Understanding Common Architectural Styles

Have you ever driven by a house that you really liked and then tried to explain the exact style and what you like about it to someone else?  Did you know that a house rarely contains one single architectural style?  And by the way, what is an architectural style?  Well, architectural style is a way we classify buildings according to their features, materials and historic period.  Buildings that belong to the same style often share similar characteristics.

 

There are probably hundreds of architectural styles, but I am going to highlight just a few of the more common styles of today.  Also, some styles may be referenced by different names then I am listing below.  For example, a Craftsman style house may be referred to as a Cottage or a Bungalow.  I have placed a link to the categories that are contained on Canadian Timberframe‘s website under its “Style” section within the text of each specific style that I list below.

 

Craftsman: Craftsman style homes (often referred to as Cottages or Bungalows) get their name from the arts and crafts movement back in the early 20th century.  Designers sought a return to the time of uniquely crafted decorative arts during a time of mass production.  A common feature of craftsman style is the utilization of glass, wood and metal creating something that is both simple and elegant.  It also includes low-pitched gable roofs with wide overhanging eaves, exposed rafters, decorative brackets and porches at the front of the house.

 

Ranch: Ranch house style homes originated in the 1930s. This house combined modernist ideas with the concepts of the western ranches to create something very informal for a casual living style. Common features of a ranch house include a single story with a long, low roofline and large overhanging eaves. The exterior materials usually include brick, stucco, wood and glass.

 

Colonial: This style of home comes from the American colonial period. This style often refers to a rectangular, symmetrical home that is 2 or 3 stories with a high pitched roof and multiple dormers. They usually contain multi-paned double-hung windows placed symmetrically. The exterior materials include clapboard siding with shutters.

 

Contemporary: Contemporary homes (also referred to as Modern) got their start back in the 1950s.  They are often characterized by their odd, irregular shapes and often tall windows and lack of ornamentation. The exterior also contains unusual mixtures of wall materials like stone, wood and brick. Inside houses an open floor plan with cathedral ceiling or flat roofs.

 

Mediterranean: The Mediterranean style comes from the heritage of mission churches built by Spanish colonists. Some characteristics include adobe-like stucco exterior with a flat or low-pitched roof  and clay tiles.  There are usually balconies with wrought iron railings.  Another common feature is and deeply shaded porches and possibly interior courtyards.

 

Chalet: A Chalet is native to the alpine region in Europe.  They were introduced to North America in the mid- 1800s. They are usually constructed of wood with a heavy, gently sloping roof and deep eaves.  The front-facing gable roof is usually embellished with rustic ornamentation made of hand-hewn timbers.

 

These are just a few of the many styles of architecture, but hopefully this will be helpful to begin a discussion with your architect about what features you might really like to include in your future home.