house plans

Architectural Styles: A Short Overview

Whether you live in New England or the desert Southwest, Seattle, or Tulsa - you can find pitched roof brick and stone Tudor traditional style, single story ranch and cottage-style, sleek contemporary architecture. A sculptural Santa Fe style adobe might seem out of place in Vermont and a rustic log cabin would be equally incongruous near the beach in California, but whether you seek single level house plans or a design for a two-story traditional, there are many options.

Before you rule out a specific style or choose something ill-suited to your location or your lifestyle, however, here is an overview of the defining characteristics of some popular home styles:

American Colonial

Symmetrical and formal, Colonial style is popular in the East and throughout much of the South, and has been for centuries. Colonial homes have shuttered windows, a centrally-placed entry door with some sort of overhang or simple portico, clapboard siding and one or two chimneys, typically at either end of the house. Usually full two-story homes, they normally feature a central staircase.


In the Middle of the country and in the Pacific Northwest, Craftsman style predominates in older neighborhoods. Immediately recognizable, these homes have a comfortable presence; often they are raised bungalows, and they invariably have spacious front porches, low-pitched roofs, large interior fire places and exposed beams. Craftsman style features natural materials: Brick, stone, wood and, often, stucco.


A broad category of design, European style calls to mind the stately villas of European capitals. Homes reflect historic traditions and, while European architecture may not always be grand, it is substantial and refined, with a focus on the details. These homes look as if they will last forever, and are often surrounded by well-landscaped gardens.


Sprawling single-story ranch homes originated in the West and Southwest where land was plentiful, and homes were set on acreage rather than on small city lots. Early examples were enlarged over time simply by adding extra rooms as the need arose. During the building boom of the 1950s and '60s, a variation of the simple ranch or "rambler" became known as mid-Century modern, with distinctive characteristics borrowed from the emerging popularity of sleek, modern design. With clean lines and simple layout, this variation of single level house plans are popular today.


Sleek lines, geometric forms and functional space are the hallmarks of modern style, along with innovative use of materials and often a complete rejection of decorative details. Flat roofs and boxlike proportions are not uncommon, although modern design is, itself, undergoing a transformation due to newly-available technology and materials. industrial looks are increasingly popular.


Sunny, warm climates in Spain, southern France and Italy gave rise to a somewhat casual and immediately recognizable architecture known simply as Mediterranean. Popular in California, Florida and the Southwest, colorful Mexican influences are common, and typical features often include clay tile roofing, stucco, wrought iron grille, tile flooring and a decidedly indoor-outdoor orientation.


'Farmhouse' encompasses many variations of style, which can range from the "dog-trot" cabins of the Texas frontier to comfortable midwest two-story homes or the functional pitched metal-roof homes that dot prairie lands across the country. Farmhouse style homes often feature expansive porches, tall double-hung windows that provide cross-ventilation in every room, a simple footprint and a common-sense floor plan.

In recent years, industrial influences -- think corrugated metal or board and batt siding, standing ridge metal-roof, shed porches and "silo-like" turrets -- are trendy features of Modern Farmhouse Plans.

Cape Cod

Think New England, and you'll immediately have a picture of Cape Cod style. Steeply-pitched roofs and dormer windows were instrumental in dealing with heavy snowload, while a centrally-placed entry door was always shielded by some sort of cover and flanked by windows. Cape Cod style has pleasing lines and a stately presence. A variation is the less formal, often asymmetric "Saltbox" style, which has similar design features, including multi-paned windows and tall chimneys.

No matter what your design preferences, you're sure to find home plans that cater to your lifestyle needs even if they're not one of these styles. Search our entire list of home plans by style - and find exactly what you're looking for!