork
Neighborhoods: Chatham Arch, Old Northside, Lockerbie Square, Fletcher Place, Woodruff Place, Herron-Morton Place
“When you think of Victorian, you think of a grand part of history,” says Mark Beebe, co-owner of Lancer + Beebe Architects in Indianapolis and past president of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Indiana. Victorian includes many well-known house styles under its umbrella, including Gothic Revival, Italianate and Queen Anne.
“The style itself is why someone chooses to live in a Victorian,” says Shoemaker. “They tend to have soul and history.”
Chanda Johnson, a Realtor with Flock Realty, says Victorians are the classic homes you often see in historic downtown neighborhoods. Due to their size, Johnson says Victorians are costly to heat and cool, and you’ll often run into outdated plumbing and electric systems. Maintaining the wood exterior can be costly and time-consuming, but she says the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission wants homeowners to keep the original wood.
Mark Demerly, president of Demerly Architects in Indianapolis and AIA member, says there are also restrictions on replacing the windows, which typically aren’t insulated well. When remodeling, you’ll need an experienced contractor to navigate the century-old construction, and Johnson says you never know what the contractor will find behind the walls.
Construction period: 1930-1950
Traditional features: 1.5 to two stories, low-pitched gabled or hipped roofs, covered porches, horizontal orientation, open floor plan, built-in cabinetry
Neighborhoods: Irvington, Little Flower, Meridian-Kessler, Butler-Tarkington, Carmel, Broad Ripple, Homecroft
At one time, you could order a bungalow kit from the Sears Roebuck catalog. Demerly says bungalows addressed the need of the growing populations seeking affordable housing after World War I. Since it’s an older home, Johnson says you may still face renovation challenges.
Pegg Kennedy, a Realtor with F.C. Tucker, says people searching in the Indianapolis market love bungalows.
In fact, Beebe says the style is coming back in new construction in Fishers and Zionsville. “People appreciate the aesthetic,” he says. Bungalows have the large quantities of woodwork in common with the Victorian, so Beebe says homeowners will still have wood maintenance issues. Also, sometimes brickwork at the foundation line deteriorates, so there could be masonry repairs needed in the foundation and basement.
Construction period: 1950-1960s
Traditional features: Large windows, open floor plans, low slung roof, stone, natural woods, minimal to no ornamentation
Neighborhoods: Northeastside, Avalon Hills, Spring Mill, Old Carmel, Meridian Hills
“This house design directly relates to what was happening in the 50s and 60s with technology and thinking about moving into a space era,” Beebe says. The simplistic designs and large panes of glass are meant to bring the outdoors inside, allowing the homeowner to be closer to nature.
Shoemaker says this style took off post-World War II, during a time of the rising middle class. “People were more affluent, so they started doing things they never dreamed of before,” he adds.
Kennedy says there is a growing interest in this home style. Beebe says it’s often re-interpreted in newer construction.
Due to the flatter roof, Demerly says these homes may need more roof maintenance to prevent leaks.
Construction period: 1960s-1980s
Traditional features: Single story, low and long roofline, large overhanging eaves, living area separate from bedrooms, large picture window, post and beam ceilings, sliding glass doors to a patio, attached garage
Neighborhoods: Southside, outlying areas of Carmel and Zionsville
Ranches were also post World-War homes that were mass produced and efficient, Demerly says. People could own these homes and raise a family in them.
Shoemaker says this house style is another sign of post-war affluence. “People were moving out of the city and into suburbs with bigger lots,” he says.
Today, Kennedy says young families seek ranches, because it normally means a bigger yard. “Newer ranches with basements are sought after, and hard to find in Carmel and Zionsville,” she adds.
Beebe says keeping the living space on one level might appeal to older homebuyers, or people who plan to stay in the house.
Demerly says you might run into roof leak issues due to the low and long roofline. A lot of times, builders reused aluminum for the window frames, so Demerly says windows might need to be replaced. Also, the metal siding might need repairs.
Construction period: 1900-today
Traditional features: Pillars and columns, symmetrical, medium pitched roof, brick or wood clapboard siding
Neighborhoods: Meridian-Kessler, Butler-Tarkington, Southside, Irvington
The Colonial continues to be one of the most popular house styles in the U.S., sought after for its spaciousness and elegance. Demerly says the Colonial Revival falls into a larger group, which includes French and Greek Revival.
“There was a whole movement to recreate classical design,” he says. “It came out of some of the World’s Fairs.”
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Construction period: 1930s-today
Traditional features: Asymmetrical facade and floor plan, extensive use of natural light, geometric shapes, open floor plan, seamless transition between indoor and outdoor space, clean lines throughout, large windows, one or two stories, use of sustainable materials
Neighborhoods: Highland Park, Herron-Morton Place, Fountain Square
Beebe says the people wanting to move into contemporary homes are as diverse as the style.
“There have been young professionals, empty nesters or young families,” he says. “I think people are drawn to creating something with their own idea. You can draw from mid-century modern or bungalow, and take the elements you like.”
When building a contemporary home, Beebe says it’s important to make sure the new construction fits within the context of the neighborhood.
Demerly adds that sometimes neighborhood guidelines restrict what you can build.
Construction period: 1910-today
Traditional features: Rectangular shape, steeply pitched roof, narrow roof overhang, 1 to 1.5 stories, constructed of wood and sided in wide clapboard or shingles, multiple fireplaces, front door placed at the center, double-hung windows on either side of door, shutters
Neighborhoods: Irvington, Butler-Tarkington, Broad Ripple
The Cape Cod, sometimes called Saltbox, has limited headroom on the second floor.
Shoemaker says it’s important to maintain properly flashed dormer windows. And as with any house built prior to 1980, he says you may need to upgrade the electric.
“They aren’t suited to carry the electrical load our contemporary lives have,” he says.
When updating the electric, you might run into knob-and-tube wiring. He adds that Cape Cods tend to be compartmentalized houses lacking a lot of open space.
Construction period: 1920s-today
Traditional features: Steeply pitched rooflines, small dormers, decorative half-timbering, prominent cross gables, arched front doorway surrounded by decorative brick or stone, leaded glass windows, dark wood paneling on the interior, large stone chimney
Neighborhood: Meridian-Kessler, Irvington, Butler-Tarkington, Broad Ripple
As with bungalows and Victorians, Tudors often have plaster walls.
Shoemaker says there could be lead paint and asbestos in older homes as well.
Tudors tend to hold up well over time due to the strength of the construction materials, which include brick, stone, concrete and slate.