American home styles borrow influences from all over the world and eras throughout history
A home's architectural style can say a lot about its history. You'll find countless architectural influences around the United States, from 17th century log cabins to modern art-deco homes. House styles are often named after their place of origin or intent of use, making distinct designs stand out from the street.
Curious to know your home’s architectural influence? Learning about your home style can come in handy, especially when planning renovations or highlighting unique features to prospective buyers. Here are the 23 most popular house styles over the centuries and how you can identify them.
17th Century House Styles
1. Log Cabin
Log cabins originated in the 1600s, and they were often found in rural settings, such as within the mountains or woods. Similarly to cottages, log homes are known as rustic, cozy escapes from a busy world.
Most log cabin homes have:
One main bedroom and an open floor plan
Simplistic yet charming, the saltbox house style arose in America during the 17th and early 18th centuries. The name derives from wooden salt containers with slanted lids that were popular during that time, inspiring the overall design of this house style. Most saltbox homes today are found in the coastal Northeastern areas.
You can identify a saltbox home by its signature features:
Sloped roofs (often on one side)
Two stories in the front, one in the rear
Flat front, simplistic colonial look
Symmetrical brick chimney
18th Century House Styles
A popular design among government buildings and many universities, the neoclassical home style arose during the 18th century. Like Greek Revival styles, neoclassical homes also exude wealth and extravagant living. The neoclassical style also seeps into interior design, where you’ll commonly find crown molding, chandeliers, and marble floors inside homes.
A home with neoclassical influence most likely features:
Gold and marble finishes
A cottage home style may come to mind when describing a house in a fairy tale—cozy, charming, and hidden in the woods. Typical cottages have one story and an old-fashioned feel, but many modern versions may have two stories with interior upgrades. Many cottage homes are located in a rural or semi-rural area, including near mountains or a lake.
You can recognize a cottage home by its signature features:
Wooden exterior and stone accents
Gabled or thatched roof
Open floor plan
5. Greek Revival
There's no lack of drama in a Greek Revival home. This home style emerged between the late 18th and early 19th centuries and influenced what we know as the federal house style. While eye-catching, the style is simple compared to others and often symmetrical. This symmetry easily translated to the neoclassical federal style seen in the White House.
You’ll know you have a Greek revival home by its noteworthy features:
Brick or white facade
Several massive columns
One or two balconies
Farmhouses emerged across Southern states in rural and agricultural areas during the 1700s and 1800s. This house style is built for functionality rather than extravagance, combining long-lasting, natural materials with simplistic designs.
Farmhouses will have:
Organic materials like wood, stone, and metal
Rustic railings and details
Informal yet inviting exterior
Tall ceilings and exposed ceiling beams
Functional front porch
19th Century House Styles
By far the most common home architecture style in the U.S., colonial homes cover the designs brought over by early waves of settlers. You'll find colonials from the British, Spanish, French, and Dutch from shore to shore. Colonial revivals brought this design back in the late 19th century. Most of the colonial homes you find today outside of the Northeast popped up during this time.
These types of homes will often include the following characteristics:
Two or three floors
One or paired symmetrical chimneys
A traditional floor plan (bedrooms upstairs, staircase between the living and dining rooms)
Originating in the mountains of Europe, chalet-style homes are now popular mountain and lakeside retreats in the U.S. These cozy and inviting homes were designed for heavy snowfall areas, making them popular in areas known for skiing, hiking, and other outdoors activities.
They often include these key elements:
Timber framing and natural materials
Open-concept layout with a central fireplace
There's nothing quite as romantic as a Victorian home, and you're unlikely to find one exactly the same as the next. Queen Anne homes also fall into this category and include the most ruffles and frills, often with multiple dormers, dramatic eaves, and asymmetrical floor plans.
Popular in the 1830s and into the later 19th century, Victorian houses are known for featuring:
Two or three stories
Sharply pitched roofs
Rounded or rectangular towers
Italy's architecture styles started to make a splash in the U.S during the mid-to-late 19th century. While you'll spot elements of Victorian homes, the structure is much more symmetrical. Fun fact: Many of today's traditional brownstone townhouses in the Northeast also include Italianate architecture.
They often have:
Brick or wooden siding
Two stories with or without a cupola
A flat or low-pitched roof
A covered porch
Functionality over flash summarizes this popular house style. American architect Frank Lloyd Wright created the prairie house, and he was influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th century. You’ll find prairie house styles throughout the Midwestern states, especially areas with extensive and flat grasslands.
