Here's your cheat sheet for identifying today's most popular plan styles.
First, what is architectural style?
A form of classification – historians use it as a tool for
understanding the life of forms in architecture – where they come from, what
they mean, how they reflect a particular period or point of view.
Is identifying architectural style a form of bird watching? Not according to the experts!
“…a style is far from the being the same thing as a species.
Not only may individual buildings classifiable as the same type differ from
each other in more noticeable ways than they resemble each other, but styles
possess an almost limitless capacity for hybridization.”
American Architecture Since 1780, by Marcus Whiffen
“While the individual work has one determined physical
manifestation, the style has an infinite number of such manifestations. While
the individual work concretizes a particular situation, the style concretizes a
collection of such manifestations; in principle it may concretize a culture in
Intentions in Architecture, by Christian Norberg-Schulz.
Current Popular Plans, by Style
Craftsman Deriving from
Arts & Crafts precedents, this popular style features wide porches and natural materials. Plan 120-162
– A kind of Romantic or “Hansel &
Gretel” Craftsman, using battered stone
walls, expressive wood detailing and small gables.
– A more straightforward interpretation of
Craftsman, with expressive wood brackets, beam ends, and trusses.
Bungalow A compact gabled
house with a usable porch at front or back. Historian Robert Winter identified
the California Bungalow as a version with more extreme garden- and nature-oriented features.
– Simplified forms of the Craftsman style that refer specifically to small gabled houses with porches.
Country or Farmhouse Usually
two-story gabled houses with porches across or around the front.Plan 137-252
– The wraparound veranda and simple gable roof
are key characteristics.
– A version of the Country or Farmhouse style
derived more specifically from barn shapes.
-- Large porches and gables but little or no
Cottage A smaller design
evoking a rustic charm with board-and batten, shingle, or stucco siding and
simple gable roofs. More loosely defined than a bungalow. One definition by a writer from 1901 still seems useful: “A
Cottage is a little house in the country, but a Bungalow is a little country
– Smaller than a bungalow.
Simple gable, shed dormer, plus deck – a modern
Modern Essentially deriving
from the International style.Plan 496-18
– Simple, geometric, unornamented surfaces,
large expanses of glass. Here the hip roof and the ribbon of glass under the
eaves echo work by Frank Lloyd Wright in his so-called Prairie Style houses in
Chicago from the early 20th century.
Ranch A version of the Modern style, but more
specifically associated with long, low one-story houses having shallow gable roofs.
– Channeling Cliff May ranch houses.
– A shingled version of a ranch house. Some
ranch houses sport detailing from other styles.
Contemporary A version of
Modern, but more associated with angled roof shapes than with flat, encompassing designs from the
1950s, 1960s, and 70s, like houses at The Sea Ranch. Plan 48-571
– Shed roofs are particularly characteristic of
Classical If we were
being consistent this should really be
called Classical Revival, but we are using this term very generally to mean
plans with Classical features, not plans designed in some Classical era. Plan 137-222
– This plan has a monumental classical portico,
a symmetrical arrangement, shutters, and a cupola that recalls Washington’s Mt.
Colonial Though, strictly
speaking, for historians, Colonial refers to the architecture produced during
the Colonial era. We are really talking about Colonial Revival plans – though
even this refers too specifically to the era—from the 1890s to through the
1920s – when the Colonial Revival first flourished. Plan 137-188
– Classical details are emphasized in the
columns along the front porch, the simplified pediment dormers, and shutters.
The designer calls this Country Farmhouse style, but because of these extra
details it’s really a simplified form of Colonial Revival.
– Simple large gabled volume with minimal
overhangs and large central chimney.