Cape Cod House : Architecture, Style And More!

For a second, close your eyes. Visualise a house, simple and symmetrical, with a timeless clean-line silhouette. A cultural traditional dwelling, perhaps a bit old fashioned, but incredibly cozy.

That’s the Cape Cod House. One of the most instantly recognizable home styles in the U.S. At its core, an original Cape Cod house is a small, rectangular,
unadorned one to one-and-a-half-story cottage with a steep pitched roof. Ask a kid to draw you a house, and he’ll draw you a Cape Cod cottage!

Cape Cod homes have been around for centuries, and yet they seem to never get old. Named after the Massachusetts coastal region, these dwellings consist of a simple, yet popular house plan, especially in New England, where it is considered the signature style. Even now, over 30o years since the first recorded Cape Cod houses, their design continues to inspire many new constructions.

What is Cape Code House ?

Once again, Cape Cod architecture is one of the most popular home styles in the U.S. There are many things in common in between these houses and traditional American Colonial homes.

Originally, Cape Cod houses were small, rectangular cottages that were usually one and a half stories high. Cape Cod structures in the 17th century were modest. They could be described as one-room deep, wood-frame houses with shingle exteriors, flexing a steep roof, a big central chimney, and low ceilings. There was also a central door, surrounded by shuttered, wooden windows.

Cape Cod revival houses from the mid-loth century forward are often a bit more embellished than the austere early models – but simplicity remains a visual
hallmark of this somewhat minimalistic but undeniably cozy home style.

What Does a Cape Cod House Look Like

The style of Cape Cod was first introduced by the English colonists to the United States in the late 17th century. The idea was to use the English half-timber hall and parlor style to accommodate New England’s harsh winter climate.

People started to regularly build the Cape Cod houses from 1690 to 1850, although the term ‘Cape Cod’ was given much later by the President of Yale University, Timothy Dwight IV, after a visit to these cottages.

At this time, the Cape Cod style was widespread and commonly used, but the popularity of these mesmerizing dwellings did not reach the level that we see nowadays until the 192os, a period which is known as “Cape Cod Revival.”
Because of the houses’ symmetrical design, open living space and arrangement, they soon came to be considered a classic American style. Steep roofs were
designed to minimize the snow settling on the roof, something imperative for New England’s long, heavy winters. Low ceilings and shutters were intended to conserve heat and block harsh winds.

Exterior and Interior of Cape Cod architecture


•  The houses are symmetrical. There is a central front entry that opens to a central hall and dining space.

•  A large central chimney is always in the middle of the structure, directly behind the main entrance, and all the rooms are placed around it in a rectangular shape.

•  Steep, gabled roofs and shallow roof overhangs are used to allow rain and snow to fall quickly.

•  These homes always have two double-hung windows with shutters on each side of the door and sometimes have a dormer on each side of the chimney.

•  A very recognizable element are the weather grey shingles.

•  Overall, a simple exterior without any porch and roofline.


•  Cape Cod houses use a simple rectangular layout, usually single-story.

•  They have extremely low ceilings, in order to conserve heat.

•  There is always a large, open-concept living space

•  Bedrooms are usually located in dormers or under the gables.

•  The interiors have clean lines, bold features with a little aesthetic details.

Materials Used

Like most traditional houses, Cape Cod houses are usually constructed using materials available locally.

•  Oak and pine for post and beam framing, as well as for flooring.

•  Brick fireplaces.

•  In original Cape Cod cottages, the roof, made of clapboard or cedar shake shingles was left unpainted.

•  During the Cape Cod revival, black shutters on white exteriors became a classic color combination.

Different Variations

Like with every style of architecture, the Cape Cod dwellings have a few different types. Smaller houses were called ‘single capes’ or ‘three-quarter capes’,
depending on the number of family members the house was intended to shelter.

Single Cape

Just like any other, single cape cottages have a front door on one side of the home with two multi-paned glass windows. They’re used by small families, and this variation is sometimes also known as the Half Cape.

Three-quarter Cape

Three quarter cape homes have two multi-paned windows on one side and one multi-paned window on the other side. This style was especially popular in the 18th and early 19th centuries.

Full Cape

The full cape, also known as the double cape, is perhaps the most common type of Cod Cape dwellings today. This style was used by big, usually wealthy families. It usually consists of two multi-paned windows (placed symmetrically on either
side), a steep roof, and a massive chimney.

Interesting Facts about Cape Cod Architecture

•  Because of their affordability, Cape Cod houses gained extreme popularity after World War II, especially during the Great Depression.

•  Boston architect Royal Barry Wills added amenities like bathrooms, kitchens and garages, so that the houses would reach the middle-class families’ standards.

•  The Dugan residence and The Levittown House (built by William J. Levitt and Sons in Long Island, N.Y) are some of the famous examples of Cape Cod Architecture.

•  Levittown was the first major housing development company, and it has built more than 17,000 virtually identical Cape Cod homes.


Cape Cod houses are definitely proof that even a simple house plan, one so old

and commonly used, can be among the best choices for a house. This is how such a simple style of architecture became one of the most popular and influential architectural styles of America.

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