House Architectural Styles

Do you know what a Cape Cod style home looks like? Yes? What about a Tudor or a bungalow style? Do you ever get overwhelmed by the descriptions of architectural styles in real estate listings and wonder why they matter? Why do some people refer to a one-story home as a ranch style and others may call it a cottage?   

Why Style Matters

"What is style? Every flower has it; every individual worthy the name has it in some degree, no matter how much sandpaper may have done for him. It is a free product, a byproduct, the result of an organic working out of a project in character and in one state of feeling....A style is some form of spiritual constipation."Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959)

In more general and less poetic terms, most houses can be classified into categories based on a number factors:

  • Roof shape and pitch
  • Building size and number of stories
  • Window size, shape, and placement
  • Door shape and placement
  • Decorative details such as brackets and cornice trim
  • Structural details such as arches, columns, and porches
  • Construction materials such as brick, stucco, adobe, or wood
  • Footprint and floor plan
  • Historic period

It’s possible that no two experts will agree on the style of your home, particularly if it’s a new construction. For the last two decades, many new homes are being built in a neo-eclectic style, marrying features from different types of architecture. To make matters more confusing, many older homes have renovated interiors that don’t match the outside. For example, the modern kitchens or great rooms in Victorian houses.

All of these factors trend in different directions over time. Ideally, no style is better than another, but there are several styles - and one in particular - that continue to be the most popular for the last few years.


The Frank Lloyd Wright quote above is particularly apropos because this style of architecture comes out of the Arts and Crafts movement of the mid-twentieth century, of which he was a big part. Craftsman style homes are all about boxy interiors with deeply overhanging eaves and crafted details inside and outside. Many of these homes have their decorative art built right in in the form of simple, but elegant woodwork. An original Craftsman style home will have been built in the late 1890s until the mid-1900s, but many new homes are being built with a Craftsman aesthetic in mind.


Most people understand that a ranch home means one story. These don’t generally reach their full glory here in Michigan, but are very popular in the Southwest and California - where you can find some truly sprawling one-level homes. These were built and made popular in the 1950s and 60s.

Southern Style

This style isn’t only popular in the Southern parts of the U.S., but you can certainly find some beautiful examples there, often with large wrap-around porches, columns, high ceilings and tons of windows. These homes share some architectural details of Victorian style homes. They are often, but not always, two stories.


This term can encompass so many different variations that it’s hard to pin it down. Generally, a traditional home will have a balanced look - with windows on either side of the front door and a row of windows along the top story. It may have columns in a neo-classical style or it may not. What ties these styles together is their timeless appeal.

Take Away

When it comes time to start looking for a house, don’t be intimidated by the term style. It is, after all, what you make of it. Have fun finding out what you do and don’t like. Please give us a call when you are ready. We would be honored to help you find your dream home.