10 Unique Home Styles
10 Unique Home Styles
Go beyond cookie cutter and discover these distinctive home types, ranging from Italianate to Chateauesque.
Unlike other countries, there’s no particular housing style that’s quintessentially American. Home designs in the United States tend to express the individuality of their builders and owners. Here are 10 unique houses that can be found nationwide.
It’s hard for some to fathom the appeal of these triangle-shaped houses: There are no basements, and the steeply pitched second floors almost beg for dormers. But this style became popular after World War II; they’re particularly associated with the 1950s–1960s design aesthetic. Architect Andrew Geller’s version was featured in The New York Times in 1957, setting off a building frenzy.
Characteristics: Ground-level gutters
Common Updates: Solar energy panels
These boxy houses, which thrived from 1900 to 1930, are known best for being pre-fab houses that Americans nationwide could order by mail and receive by rail. When parts and instructions arrived, contractors added their own personal touches so that few homes looked alike. Some kept them Prairie Style simple, while others added Queen Anne, Mission, Colonial, and Greek Revival details.
Characteristics: Low-slung roof, deep overhang, central dormer, wide porch
Common Updates: Polyvinyl siding, asphalt shingles, storefront or garages, two-story porch
A very popular style during the 19th century, Italianate residences are often lumped in the category of Victorian homes. But they’re a grouping all their own, capturing the opulence of the Industrial Age with their trademark towers, reminiscent of Italian belvederes, and elaborate wrap-around porches.
Characteristics: Vertical proportions; tall, rounded windows; intricate wood or pressed metal cornices and ornamental stone trim
Common Updates: Storefront additions, siding, enclosed porches
Houses built in this style, which was popular from about 1880–1910, resemble country homes or castles in France. However, with its expansive use of masonry, this romantic type of architecture was largely reserved for the wealthy. A good example of this type of structure is the Magic Castle in Los Angeles, built in 1909.
Characteristics: Uneven rooflines; facades with recessed and projecting embellishments
Common Updates: Screened-in porches
Concrete Block Houses
Often overlooked, these houses represent an important but brief time in residential construction when Sears Roebuck & Co. and Montgomery Ward sold cast-iron gadgets to make ornamental concrete blocks during the early 20th century. These tools allowed builders to pour concrete into molds and make hundreds of blocks for a house with a paint-free exterior. Construction peaked in 1917, and disappeared completely by the 1940s.
Characteristics: Glittery granite patina
Common Updates: Painted surfaces
Made entirely of steel, more than 2,500 of these prefabricated ranch houses were built starting in 1949 during the post–World War II housing boom, when the demand for housing by returning GIs outstripped supply. While hundreds have been destroyed by natural disasters since they were last constructed in the 1950s, their biggest threat today are bulldozers.
Characteristics: All-metal façades with unusual colors: pink, surf blue, maize yellow, dove gray, and desert tan
Common Updates: Second-floor additions
R. Buckminster Fuller may not have invented this kind of spherical structure, but he did patent it in 1954, using the design for the Dynamaxion House, now part of the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan. He had hoped to solve the post–World War II housing crisis with this style, but it was used more for weather observatories, auditoriums, and storage facilities. Fuller’s own home in Carbondale, Ill., called RBF Dome NFP, is now preserved and open to tour groups.
Characteristics: Lattice shell structure
Common Updates: Additions
These peculiar two- or three-story eight-sided houses were only popular for about a decade (1850–1860), but there are numerous survivors more than a century and a half later. Architecture enthusiast Orson Fowler believed these working-class residences were practical with their concrete walls and offered incredible views in any direction.
Characteristics: Timber or brick framing, porch, dome roof, cupola, raised basement, low roof, cornice, dentils
Common Updates: Rear gable
Americans who visited Italy during the 19th century came back enamored with the country’s architecture. Among them were architect John Notman, who designed the first “Italian Villa” style house in Burlington, N.J., in 1837. Wealthy Americans copied the house Notman built through the 1900s. Actor Buster Keaton had one constructed in 1926.
Characteristics: Tall towers, small balconies, stucco, red tile roofs, cantilevered eaves, uneven rooflines
Common Updates: Garages
Shingle style became popular following the 1876 centennial of Independence Day when architects updated Colonial homes for the 19th century. They retained the trademark cedar-shingle appearance and added trendy features: cupolas, porches, stained glass windows, and more. It could be lavish or simple. Surviving examples range from small cottages to stately three-story mansions.
Characteristics: Wood shingle siding
Common Updates: Vinyl siding, polyvinyl window casements