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Top 10 American home styles

By Nicholas Hall of SwitchYard Media

There may be no place like


home, but most of the places
Americans choose to live have a
certain style in common.

Whether it's art deco, Cape Cod


or Spanish Eclectic, an
architectural style defines where
we live.

"Architecture is public art," says


Clark Manus, president of the
American Institute of Architects
and CEO of San Francisco's
Heller Manus, one of the nation's most respected architectural partnerships. It's about more than
detail: "It's the quality of the thought process behind it that makes a house good or bad," he says.

To give you an idea of the range and diversity of houses, we asked Manus to describe 10 styles
that are most representative of homes in the U.S. See if your own home's style is among them.

1. Prairie School
Some U.S. architectural styles
imitate those from other
countries or reference once-
popular styles. Others, such as
the Prairie School style, were
new and represented a reaction
to existing architectural types.

Originating in the United States,


Prairie-style houses were
designed to blend in with the flat
Midwestern landscape. They
often feature an earth-tone color
palette, wood trim and
horizontal board-and-batten siding. Later, Prairie homes used concrete blocks.
Architect Frank Lloyd Wright was the main proponent of this style, Manus says, "but there were
at least a dozen others working in a style similar to his." The style began at the end of the 19th
century and gained steady popularity with many houses built in Illinois and other Midwest states
into the early 1920s.

Spot it: You can spot a Prairie-style home by its clean, horizontal lines and its balance of
ornamentation and simplicity.

Buy a Prairie-style home: Wright's Brandes House, built in 1952 in Sammamish, Wash., is listed
on the National Register of Historic Places. It's for sale for $1.45 million.

2. Victorian/Queen Anne
The Victorian era spans more
than 60 years and includes many
types of architecture. The Queen
Anne style, popularized in the
later part of the Victorian era, is
one of the most distinctive in
this country, Manus says.

It was the dominant style for


homes built in the United States
from 1880 to 1910. Machine
Age techniques and new power
tools allowed middle-class
American families to adopt all
manner of ornamentation and fancy woodwork to embellish front porches and trim.

Spot it: You can tell a Queen Anne-style home by its flamboyant combination of Victorian
excesses such as turrets, gables, bays and towers.

Buy a Queen Anne-style home: This four-bedroom, two-bath home in Athens, N.Y., is for sale
for $349,000.

3. Cape Cod
When English settlers came to
New England, they built houses
that emulated the stone cottages
they left behind. Lacking stone,
they used a material they found
in abundance there and
elsewhere in the New World:
wood.

The house style was simple with


little ornamentation. The
Victorians ushered in a revival.
"A further progression of the style came in the 1930s, with many (Cape Cods) built in newly
developed suburban areas across America," Manus says.

Most 20th-century Cape Cod homes are 1.5 stories tall. Although older Cape Cods have a
centrally located chimney, revival Cape Cods offset it to one end of the house. Cape Cods remain
a desired home style today, popular because of their finished basements, detached garages,
finished half-stories and dormer windows.

Spot it: A Cape Cod-style home is notable for its lack of ornamentation, minimal roof overhang
and dormer windows.

Buy a Cape Cod-style home: This three-bedroom, one-bath home in Dennis, Mass., built in 1940,
is listed for $724,900.

4. Art deco
Art deco style started at a 1925 design exposition in Paris,
which championed the innovations of the modern world.
Although the style is a celebration of the future, it often
borrows its decorative, geometric ornamentation from
ancient civilizations, including the zigzag patterns found
in Aztec and Mayan art.

The style may have originated in France, but it really


found favor in the U.S.

"It's predominantly urban," Manus says. "You see


examples most often in places such as New York City,
Los Angeles and Miami."

As a mostly decorative movement, art deco it didn't


impose big changes on the interior layout of homes.
Although art deco houses were often built with semi-open
living areas, they generally preserved older ideas of
privacy by keeping bedrooms separated from gathering
areas.

Spot it: You can spot an art deco home by its geometric
ornamentation, streamlined exterior and symmetrical, repeating patterns.

Buy an art deco-style home: Although it was built in 1992, this four-bedroom, four-bath home in
North Miami, Fla., features art deco flourishes throughout. It's listed for $1.69 million.
5. Craftsman bungalow
In the 1880s, the "arts and
crafts" movement was under
way in England. There, artists
and thinkers such as John
Ruskin and William Morris
celebrated handicrafts and
encouraged the use of natural
materials.

