Residential Architectural Styles

In 2021 in the United States, aesthetics is high on most people’s home-buying-wish-list. Most people hope to find a home that fits their style and functions well for their life. A quick google search is all you need to do to realize there are no shortages when it comes to the variety of different styles of houses available on the market. For example, made a diagram called The Architecture of American Houses and came up with 121 different styles! According to good ‘ole Wikipedia, “An architectural style is a set of characteristics and features that make a building or other structure notable or historically identifiable…A style may include such elements as form, method of construction, building materials, and regional character.”

One thing I love about each different style is that each one is filled with its own unique history and utility. There are specific reasons why each style has the shape, layout, and décor that it does, and it is fascinating to me to learn how each style was developed, and in some cases, reinvented. As I began diving into research on this topic, I realized that there is so much great information available that, rather than try to reinvent the wheel, I’d like to just share some of what I’ve found here on our site and save you the work. To that end, links are provided at the end of this article to each of the sources I’m sharing.  With that as a backdrop, the rest of this article will highlight 5 of the most popular architectural styles in the U.S. Enjoy!

1. Ranch

Key Elements

  • Single-floor living. The ranch home’s low profile comes from its roots in the Western United States, where working ranch homes were one-level, practical and unadorned. Modernist influences also kept ranch homes simple and single-story for the most part, although split-level ranches did become popular in the 1950s.
  • Asymmetry. Classic ranch homes are often shaped like “L”s or “U”s.
  • Sliding glass doors. One major purpose of the ranch style is to link the outdoors and the indoors. Sliding glass doors became a standard way to let in as much light and view as possible while connecting the living space directly to a patio.
  • Backyard emphasis. Earlier American homes focused on the front porch, but ranch homes were designed for a private life out back.
  • The garage. The spread of ranch homes coincided with America’s flight to the suburbs, which meant these homes had to accommodate cars — usually two.

2. Craftsman

Key Elements

  • Built of natural materials. Craftsman homes are typically built of real wood, stone and brick.
  • Built-in furniture and light fixtures. Built-ins were the hallmark feature of the Arts and Crafts era. Built-in cabinets allowed the furnishings to be part of the architecture, ensuring design unity and economic use of space. Even the light fixtures are often part of the design.
  • Fireplace. A fireplace was the symbol of family in the Arts and Crafts movement, so most homes feature a dominant fireplace in the living room and a large exterior chimney.
  • Porches. Most homes in the Craftsman style have porches with thick square or round columns and stone porch supports.
  • Low-pitched roofs. The homes typically have a low roof with wide eaves and triangular brackets.
  • Exposed beams. The beams on the porch and inside the house are often exposed.
  • Open floor plan. The Arts and Crafts Movement rejected the small, boxy rooms like those in Victorian houses.

3. Tudor

Key Elements

  • Steep, multi-gabled roof lines. It is not uncommon for the eaves of these dramatic homes to plunge clear down to ground level, or close to it.
  • Decorative half-timber framing. The characteristic half-timbering, the structure’s seemingly exposed wood framing, is almost exclusively ornamental in the U.S.
  • Massive chimneys. The roof lines of Tudor homes are almost always graced with massive chimneys, constructed of brick or stone and capped with elaborate chimney pots. “It was not uncommon to find a fireplace in every room of the house; they were the primary source of heat,” Saroki says.
  • Brick, stone, stucco or slate exteriors. Tudor homes were almost exclusively constructed from these materials, which are often called “noble materials.”
  • Decorative entryways. Entryways are often arched and outlined with decorative brick or stonework.
  • Windows in groups of two, three or four. Most often casement as opposed to double-hung, the windows are multi-paned, with panes sometimes arranged in a diamond pattern.

4. Colonial

Key Elements

  • Square, symmetrical shape. Formality governs the Georgian Colonial. Both the exterior and interior are traditionally arranged according to strict symmetry and proportion. This all begins with the centrally located entrance, hallway and staircase around which the interior rooms are positioned.
  • Five windows across front. “Windows are always rectangular and evenly spaced across the house’s facade,” notes Shannon. “The windows also are traditionally double-hung and multi-paned, typically with nine or 12 panes per sash.”
  • Dental moldings along the eaves. Dentils, or tooth-like blocks, began to decorate roof lines as the style became more decorative.
  • Pedimented dormers sometimes jutted from the roof.
  • Flattened columns on each side of door. “Pilasters, shallow columns borrowed from Greek architecture, often adorned the homes’ front elevation. Pedimented dormers jutted from the roof,” says Shannon.
  • Shutters. In the South, the shutters tend to be louvered to welcome breezes but thwart the sun. Up North, paneled shutters close up tight to protect the home from harsh winds, sleet and snow.

5. Cape Cod

Key Elements

  • Large, central chimney. The large, central chimney is located directly behind the front door, with the rooms clustered around it in a rectangular shape.
  • Steep roof. Cape Cods have steep roofs to quickly shed rain and snow, and a shallow roof overhang.
  • Windows and dormers. A full Cape has two windows on each side of the door, and often has a dormer on each side of the chimney to open up the attic.
  • Captain’s stairway. “The second floor, often kept for boarders or ‘seafaring’ men, was accessed by a narrow stair, or ‘captain’s stairway,’ which has incredibly steep risers and shallow treads to minimize the use of the first-floor space,” explains David Karam, an architect and builder from Brewster, Mass.
  • Shingle siding. Weathered gray shingles are one of the most recognizable elements of a classic Cape Cod, but newer homes are built of brick, stucco and stone.

Who knew there was a reason for the slope of my roof or the location of my windows and chimney? Maybe a lot of people, but this was news to me. As I mentioned in the opening of this article, there are literally hundreds of styles of homes, each one with its own story. If there’s a style you love, talk to your Realtor about it and add it to your wish list. Live in the Tulsa area and don’t have a Realtor? We’d love to connect!

Article Sources:

*At Tulsa Home + Design, we work with clients at every step of their home-buying and owning journey to help them find and create spaces to live and grow. Call us today.

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Roderick Hands, Luxury Tulsa Real Estate Agent

Roderick Hands

Managing Broker

Tulsa Home + Design Luxury Real Estate


Luxury Tulsa Real Estate

Selling luxury real estate is more than talking about facts and features.  It's about selling the feelings and emotions that come with the purchase.

Because we are also a design firm, we can help you present your home in the best possible way to attract the right buyer for your home.

We'd love the opportunity to sit down together and learn more about how we can use our expertise to help you achieve your goals.

Roderick Hands, Luxury Tulsa Real Estate Agent

Roderick Hands

Managing Broker

Tulsa Home + Design Realty

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