The Colonial house style is perhaps one of the most common styles of houses to the average American. And of course, as you can imply from the name, the colonial house is one of those things we inherited from our colonial past.
Colonial architecture is usually associated and further subdivided into styles adopted from various colonial powers prominent at that time. Such as French, Dutch, Spanish, British.
Below we will discuss more in-depth the basic characteristics of Colonial housing and then delve further into their sub-styles.
What Is a Colonial House
Don’t think Colonial Houses are a thing of bygone days. Rather, they don’t only reflect a country’s historical past but they’re also timeless classics. Just take a look at the pictures below and you will see how these different houses display elegance on every corner.
To put it in simple words, colonial houses are where balance, symmetry, elegance and history meet in the housing world. So before we begin describing their different style, sizes and special flavors. Let’s begin with the basic characteristics they all share.
Characteristics of Colonial Style Houses
Like always, let’s begin with some background history. So what exactly are colonial houses and where did it all begin?
Colonial housing goes back to the late 16th century. A time where European powers were displaying their power overseas. You know how it is, It all started with the idea of trade but it evolved into a complex network of nation-building and cultural exportation. Which of course includes architecture.
But enough history. Let’s get back to our topics.
In the US, most colonial houses were built in around the southern and northeastern parts of the country. Around the same time, the thirteen colonies were about to be established.
These colonial powers had already begun building these types of houses in many parts of Europe, but it wasn’t until the 1800s that architects in America started adopting those particular designs and emulating European houses.
Ok, that was the last historical fact, promise.
In summary, Colonial properties are part of America’s cultural fabric and colonial heritage.
Fast forward today, these colonial beauties are south after by wealthy families as they evoke a sense of nobility, elegance and wealth.
Colonial House Interior
Ok now let’s get into it. What’s inside of them?
Colonial houses are a minimum of two stories high. As you come inside, you will notice the stairway positioned in the very center of the structure as the main focus point. They usually have only a room per storey. So since the staircase is right in the middle of the building, the doorway is placed in the front wall’s center so that it conveniently opens towards the staircase.
A perfect mix of architectural finesse and efficiency.
So on the first floor is where you can the common areas. This includes the dining area, the living room and for the family to gather the family room. Naturally, the living quarters would be upstairs.
Colonial House Exterior
Now let’s get out to appreciate the beauty of this architectural building. For Colonial houses, symmetry rules everything around them. Be it rectangles or squares. Almost all of them without exception have wood siding around the front part with windows on each side.
Colonial House Windows : Double-hung
Now, this is the part I feel makes colonial houses unique. Its double-hung windows. These windows are designed all equal in size and must be of a balanced number on either side of the front door (symmetry again, folks).
Colonial House Colors
To be fair you would rarely see colonial houses in flashy modern colours, I mean, that would defeat their aesthetical purpose, wouldn’t it? Most colonial houses are painted white with black shutters. An exception to the rule would include creamy colours, shades of almond and soft brown tones to name a few.
Another feature that can be missed and that would help you identify a colonial house is its pitched roofs. Sometimes that would include a chimney.
8 Types of Colonial Style houses
So we’ve gone over their basic characteristics to help you identify colonial homes. Now it’s time to feast your eyes with these different colonials styles below.
1. British Colonial House Style
If you are reading this in the US, you will be able to easily spot British style colonial homes mostly in the northeastern part of the country. There is a reason it was a call New England. Not only language and customs were important to bring from Europe, but style as well. They’re built around the 1600s by the first colonial settlers in the US and their main feature is their wood frame built.
The design is pretty simple. As we mentioned above, two stories are the common practice with an open layout and a fireplace in the center of the room for cozy evenings with the family.
In terms of the roofing, there are characterized by a multi-layered design to prevent snow from accumulating and rain from entering the house. The windows are usually diamond-shaped as you can see.
2. German Colonial House Style
Now for the untrained eye, German Colonial-style houses look quite similar to British Colonial homes. They’re both found in about the same regions and built basically around the same time
Although they basically share the same features, what sets them apart is the window design. They’re also symmetrical but you’ll notice some small arches above each window.
In terms of its body and built, German houses are built with stone and insulated walls to protect the tenants from harsh winters.
