Colonial houses are one of the most popular home architectural styles in the US, from new construction builds to fully restored historic homes dating back decades or centuries.
A Colonial home is a two or three-story structure, with a symmetrical design, centrally placed front door, with equal multi-paned windows on either side. Most Colonials have bedrooms upstairs with the living space downstairs. Rooflines and exteriors can vary by style.
We’re going to discuss the different styles of Colonial style homes and their unique features. We’ll also discuss the origins and popularity of each type.
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What Is a Colonial Style Home?
American Colonial style houses have a history that encompasses hundreds of years, tracing as far back as the 1600s. It’s still one of the most popular styles in the US in 2021.
Most Colonial homes are two-story or three-story but never a single-level home, except for Spanish Colonials. Regardless of the outside look, most of these homes have a floor plan consisting of the living area downstairs and bedrooms upstairs. The majority of these McMansions have 3,000 square feet or more of space.
These homes rarely have an open floor plan; instead, they have a dining room in the front of the house, with the kitchen and living room taking up the back half. Depending on the house’s size, there may also be a separate great room or family room.
There’s also a central hall with symmetric rooms on both sides. And the attics are big enough for making a bonus space or office. There may be large porches or other outdoor areas that act as part of the house.
Due to their minimalistic rectangular design, many people find it easy to expand by building onto the existing structure off either side or the back. When looking at the house from the front, you won’t notice the pitched roof.
Another trademark feature of Colonial style homes is that they have a central fireplace in the middle of the house, or they have two fireplaces, one on each end of the house. There’s also a central wooden staircase in the formal entryway that’s often a decorative statement, but which does limit what you can do to remodel the home.
The exterior can be wood, brick, or stone, although brick can be challenging to match if you decide to build an addition. Some styles may use other exterior materials.
The front door is always center with an equal number of multi-pane windows on each side and contrasting colored shutters. Some styles of Colonials may not use the same kind of window.
The second story has three or five windows symmetrically aligned with the lower windows and door. Third-story Colonials will have dormer windows. Some styles may have more windows or doors that allow access to outdoor living areas like patios, balconies, porches, or courtyards.
How much does it cost to build a colonial style home?
The price to build a Colonial style house in today’s market can vary drastically, based on your location, company, design, and features.
Due to its large size, Colonials are a more expensive house style, rarely chosen for a single person or married couple without children since you’d have a lot of unused space.
It can range from $407,500 up to $570,500, covering the building plans, materials, and labor costs. However, it may not include building permits, contractors fees, inspections, landscaping, high-end materials, appliances, furniture, taxes, or land costs.
There may be other costs that we don’t include. The best option is to compare the prices of different builders.
Where will you find colonial style homes today?
There are multiple styles of Colonial homes, varying by the immigrated colonists’ home country influences. They’re the most popular choice of home design in New Jersey, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, and Connecticut.
Where you may find these can also vary, depending on where immigrants may have settled once they journeyed to the US from their motherlands. The highest numbers are in New England, parts of the Southeast, and many Mid-Atlantic and Midwest states.
Colonial style homes are most common along the East Coast, predominantly in the Northeast around New England, Massachuttes since most of the population lived when our country first started. British, Georgian, Dutch, and Cape Cod Colonials are the most prominent in these areas.
These homes extend up towards New York and Maryland, where you’ll find higher German Colonials numbers. These are also common in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Dutch-style homes occur in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, where there was the highest number of Dutch immigrants.
French-style Colonials are most common in Mississippi, Louisiana, Illinois, and Quebec. You’ll see Spanish styles more often along the west coast or in Florida.
Even though they’re predominant in the northeast, plenty of people around the country enjoy the style enough to use it in other regions too. No matter where you live, you’re sure to have one or more Colonial style homes near you.
Pros and Cons of Colonial Style Homes
There are multiple benefits and a few drawbacks of choosing Colonial style homes. These houses are big, so they’re great for entertaining or for large families. But with a large house comes many challenges, including upkeep, repair, and electric bills.
- The large size gives plenty of room for growing families
- Symmetrical rectangular design allows for expanding off the sides or back
- Perfect for entertaining
- Living area downstairs with bedrooms upstairs
- Some exteriors can be hard to match if you build additions
- It has a more formal feel due to separated rooms
- Can’t have an open floor plan
- A central staircase can limit renovation options
- Large open spaces can be challenging to heat or cool
Types Of Colonial Houses (With Custom Graphics)
Now that you know the typical characteristics of a Colonial house, let’s look at the different types. Each type will have unique features that separate it from other colonial styles. These designs have influences from the country of origin of the original colonists.
