American Home Styles, 1600 to Today

American Residential Architecture in a Nutshell

Even if your house is brand new, its architecture draws inspiration from the past. This index traces important housing styles in the US from Colonial to modern times. Learn how residential architecture has changed over the centuries, and discover interesting facts about the design influences that helped shape your own home.

American Colonial House Styles

Samuel Pickman House, c. 1665, Salem, Massachusetts
Samuel Pickman House, c. 1665, Salem, Massachusetts. Photo © Jackie Craven

1600s - 1800
When North America was colonized by the Europeans, settlers brought building traditions from many different countries. Colonial architecture includes a wide range of styles, including New England Colonial, German Colonial, Dutch Colonial, Spanish Colonial, French Colonial, and, of course, the ever-popular Colonial Cape Cod.

  • Guide to American Colonial House Styles

Neoclassical House Styles

Democratic ideals are expressed in classical details of Greek Revival homes. Stanton Hall, 1857.
Democratic ideals are expressed in classical details of Greek Revival homes. Stanton Hall, 1857. Democratic ideals are expressed in classical details of Greek Revival homes. Stanton Hall, 1857. Photo by Franz Marc Frei/LOOK/Getty Images

1780 - 1860
During the founding of the United States, learned people such as Thomas Jefferson felt that ancient Greece expressed the ideals of democracy. After the American Revolution, architecture reflected the classical ideals of order and symmetry—a new classicism for a new country.

  • Federal and Adam House Style
  • Greek Revival House Style
  • Tidewater House Style
  • Antebellum Architecture

Victorian House Styles

Brightly colored Victorian porch
Brightly colored Victorian porch. Photo by Images Etc Ltd/Moment Mobile Collection/Getty Images (cropped)

1840 - 1900
Mass-production and factory-made building parts carried over a system of rail lines enabled the building of large, elaborate, affordable houses throughout North America. A variety of Victorian styles emerged: Italianate, Second Empire, Gothic, Queen Anne, Romanesque, and many others. Each style had its own distinctive features.

  • Guide to Victorian House Styles

Gilded Age

Neoclassical Beaux-Arts Vanderbilt Mansion, Hyde Park, New York
Neoclassical Beaux-Arts Vanderbilt Mansion, Hyde Park, New York. Neoclassical Beaux-Arts Vanderbilt Mansion, Hyde Park, New York. Photo by Barry Winiker/Photolibrary/Getty Images

1880 - 1929
The rise of Industrialism brought the period we know as the Gilded Age. Business leaders amassed enormous wealth and built palatial, elaborate homes. Some homes, known today as Chateauesque, imitated the grandeur of old French estates and castles or châteaux.

  • Beaux Arts Style
  • Renaissance Revival House Style
  • Richardson Romanesque House Style
  • Queen Anne House Style
  • Tudor Revival House Style
  • Neo-Classical House Style

Frank Lloyd Wright Styles

The Arthur L. Richards House in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, built 1916, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright
The Arthur L. Richards House in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, built 1916, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie Style houses were low and compact. Photo By Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

1901 - 1955
American architect Frank Lloyd Wright revolutionized the American home when he began to design houses with low horizontal lines and open interior spaces. His buildings introduced a Japanese serenity to a country largely populated by Europeans, and his notions about organic architecture are studied even today.

  • Prairie Style
  • Usonian Style
  • Hemicycle Design
  • Organic Design

Bungalow Styles

Spanish colonial revival bungalow, 1932, Palm Haven Historic District, San Jose, California
Spanish colonial revival bungalow, 1932, Palm Haven Historic District, San Jose, California. Spanish colonial revival bungalow, 1932. Photo by Nancy Nehring/E+/Getty Images

1905 - 1930
Named after primitive thatched huts used in India, bungaloid architecture suggested comfortable informality. However, not all bungalows were small, and bungalow houses often wore the trappings of many different styles, including Arts & Crafts, Spanish Revival, Colonial Revival, and Art Moderne.

  • American Bungalow Styles

Early 20th Century House Styles

Colonial Revival American house circa 1929 in Lake Forest, Illinois
Colonial Revival style American house circa 1929 in Lake Forest, Illinois. A modest Colonial Revival, circa 1929. Photo ©Teemu008 on flickr.com, CC BY-SA 2.0

1905 - 1930
In the early 1900s, builders begin to reject the elaborate Victorian styles. Homes for the new century were becoming compact, economical, and informal as the American middle class began to grow.

  • Arts & Crafts (Craftsman)
  • Bungalow Styles
  • Tudor Cottage
  • Spanish Mission House Style
  • American Foursquare House Style
  • Colonial Revival House Style

Mid-20th Century House Styles

Levittown Jubilee design
Jubilee design in Levittown, Twin Oaks, PA (photo c. 2007). Levittown Jubilee house, Twin Oaks, PA ©Jesse Gardner, CC BY-SA 2.0, flickr.com

1930 - 1965
During the Great Depression, Americans moved toward increasingly simple housing styles. Affordable Minimal Traditional, Ranch, and Cape Cod houses became the mainstay of the expanding suburbs in developments such as Levittown (in both New York and Pennsylvania). As soldiers returned from World War II, real estate developers raced to meet the rising demand for inexpensive housing. The era brought a flurry of innovations, from the metal prefab Lustron houses to the eco-friendly geodesic domes.

  • Mid-Century Homes, 1930 - 1965

Modernist Houses

Front exterior a modern home
Front exterior a modern home. Modern home photo by Auda & Coudayre Photography/Getty Images

1930 - Present
Modernist houses broke away from conventional forms, while postmodernist houses combined traditional forms in unexpected ways.

