Colonial Homes

Colonial homes can trace their roots back to the American colonial period. Although construction of true colonial houses ceased after the American Revolution, their basic framework - simple, symmetrical, and at least two stories tall - has remained a very popular influence on residential architecture for over 200 years.

Colonial architecture had a major impact on indigenous communities and repressive systems. With the relocation of colonialists to the United States, indigenous communities were displaced and many of their traditions, including their architecture, were destroyed to make way for colonial homes.

These homes typically have luxurious crowns, precise fireplaces, and formal entrances. The layout of modern colonial homes provides ample space for large families, often with four bedrooms upstairs and finished basements that provide additional space for guest accommodations and recreational rooms. The main living areas, like many other houses from this period, are designed to largely revolve around the kitchen and nest.

The history of houses in the colonial style

During the colonial period, Spanish, French, Dutch, and British colonists lived in the United States, all of whom incorporated their native designs and methods into their architecture. Although many styles are still popular in certain parts of the United States, the British Colonial style became the basis for many popular Colonial-influenced home styles such as Cape Cod and Saltbox.

Like many homes from this period, Colonial homes have adapted and changed over the years. Early designs began with two simple rooms - one on the first floor, one upstairs - that always had a central fireplace to keep the house warm during the harsh winters before the invention of electricity. The early houses were usually built in the simplified style of British colonialism, as the colonists built with the architectural layouts they were familiar with.

For a brief period in U.S. history, Colonial Revival houses were built significantly less when the Queen's style became popular. Victorian-style architecture had porches, decorative colors, conical roof towers, and precise and patterned trim. However, a Colonial Revival occurred in the late 1800s. The revival of Colonial Revival style architecture laid the foundation for the modern Colonial homes being built today.

Today in America, if you want to buy a newly built colonial-style home, it is probably designed in a new traditional style. With modern influences, these homes often have open floor plans with large master bedrooms, bathrooms, and spacious kitchens and living areas.

What makes a house colonial-style?

Over the centuries, the Colonial home has been adapted and invented based on new building materials, technologies, and techniques. In the late 1800s, it evolved into an organic style called Colonial Revival, which is still outdated today.

Symmetry is the most important aspect of a Colonial Revival home, which is immediately apparent from the front door, located in the center of the home and surrounded by windows. Upon arrival, you will find a central staircase that gives access to large rooms and the first floor on both sides. On the second floor, the staircase opens to a hallway that runs through the middle of the floor and connects the bedrooms and at least one bathroom.

The original design of traditional colonial houses was almost as simple as a great starting point for additions, modifications, and reinventions. The centerpiece of these houses is the front door, located in the middle and topped by a small porch or portico with long windows on both sides.

Double-hung mullioned windows are (naturally) symmetrical around the house and we usually installed them in pairs. Colonials have steep, medium-pitched gable roofs with shingles and gutters, and older houses have a pair of chimneys in the center of the roof leading to first-floor fireplaces. Modern colonials may have just put them on display.

1. The main characteristics of American Colonial style houses

2. Simple, traditional design

3. Plain exteriors with minimal embellishments

4. Built of wood, brick, or stone, depending on the region and period

5. Rectangular and symmetrical shape

6. Central door

7. Often with symmetrical entrance columns

8. Use of double-hung windows

9. Variations may include dormers

10. Imposing a central wooden staircase with a formal entrance

11. Small multi-paned windows in an original style, larger windows in Colonial Revival style, and new Neo-Colonial or traditional style 

12. Equal number of windows on each side of the door

13. Decorative window shutters

14. Generally two and sometimes three stories high

15. Common living spaces on the first floor

16. Bedrooms on second and/or third floors

17. Steep roofs with side gables

18. Central chimney or double chimneys with one at each end 19. One room deep, two or three rooms wide

20. Colonial Revival may include a garage creating a more asymmetrical facade 

21. Generally painted in muted neutral colors

What is Spanish colonial architecture?

Spanish Colonial Revival homes, known for their whitewashed plaster walls, stoneware tiles, red and rustic appearance, are popular throughout the Southeast, Southwest, and California in the United States. Long before this style came to North America, it had a long and varied history in Spain and Mexico. Although some elements of the Spanish Colonial style have changed over the centuries, modern Spanish Colonial homes retain many of the traditional elements and features.

Must-have elements of Spanish colonial architecture

Although Spanish colonial styles have changed over time and geographically, most Spanish colonial homes retain key elements of the original design. Some of these key elements are:

Thick, white stucco walls:

Thick white walls are ideal for very hot weather. During the day, thick walls can keep the air cool. At night, when the temperature drops, the heat absorbed from the sun is slowly transferred into the house. They often use Stucco because it was the surface available to Spanish immigrants.

Very few and very small windows:

Very few small windows allow cool breezes into the house, but no direct sunlight to warm the room. Traditional Spanish houses from the colonial period usually did not have glass windows - they chose iron grilles instead - but today it is rare to find a house without glass.

Red Clay Roof Tiles:

One of the most prominent features of the Spanish Colonial style is the low-pitched roof of red and clay tiles. In some areas, Spanish Colonial-style ceilings are completely flat, while others are slightly sloped, but all use the same characteristic tiles.

Wooden Supporting Beams:

Because we do not usually decorate, designers often use wooden beams to support interior walls and ceilings. You will often see wooden beams protruding from the exterior of the roof. It does not hurt that these beams add warmth and country character to the house, right?

A courtyard:

Whether outside or inside, most Spanish colonial homes have a courtyard of some sort. Traditionally, patios were centrally located so residents could cook indoors or outdoors and release some of the heat while cooking. Today, many Spanish colonial homes have a patio next to or behind the house.

Little or no decoration:

Traditionally, Spanish colonial houses have a simple, white appearance with very little decoration. However, some modern Spanish colonial houses have stone or tile trim on exterior doors and passageways.