A colonial-style house represents one of the most familiar styles of residential architecture. This type of design dates back to the “Colonial” period, which is typically associated with the early 18th century. 

However, the style can be deceiving – colonial residential design is often associated with a wide range of other architectural types, including the most common styles such as Dutch colonial, Spanish colonial, French colonial, Spanish eclectic, and Georgian colonial. 

What is a colonial-style house?

Colonial style house
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Colonial style houses are similar to what could be found overseas in England, Spain, or other areas of Europe around the 1700s. It wasn’t until the 1800s that builders began to incorporate accents, such as long hallways, into American colonial architecture.

Houses built around this period are occasionally referred to as colonial revival style homes. This home design dominated the real estate scene well into the 19th century. And, the American colonial homes continue to inspire architects even today. 

Characteristics of colonial-style houses

Colonial style and garden
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There are a few characteristics of a traditional colonial-style house that allow them to fit into this category.

1. Two or more stories

A colonial-style house features at least two stories. A staircase that leads to the second and third floors is usually placed at the center. This makes the stairway a dominant design element inside the structure. You shall usually see the front door placed directly in the center of the front wall, and it opens right into the staircase area. Formal entryways are also a common element in colonial style homes.

Also, most colonial houses have all of the bedrooms situated on the second floor. While there is no rule that you need to do the same in your home, you may want to consider doing so if you would like to mess with tradition.

Bungalow Style House? Take a look at our guide.

2. Double-hung windows

Second, double-hung windows are typical in any colonial-style house. They often consist of several square panels, which are equal in size. Think about keeping your windows in this architectural style if you want to preserve your home’s colonial look.

3. Symmetrical layout

Finally, Colonial architecture tends to be relatively symmetrical. Houses are often rectangular and “orderly” to the eye. Not to forget, they seem to enhance the curb appeal!

If you intend to add on to your home during your renovation, try to be mindful of these design concepts to fall in line with colonial architecture.

In terms of additions, it is not unusual to see colonial homeowners add a porch to their structure. Assuming you keep it symmetrical, you can easily incorporate a porch to complement the existing design of your home.

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4. Steeply pitched roofs

Colonial style roof
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A colonial-style house also features a steep roof, having minimal to no roof overhang. It comes with huge central or end chimneys. Additional elements include pillars, dormer windows, and intricate brick detailing.

5. Neutral color schemes

When it comes to color, don’t rule out neutrals for the exterior of your colonial home. White with black shutters, for instance, is a common color scheme for Colonial-style houses. However, beiges and soft browns are also eye-pleasing on colonial structures.

6. Wood siding

Finally, consider integrating other colonial staples into your renovation plans, such as siding. Clapboard siding is commonly seen on East Coast colonial houses, and it can give your colonial a fresh look.

What are the types of a colonial-style house?

Colonial house types
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1. English colonial

The first British settlers in New England built English colonial homes. You can still find them in the northeastern parts of the United States. Interestingly, the house plan features a wooden frame construction, usually comprising two stories, and an open floor plan. 

The center of the living room features a fireplace that heats the entire house. The middle of the roof features a big chimney. Overlapping shingles or clapboard on the external walls and diamond-shaped, lead-pane windows are other staple components in these British colonial styles.

2. German colonial

German colonial-style homes come with steeply pitched roofs that include side gables and a centrally located chimney. Symmetrical, arched windows grace both sides of the house. Some other common elements comprise stone walls that are thick, sturdy, and insulated.

3. Georgian colonial

Perfect symmetry and balance in the exterior design — these are the staple features of Georgian colonial homes. They have a central door that features symmetrical windows on both sides. Each end of the building comprises an in-built space for a fireplace. The interiors come with extravagant designs and a complex central hall floor plan. In this Georgian style architecture, you can also see elaborate mantelpieces, arched entryways, and decorative molding.

4. Federalist-style

Federalist colonial homes are quite ornate, exhibiting intricate decorative elements in the entire design. For instance, you can see them featuring a balustrade, which mimics a half fence. Additional common features include eaves, hanging off the roof, and arched windows over the doorway.

5. French colonial

French colonial homes typically use the second-story as the living space. Another common design element is large, covered porches. They provide ample shade to the interiors from the hot sun. They also keep the house cooler in summers.

6. Neo-colonial style

The neo-colonial style is the most recent advancement in colonial homes. They have the original components such as two stories, square shapes, side-gable roofs, and decorative features on the exteriors.

Yes, colonial-style homes have evolved to incorporate certain old-world elements alongside contemporary inspirations. Brass furnishings and decorated indoor mirrors are common features in these houses. And contemporary architects continue to draw on these elements for an updated look.

Understanding a Colonial Style House And Its Attributes was last modified: May 29th, 2020 by Krystle Vermes
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