  • Art Moderne House Style
  • Bauhaus Style
  • International Style
  • Desert Modernism
  • Eichler Houses
  • Alexander Houses
  • Modern House Styles
  • A-Frame Style
  • Postmodern House Style

"Neo" House Styles

McMansions, typically with multiple garages, mix styles on a too-small lot
McMansions, typically with multiple garages, mix styles on a too-small lot. Photo by Karen Hatch/Moment Mobile Collection/Getty Images

1965 - Present
Neo means new. Earlier in the nation's history, the Founding Fathers introduced Neoclassical architecture to the new democracy. Less than two hundred years later, the American middle class had blossomed as the new consumers of housing and hamburgers. McDonald's "super-sized" its fries, and Americans went big with their houses. Many new homes during this period of growth and prosperity borrow details from historic styles and combine them with modern features.

  • Neoeclectic House Style
  • Neocolonial House Style
  • Neocolonial Homes for 1950s-1960s America
  • Neo-Mediterranean House Style
  • Neo-Victorian House Style
  • McMansion

Spanish and Mediterranean

Upscale, Mediterranean style house, Laguna Beach, California
Upscale, Mediterranean style house, Laguna Beach, California. Upscale, Mediterranean style house, Laguna Beach, California. Photo by Mardis Coers/Moment Mobile/flickr Editorial/Getty Images (cropped)

1600s - Present
Immigrants from all over the world had come to America, bringing with them old customs and cherished styles to mix with designs first brought to the Colonies. Spanish settlers in Florida and the American Southwest brought a rich heritage of architectural traditions and combined them with ideas borrowed from Hopi and Pueblo Indians. Modern day "Spanish" style homes tend to be Mediterranean in flavor, incorporating details Italy, Portugal, Africa, Greece, and other countries. Spanish inspired styles include Pueblo Revival, Mission, and Neo-Mediterranean.

  • Spanish Colonial Revival (Spanish Eclectic) House Style

French Styles

Architect Edward Foulkes designed the Pittock Mansion, 1914, near Portland, Oregon. This grand stone mansion combines a variety of French styles.
Architect Edward Foulkes designed the Pittock Mansion, 1914, near Portland, Oregon. This grand stone mansion combines a variety of French styles. Photo by George Rose/Getty Images News Collection/Getty Images (cropped)

1700s - Present
Spanish, African, Native American, and other heritages combined to create a unique blend of housing styles in America's French colonies - particularly Houses in New Orleans and the Mississippi Valley and the Tidewater. Two hundred years later, soldiers returning from World War I brought a keen interest in French housing styles.

  • American Homes Inspired by French Designs

Earth Houses

Medieval thatched roof cob cottage in Hope Cove, South Hams, Devon, UK
This thatched roof cob cottage in Hope Cove, South Hams, Devon, UK was first constructed about 500 years ago. Cob cottage in the UK. Photo © Louise Heusinkveld/Getty Images

Prehistoric - Present
The very first acts of architecture may have been huge earthen mounds such as the prehistoric Silbury Hill in England. Today, architects and engineers are taking a new look at man's earliest building material: practical, affordable, energy-efficient earth.

  • Adobe Houses
  • Rammed Earth Houses
  • Cob Houses
  • Compressed Earth Block Houses
  • Straw Bale Houses
  • Earth Sheltered Houses

Prefab Houses

Lustron house in Knoxville, Tennessee
Lustron house in Knoxville, Tennessee. Lustron house in Knoxville, Tennessee. Photo ©Brian Stansberry via Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported

1906 - Present
Some of the first prefabricated structures were made of cast iron in the mid-19th century. Pieces would be moulded in a foundry, shipped to the construction site, and then assembled. This type of assembly line manufacturing because popular and necessary as American capitalism flourished. Factory-made modular and prefabricated houses have been popular since the early 1900s when Sears, Aladdin, and other mail order companies shipped house kits to far corners of the United States. Today, "prefabs" are gaining new respect as architects experiment with bold new forms.

  • Sears Catalog Houses
  • Lustron Homes
  • Log Homes
  • Katrina Cottages
  • Manufactured Houses
  • Modular Houses

Dome Homes

Geodesic Dome house designed after molecular carbon atom
Geodesic Dome house designed after molecular carbon atom. Geodesic Dome house. Photo by Richard Cummins/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

1954 - Present
The idea of constructing dome-shaped structures dates back to prehistoric times, but the 20th century brought exciting new approaches to dome design—out of necessity. It turns out that the prehistoric dome model is also the best design to withstand extreme weather trends like violent hurricanes and tornadoes—a 21st century result of climate change.

  • Geodesic Domes
  • Monolithic Domes

Frontier Houses

Reconstructed Log cabins at Lincoln's New Salem Historic Site, Petersburg, Illinois
Reconstructed Log cabins at Lincoln's New Salem Historic Site, Petersburg, Illinois. Photo By Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images (cropped)

1600s - present
Today's log homes are often spacious and elegant, but in Colonial America, log cabins reflected the hardships of life on the North American frontier. This simple design and hardy construction technique was brought to America from Sweden.

  • Log Cabins

Native American House Styles

The Oldest House in the US may be this one, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, c. 1650
The Oldest House in the US may be this one, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, c. 1650. Photo by Robert Alexander/Archive Photos Collection/Getty Images

Prehistoric - Present
Long before Colonists came to North America, the native people living on the land were constructing practical dwellings suited to the climate and the terrain. Colonists borrowed ancient building practices and combined them with European traditions. Modern-day builders still look to Native Americans for ideas on how to construct economical, eco-friendly homes.

  • Pueblo Styles