Today, we choose from house plans that have the same basic house forms. Preservation specialist Mary O’Neil has outlined the most popular types of house styles, in chronological order, for those who wish to define their style or stylize their home.
Among the earliest and most common building types, this house is characterized by its one-story eaves and front five-bay central entry plan. Typically these houses are two rooms deep, sometimes with a series of smaller rooms along the back. Original Capes had massive central chimneys. Roofs are usually low to moderately pitched, beginning just above windows. Variations may include half plans (three bays wide with the door placed far left or far right) or three-quarter plans (four bays wide with the door in the third or four bay). Early Capes required significant labor and hand tooling of materials, so these homes were characteristically modest in interior space. Their low ceilings and few rooms, however, made them easier to heat. Dormers are commonly added to increase space.
Similar to the Cape Cod, the Classic Cottage has a slightly higher eaves-front wall that can accommodate small windows in the upstairs knee wall. Roofs are proportionately shallower. Chimneys may appear in the middle or at either end. Windows are usually multi-paned double-hung sash, while the main entry is centrally located. This evolution of the basic Cape came when builders learned that a minor modification brought more usable space and light to the upper floor, increasing space and utility.
Historically this style refers to a rather broad time period architecturally, a Colonial house is regarded as a one- or two-story, rectangular, eaves-front symmetrical building with a central entrance. In a Georgian Plan, this is sometimes referred to as “five-over-four and a door, ” and may have roof dormers. The entry is frequently decorated in a classical style with pediments, pilasters, fanlights, or columns. A Colonial is always two rooms deep, but variations may place the staircase in the center or to either side. Common cladding is wood clapboard or brick. Windows are usually multi-paned double-hung sash. Deviations here may also include a half-plan, with the main entry at the far right or left of a three-bay facade.
Two stories high but only one room deep, these modest houses earned their name when it was determined that many of the original builders hailed from Illinois, Iowa, and Indiana. Usually built eaves-front, these gable-roofed homes made humble demands on small lots and pocketbooks.
Found primarily in Southern states, these one-story, one-room wide houses maximized potential on narrow building lots by construction that maintained a front-to-back alignment, theoretically allowing a shotgun blast to go from the front door out the back. When grouped, there are no side windows, but Southern front porches are common. Two to three rooms deep, this form is believed to have descended from West African and Caribbean dwellings.
This is the shape of a Colonial or I House when a one-story lean-to addition, or linhay, is added to the rear. The name is derived from the similarity to the shape of eighteenth-century salt containers. The sharply sloping roof was sometimes oriented to the north to act as a windbreak. In the South, this form is referred to as a “Cat’s Slide.”