About Colonial Revival Architecture and Neocolonial Homes

The "New" Colonials

two large multi-story homes in a suburban neighborhood
Amityville, New York. Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images (cropped)

Colonial Revival and Neocolonial houses express the diverse traditions of North America's colonial past. Constructed in the 19th and 20th centuries, these homes borrow ideas from a range of historic styles, from symmetrical Georgian Colonials built by British settlers to the stucco-sided Spanish Colonials built by settlers from Spain.

Realtors often use the term "colonial," but a true colonial home dates back to the years before the Revolutionary War. Most suburban homes labeled as colonial are actually Colonial Revivals or Neocolonials inspired by colonial styles.

Reinvented for a modern era, Colonial Revival and Neocolonial houses may combine details from several different styles, or incorporate historic details into an otherwise contemporary design. The Amityville Horror House in Amityville, New York is a classic example of a Dutch Colonial Revival home:  The distinctive gambrel roof reflects an architectural tradition practiced by early Dutch settlers. 

Browse the photos in this gallery to view more variations on architecture "revived" in the United States — a nation of immigrants. 

Colonial Revival

two story white house, 2 windows with black shutters on 2nd floor, 1 window on either side of red door
House Designed By George O. Garnsey, 1921, Wilmette, Illinois. Teemu008 via flickr.com, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A true Colonial house is one that was built during North America's colonial past, from the 15th century through the American Revolution.  Very few original homes from North America's early colonies are intact today.

Colonial Revival styles emerged in the late 1800s as a rebellion against elaborate Victorian styles. Many houses built during the 20th century can be described as Colonial Revival. Colonial Revival houses have the simplicity and refinement of old Georgian and Federal houses from American history, but they incorporate modern details.

 

Neocolonial

white house with black shutters, side garage sticks out on the left and a receding right-side extension, 24i-paned square window over the front door
Neocolonial, Aymmetrical Symmetry. Robert Kirk/Getty Images (cropped)

By the late 1960s, more fanciful versions began to appear. These houses, called Neocolonial or Neo-colonial, freely combine an assortment of historic styles using modern materials like vinyl and simulated stone. Garages were incorporated into the design — unlike the barns and storage structures of colonial days, modern Americans live in more confined spaces and want their vehicles close by. Symmetry is hinted at in Neocolonial homes, but not adhered to.

 

Georgian Colonial Revival House

brick two-stroy home, symmetrical, black shutters and white door and window trim
Georgian Colonial Revival. Mother Daughter Press/Getty Images (cropped)

This house was built in the 1920s, but its rectangular shape and the symmetrical arrangement of its windows imitate America's Georgian Colonial architecture, an English style that flourished in 18th century America.

As colonists became increasingly displeased with King George, designs adopted more Classical details and transformed into what is called the Federal Style after the American Revolution. The Neoclassical or Greek Revival style home is not considered a style revived from the American colonies, so Classical Revival is not considered Colonial Revival.

The classic Georgian Colonial Revival house — also called Georgian Revival — can be found throughout America from the late 1800s until the present day.

Dutch Colonial Revival

two story gambrel roof, front shed dormer, side chimney
Dutch Colonial Revial, c. 1923. Teemu008 via flickr.com, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Dutch Colonial Revival houses are characterized by their gambrel roofs, a detail borrowed from historic Dutch Colonial architecture. Other details such as pilasters and decorative window and door crowns are borrowed from historic Georgian and Federal architecture. The extended shed dormer is a common addition to gambrel roofs.

 

 

Dutch Colonial Revival Bungalow

gambrel roof horizontally and vertically, large columns
Dutch Colonial Revival Bungalow. Jackie Craven

A gambrel-shaped roof gives this modest bungalow characteristics of a Dutch Colonial Revival home.

As pattern books and mail-order catalogs became popular, builders would adapt styles to not only fit onto smaller lots but also smaller pocketbooks. Located in a 1920s development in upstate New York, this beautiful home is a builder's Dutch Colonial Revival with Neoclassical porch detailing. The effect is both regal and charming.

Spanish Revival

person walking the estate of a spanish colonial revival home near palm trees
93 Palm, 1922, Miami Beach, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Spanish Revival homes in the New World are almost always stucco-sided with archways and red-tiled roofs.

This Spanish Revival home in Miami is one of Florida's oldest and most notorious estates. Constructed in 1922, the house was purchased by the notorious gangster Al Capone in 1928. The colonial Spanish style is expressed in the gate house, the main villa, and the pool cabana.

French Revival

hipped roof, through the cornice dormers, two stories, symmetrical
Neo-French Colonial Revival. Jackie Craven

American homes inspired by French designs attempt to revive French architectural elements like hipped roofs and dormer windows that cut through the roofline. They often look quite different from the simple homes built by French colonists. The French Huguenots who fled to the New York territory known as New Amsterdam mingled French ideas with architectural details from England and the Netherlands.  

Neocolonial House

two-story brick up with front gable extension, four columns, and a dormer through the cornice
Neocolonial, a Mix of Traditions. J. Castro/Getty Images (cropped)

Builders combined neoclassical and colonial ideas with details borrowed from other periods for this multifaceted Neocolonial house — a mixture of many historic details. The multi-pane windows and the window shutters are typical of the Colonial era. The brick suggests American Federalist architecture. The dormer through the cornice has French influences, yet the gable is nearly a Classical pediment. The porch columns or pillars certainly imply Greek Revival. The front gable extension and the overall symmetry mixed with the asymmetrical shape of the house suggest this is a modern house in colonial clothing.

Neocolonial

facade of two story home of the 21st century, portico with pediment and columns, shutters on windows
Neocolonial American House. Fuse/Getty Images (cropped)

The colonial style is a traditional design that continues to be revived. In each iteration, the "new" or "neo" colonial will display elements of the past.