3. Dutch Colonial House Style
At this point, I’m sure you can understand that each of these houses will display features that are connected with different European countries. Now Dutch colonial homes have a special roofing situation. They have gambrel roofs, so what does that mean?
Gambrel roofs are roofs with two-sided slopes at different angles. The upper portion, at a shallow angle, while the lower one is steeper. You would often find the chimneys placed at the end of the gable, the single siding and rounds windows.
They can be made of brick or stone. Always symmetrical and sometimes you would be able to see matching chimneys on each side of the house and the doors, which I think it’s pretty cool, can be half-opened from the middle.
And speaking about doors…these houses usually have a window above the door as well. The size would vary depending on taste.
4. French Colonial House Style
Most of the colonial homes we’ve described are located up north. Now it’s about time to head down south. French colonial houses are most prominent in these areas, as french settlers would make this part of the US their newly founded colony.
The french and their unique approach to the table brought their one flavor to the mix. Yes, they’re also symmetrically built either in a rectangle or square frame. Usually two stories, with the living quarters above.
A characteristic worth mentioning is that although the frame is made of wood and brick, you will find french colonial houses with a mixture of animal hair and mud. Yea, Animal hair. Moving on.. The roof extends over the porch and speaking of that, the porches are wide that they surround the whole property.
5. Colonial Revival House Style
Colonial revival homes came a little later, around the late 1800s. The architects picked a bit of everything in between and came up with a particular style of colonial homes that is considered Georgian. Where it draws most of its inspiration.
Another short history lesson, the period these houses were built was around the time of the industrial revolution. This means, that you can find designs around the ceilings of the homes that share similarities with this era.
The idea behind these designs was to take the current colonial style and create a better spin-off, something that was truly american in nature, spirit, concept and design.
This type of building displays extended porches and entrances, columns and doors with sidelights. American architects took inspiration from the American Revolution war. Keep in mind, that by this point in time, advancements in technology became readily available, thus making these buildings stronger than their counterparts.
6. Spanish Colonial House Style
For design number 6 we head back to European roots. The Spanish also controlled a sizeable amount of territory in the southern part of the US. The design for these colonial houses originated in Spain and in Mexico, a major Spanish colony.
To put it simply, the structure and design are very similar to ranch style homes. They’re the only one-story building on this list. They usually feature small windows with wrought iron metal instead of glass panes.
The main reason for a divergence in window design is that contrary to their counterparts up north, Spanish houses were built in more warm weather, thus windows of these properties were meant to stay open most of the time. Speaking of weather, the walls were a mix of rock or bricks covered in stucco, to keep the house cool year-round. Also, An additional feature of these homes worth mentioned is the presence of an inner courtyard
7. Georgian Colonial House Style
So we briefly mentioned Georgian houses, and I told you we would speak more about them here. Georgian architecture originates also in England around the time of King George IV.
A special feature of Georgian houses missing from their counterparts is the additional wings. Meaning, these houses feature two small blocks on each side of the property, with a low roof. You can also find pillars with greek or roman influence.
They’re are built usually in brick or stone and as opposed to most of the colonial houses painted in shades of white, Georgian colonial houses stand out with bright red colours and paired chimneys.
Georgian houses are made for families, they feature distinctive large rooms. (Designed for royal families, perhaps?). The structure, like others in this category, is very much symmetrical with a decorative crown above the main door.
8. Neoclassical Colonial House Style
Last but not least, We bring you the Neoclassical Colonial style to wrap up our top 8. Just take a look at this! So much variety within one architectural style!
We talked about the colonial era and what came up until the Industrial Revolution. But with the arrival of the 21st century and more technological development, we started to see a shift in aesthetic approach while still sticking to the basics.
The first things that changed were the built, Instead of rock or bricks we start seeing a big change to a preference for vinyl siding. That is a plastic siding for houses known for its weatherproof properties
Like most of their counterparts, neoclassical homes are built on two stories and are square in shape and tall porches.
In some instances, we can see three-storey neo classical homes with side-gabled roofs and decorative surrounds.
There you have folks, these are the 8 most prominent types of colonial houses. Although they mostly share so many common features each of them has its own particular feature and flavor deeply connected to its European roots. A true masterpiece of elegance, detail and functionality.
Now your turn, let me know in the comment section… what is your favorite one?