British-style Colonials are the most common style found in the US, which makes sense given that we started as a British colony back in the day (roughly 200 years). But within the British style, there are a few individual subtypes with varying characteristics.
1. Saltbox Style
Saltbox-style Colonials got their name from being made out of repurposed wood from salt containers. These homes were typical throughout the 17th and 18th centuries.
Signature features that make this style easy to identify are a roof sloped on one side, an asymmetrical brick chimney, and a simple facade.
2. Cape Cod Style
Cape Cod-style Colonials started in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in the 17th century. These homes were built by Puritans, who brought their English origins to the US with half-timbered houses.
This style features shingle or clapboard exteriors (weathered to a light gray), flat fronts, two windows on either side of the centrally placed front door, a steep pitched side-gabled roof, and a central staircase.
These homes also have massive central chimneys and little outside ornamentation. Some Cape Cod-style homes may be single-story and feature shutters that allow the occupants to protect the windows during turbulent weather.
3. Georgian Style
Georgian-style Colonials were a typical home style from 1700 to 1830. These homes were inspired by the four British monarchs of the time, King George (I-IV).
These homes usually have a brick exterior, although some might be stone or stucco. Exterior colors are traditionally tan, white, or red. They have a consistent proportion with separate wings or smaller blocks on either side of the main structure.
Signature features include slightly-pitched roofs, decorative entrance accents, such as arched tops, pediments, or ogee caps, paired chimneys, and decorative headers on the windows. There are also central panel doors and may have Roman or Greek-inspired pillars.
4. Mid-Atlantic Style
Mid-Atlantic-style homes became popular with the help of Thomas Jefferson. These homes existed from New Jersey to Virginia.
This style of home is more formal and larger than other styles with more ornate decorative features.
5. Dutch Colonial
Dutch Colonial homes have strong German and Dutch influences brought to the US from immigrants hundreds of years ago. These houses were popular between 1625 and the mid-1800s. Most Dutch homes remained in the state of New York.
Signature traits of a Dutch Colonial are stone or brick exterior, flared eaves, and gambrel roofs. Many people refer to these as barn-shaped due to having two pitches, similar to a barn roof. This roof design is a signature for Dutch designs.
These houses also feature two or three windows inside a single dormer, although many may not have any dormers. Chimneys are built on the gabled ends of the house. There will also be porch pillars, round windows, and shingle siding.
And on many homes, the doors are split so that you can open the top half without opening the bottom – another signature Dutch design.
6. French Colonial
French Colonial style homes became a thing as the French immigrated to the US during the 1700s. Most French immigrants settled along the Mississippi Valley in the south, with large populations throughout Louisiana.
French Colonials combine African, West Indies, and Caribbean practices and European ideas to handle the region’s swampy hot climate. These homes are often on raised piers with wide, open porches, called galleries wrapping around the house and protected by hipped roofs.
Due to the high heat and humidity, most rooms on the first floor have doors that lead out to the porch. You would walk through the gallery to change rooms rather than using the hot interior hallways.
They have symmetrical rectangular or square framed, two-story structures, with elaborate French doors, lots of multi-paned windows, and brick or wood exteriors (originally used mud and animal hair).
Another signature feature of French architecture is intricate metalwork, often featured as wrought-iron rails or columns. Many French Colonial homes also have open wrap-around porches on the second story.
7. German Colonial
German Colonial homes cropped up around Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio between the 1600s and the mid-1800s. They share similar traits to British-style houses.
These homes have thick exterior stone walls (usually limestone or sandstone), exposed raw wood frames, and massive beams. They also feature arches above the first-story door and windows.
The rooflines have a steep pitch, with side gables and central chimneys. The only notable difference between a German and British style Colonial is the window casement. German homes have symmetrical windows on the sides with arched accents.
8. Spanish Colonial
Spanish Colonial homes originated in Spain and Mexico. These homes are easy to identify by the thick, stuccoed walls, which help keep the house cool, and clay tile roofs (usually red) with a flat or slight pitch.
These homes also feature interior courtyards with rooms built around the space, where there’s a sitting area and usually some foliage growing. There may also be fountains.
Spanish Colonials also have small windows with wrought iron grates rather than glass panes. The design allows these windows to stay open to allow air to circulate through the house. Multiple doors allow access from outside.
This is the only style Colonial that’s a single story rather than having two or three floors. However, many styles have the traditional multiple floors.
Colonial style homes have a long history throughout the US, appearing in most places around the country. There are different styles of Colonial homes, with unique characteristics matching the design of the originating country. Many people are still choosing Colonial-style homes as a new build since it can be challenging to find historic Colonial homes to renovate or move-in-ready.