“Colonial-style house” is a general term that describes an iconic part of the American architectural landscape. This signature house style It is one of the most popular property styles in the US due to its innate charm and period character.
Located throughout the United States, Colonial-style homes range from sought-after historic homes to more modern Colonial-style properties.
Below, we’ve rounded up everything you need to know about colonial-style homes inside and out.
What is a colonial style house?
A colonial-style house is one of a variety of styles introduced by early European settlers to the U.S. in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, built with locally available materials and in a style with which they were familiar. Beginning in the 19th century, a series of Colonial Revival houses were built, demonstrating that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Where did the colonial style originate?
Colonial style houses were built by European settlers mainly from countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Holland and Spain. They can be found throughout the United States, but many are found in the eastern coastal states.
“True colonial-style houses were built in the 1600s and 1700s on the East Coast during the time of colonization by the British government,” says architectural historian Christina Dikas, associate director of Page and Turnbull, an architecture and historic preservation firm. “Houses were typically square or rectangular in plan with side-gable roofs, stone or wood construction, thick brick chimneys, and small multi-light windows.”
Types of colonial style houses
There is a lot of variety in colonial style houses. Expand your knowledge of the architectural trend with these key categories:
1. New England Colonial Style
Think Little woman and you’ll be instantly transported to iconic New England colonial-style homes with their central front door, fireplace, and rectangular windows. Author Louisa May Alcott’s own home, Orchard House (above) in Massachusetts, built around 1650 and where she wrote and set Little womanIt is a perfect example of the style.
2. French colonial style
French Colonial-style homes, found in the Southeast, particularly Louisiana, exude elegance with their sloped roofs and wrap-around porches, terraces, and balconies, as shown in the house above. The architectural features were designed to cope with the hot climate, so terraces were built because they are perfect for outdoor living, while small dormers in the roofs and tall, thin windows prevent too much heat from entering the house. Raised basements also help protect lower levels from flooding.
3. Dutch colonial style
Dutch Colonial style homes can be found in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Its most distinctive feature is the charming mansard roof (as on the house above). Other features include narrow dormers, shutters and central doors.
4. Spanish colonial style
Spanish Colonial style homes are known for their rustic appearance and can be found in Florida, California, and southwestern states such as Arizona and New Mexico. They were typically built with white stucco walls to deflect heat and low roofs made of red clay tiles. Other typical architectural features include few, small windows to help beat the heat, arches, and a courtyard.
5. Colonial Revival Houses
According to Christina Dikas, American Colonial Revival or American Colonial Revival style homes became popular in the mid-19th and 20th centuries. “The neocolonial style became popular after the centennial celebrations of 1876, at which time Americans sparked an interest in the architectural traditions of the colonial period,” she says.
‘Following the example of houses of the American colonial period, the houses are typically characterized by uniform symmetry built of wood, brick or stone, with side gable roofs, shutters, brick chimneys and centered front door. Some include an open front porch, columns and dormers. Inside, two- or three-level homes typically feature crown molding, a dedicated entryway with a centered hallway, and a grand staircase. Its spacious scale allows for spacious kitchen and living room areas, several bedrooms and study/office rooms, plus a full basement.’
Christina continues: “While the typical neo-colonial style house, as described above, is based on British colonial architecture, other variations across the country reflect different cultural influences, including Spanish and Dutch colonial styles (like the house above )”.
Why are colonial style houses so popular?
A combination of factors makes colonial style homes so sought after. Aside from the fact that you are acquiring a piece of history, colonial style homes are visually appealing and their classic appearance ensures that they will stand the test of time.
Practicality was a key consideration when they were built, so they have functional features, such as small windows to keep heat out, and are durable because they were built to last. Another advantage is that they are built with natural materials such as wood and stone, as opposed to manufactured building materials.
“The architecture and design of Colonial homes focus on family living, with large rooms designed for comfort and warm finishes, such as hardwood floors and stone fireplaces,” says Christina. ‘They are well proportioned on the outside, which makes them aesthetically pleasing. They also evoke a romantic vision of an earlier American period and symbolize traditional values.’
What to look for in a colonial style house
“Symmetrical architecture is a hallmark of American colonial homes,” says Christina. ‘Some of the homes have given way to modern families’ predominant preference for open floor plans and a finished basement. Steep roofs, centered doors and windows, natural finishes and spacious rooms are common.’