In the next 30 years, the


movement took hold all over the
U.S., especially in the West.

"Here in California, the homes


built by Greene and Greene are a perfect example of the style," Manus says. The two builder
brothers, Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene, constructed bungalow-style houses
in Pasadena, Calif., that are considered to be among the finest examples of the style.

Spot it: You can tell a Craftsman bungalow-style home by its wood, stone or stucco siding, as
well as its low-pitched roof and beamed ceilings.

Buy a Craftsman bungalow-style home: This remodeled two-bedroom, one-bath home in


Pasadena, Calif., built in 1923, is listed for $420,000.

6. Ranch house
The ranch-style house sprang up with the rise of the huge
suburban developments after World War II.

Changing lifestyles were reflected in new floor plans.


Eating, entertaining and preparing food were activities
that no longer needed to be separated by walls.
Distinctions between indoor and outdoor spaces also
began to blur, with patios and sliding-glass doors creating
new ways to use space.

With communities spreading out and making automobile


ownership necessary, the carport and garage become
features themselves, often attached or built into the home.

Spot it: A ranch-style home is known for its long, low


profile; attached garage or carport; and minimal use of
decoration.

Buy a ranch-style home: This three-bedroom, two-bath


ranch house in New Caney, Texas, built in 1968, is for
sale for $158,100.
7. Spanish Eclectic
Originally known as Spanish
Colonial Revival, this style
borrows some of its distinctive
design features from Spain and
Italy.

The opening of the Panama


Canal and the Panama-
California Exposition in 1915
helped promote all things Latin-
American and popularized this
Spanish look. The growing
influence of Hollywood and the
development of Southern
California also played roles, as movie stars and executives began to be photographed outside
their Spanish-themed mansions.

Manus says of the style: "It's easily recognizable with its clay tile roofs, white stucco and bright
Mediterranean colors."

Spot it: Telltale signs of a Spanish Eclectic-style home are its low-pitched roof —often red —
stucco siding and arches.

Buy a Spanish Eclectic-style home: With three bedrooms and three baths, this home in Los
Angeles' Hancock Park area is listed for $1.17 million.

8. Tudor Revival
The Tudor period in Great Britain
was between the late 15th century
and the early 17th century.
Borrowing from that period,
Tudor houses in the U.S. are
modern re-creations and are more
often known as Tudor Revival
homes. Primarily built at the end
of the 1800s and early 1900s,
some refer in style to humble
cottages with thatched roofs.
More expensive houses were
built on a grander scale as vast
mansions.

Spot it: You can tell a Tudor Revival home by its visible timber framing, gables, parapets and
patterned brick or stonework.

Buy a Tudor Revival home: This four-bedroom, three-bath home in Shaker Heights, Ohio, got a
new roof in April. It's listed for $259,900.
9. Colonial Revival
This style became fashionable
after an exhibition marking the
nation's centennial in 1876. Its
popularity grew through the
early 1900s.

The style was all about


patriotism and a desire to retreat
from earlier Victorian excesses
and build something more
authentically American.

Manus says there's a progression


from the simplicity of the
Colonial Revival style and similarly stripped-down styles that later became popular, such as the
small, no-frills bungalows still seen across the country.

Spot it: You can spot a Colonial Revival home by its symmetrical façade, brick or wood siding,
gabled roof and use of pillars or columns.

Buy a Colonial Revival home: A four-bedroom, three-bath home in this style in Plano, Texas, is
listed for $269,000.

10. Contemporary
Many homes built in the early
21st century reference design
elements from a range of
historical periods. They mix
styles to create hybrids that are
idealized, nostalgic and not
rooted in any particular time
period.

In addition to reflecting older


styles, contemporary home
design reflects today's lifestyles,
with open floor plans, areas
designed to flow into one another
and the inclusion of multiuse spaces, such as great or family rooms.

Spot it: It's not always easy to distinguish a contemporary-style home. It could look sleek and
modern on the outside, or it may borrow features from other styles.

Buy a contemporary-style home: This new-construction home in Omaha, Neb., has four
bedrooms and three baths. It's listed for $483,000.