When searching for a prairie home, expect to see these elements:
Long, flat roofs
Rows of windows
Woodwork and handcrafted details
Horizontal lines and patterns
Open floor plans
Originating in Belgium and the Netherlands, row houses or “townhouses" came to the U.S. in the early 19th century during the Industrial Revolution. This house style is known for its creative use of vertical space, and it’s popular in major metropolitan areas like Seattle and New York City.
Townhouses will most likely feature:
Tall, slender structures
Two or more stories
Adjoined to another house by a wall
Identical to or coordinated with other homes in its row
20th Century House Styles
13. Cape Cod
While technically a member of the colonial family, Cape Cods have their own signature look that sets them apart. Settlers built these homes originally for their sturdiness and ability to hold in heat long before the convenience of central HVAC systems. Most Cape Cods are in the Northeast, but they made a comeback in the mid-20th century with a bit more natural light.
You'll know a Cape Cod home by its signature look:
Steep, sloped roof
One or one-and-a-half stories
Pair of dormer windows on the front (in modern revivals)
These sturdy yet uniquely designed home types are often the envy of the home market. Their symmetry makes them aesthetically pleasing but they have enough unique accents to set themselves apart from the rest of the homes on the block.
Some homeowners encounter structural issues with craftsman homes built from 1900 to 1930. Poorly poured basements or slab foundations can lead to extra upkeep down the line.
Signature craftsman houses have:
Long, horizontal design
Top dormer windows
Tudor homes may look like something out of the 16th century, but they appeared in America in the early 20th to pay homage to the English style. The color of Tudor homes makes them stand out, with white or cream exterior walls lined with dark brown or black trim.
They also have:
Multiple roof peaks and dormers
Two or three stories
Arched doorways made of brick
16. Mid-Century Modern
Moving into the modern architectural period, you'll encounter homes built between the 1940s and 1970s. Like contemporary homes, you'll find a wide range of unique takes on style in this category, making every home slightly different than the next. While these homes gained popularity on the West Coast, the style influenced many new suburban developments across the country during this time of growth.
You may encounter these home features:
Danish, Dutch, and Nordic elements
Coordination with the outdoor space
Changes in elevation between rooms
Wide, single-floor layouts
The other style to launch in the mid-20th century was the ranch home. These are the iconic suburban home types you imagine from most images of the 1950s, but many are still popular today.
Ranch homes have:
Open floor plans
Sliding doors into the backyard
Large outdoor living spaces
Split-level homes are a bit like grown-up ranches. They appeared in the 1960s and followed a lot of the same principles. The major difference is that split levels have a second floor, but there is a small flight of steps to get there.
They often include these key elements:
Small front porches
Decks off the back into the yard
Open floor plans with large living spaces
Minimalist interior and exterior design
Much like mid-century homes, the contemporary style is always changing based on the fresh ideas of today's top architects. These are the eye-catching homes on the block that challenge—or creatively combine—the traditions on this list.
They may have:
Asymmetrical structures and layouts
Ample windows and natural light
Single or multiple stories
Open floor plans
Highly landscaped outdoor spaces
20. French Country
French country homes emerged after World World I, blending early 20th century French and American architecture. You’ll see these elegant house styles in states with historical French ties, such as Louisiana.
Drawing from France’s countryside architecture, landscape additions such as whimsical walkways and lush gardens can easily enhance your home’s romantic French country aesthetic.
Many French country homes feature the following:
Symmetrical exterior designs
Exposed wooden beams
Highly pitched roofs
21. Art Deco
In the 1920s, more notably called the Roaring ’20s, Art Deco style captivated the U.S. with luxurious and elegant details in architecture, interior design, and personal style. Popular cities like Hollywood and Miami boast these eclectic looks in their mansions, skyscrapers, and speakeasies.
An Art Deco home style consists of the following:
Bold colors and motifs
Sleek and shiny accents
Metal and glass elements
Inspired by Spanish temples of worship, this architectural style became increasingly popular in the U.S. during the early 20th century. Spanish architecture can be found in states with warmer climates, including Florida and California, with an emphasis on indoor-outdoor living.
Spanish house styles generally include these features:
Porches and corridors with arches
Earth tones like clays and creams
Stucco walls and decorative tiles
As the name infers, Mediterranean architecture draws inspiration from countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, including Portugal, Italy, and Spain. These house styles became trendy in the U.S. during the early to mid-1900s, especially among grand hotels in warm-weather states.
Mediterranean-style homes commonly consist of the following:
Terracotta or red-tiled roofs
Second-floor and bedroom balconies
Big terraces around the property
American home architecture varies from town to town and state to state, mapping out the region's history that left its mark there. Once you learn your home’s architectural style (or your favorite for a future home), you’ll have a better idea of upgrades that complement the design.
From design enhancements to landscaping plans, you can find a local contractor to help preserve your home’s unique style and historical charm.