Blog, Design Basics, Style

The American Dream (Homes)

We all have our own unique outlook on life, specifically in design and what we consider to be “the American Dream.” The definition of the American Dream has evolved over the years to mean a multitude of lifestyles and career paths. And without getting political, it really is amazing to see the diversity our country allows and encourages as we learn what our individual American Dream is. For some it means buying a modest home with all your favorite features; some, it’s a sprawling farmhouse on the ranch; and others it looks like non-committal apartment living. Design gets DIVERSE based on location, trends, and history. So let’s look at the classic elements of homes in each of the four corners of the U.S. — the colonial New England, the charming farming South, the modernist Pacific Northwest and the cultural Southwest. 

Colonial New England

Dating back as early as the 1700’s makes this type of home is one of the oldest in America. Saltbox colonials and Cape Cod colonials are the most prominent here in New England, featuring steep roof pitches and natural siding. Natural wood shingles or clapboard are the siding materials of choice. Therefore, the siding is coated using stain or clear sealers to protect against weathering. Georgian style influences were strong in New England, like the classic mixed-medium siding. For instance, the face would be clad in stone with shingles or clapboard on the rest of the house.

Example of Georgian Colonial homes. The Josiah Dennis House in Dennis, Massachusetts
Josiah Dennis House, Dennis, Massachusetts, built 1735, Georgian colonial

Similarly, the inside of Colonial homes feature lots of natural wood and metals. The interior layout is simple and has stood the test of time. Since the front door is almost always dead-center, there is a foyer that leads into the main area at the back of the house. Two smaller parlors are on each side of the hall. 

Do you own a Colonial, but aren’t sure which type? Read this architectural style guide to learn your home’s style and history!

Identifying Features:

  • Centered front door topped with transom window and/or elaborate crown trim 
  • Decorative cornice moulding 
  • Multi-panel windows
  • Large windows on the main floor, with smaller dormer windows on the upper floors
  • A portico 
  • Side-gable, gambrel, or hipped roof lines, occasionally

Southern Charm

Heading down the East Coast, we find the elegant and charming American South. Full of historical influences, southeastern U.S. boasts a variety of architectural styles. Here, you’ll find homes inspired by Roman Neoclassicism, Greek Revival, and Georgian design. Ultimately, a happy collection of all these create our classic Southern home. 

The South started branching out its definition of “home” in the late 1700’s-early 1800’s. What you’ll see is a mix of Craftsman style homes with deep front porches, and two-story Greek Revival antebellum homes with large columns and wrap-around porches. And the new favorite, farmhouses comprised of simple Federal architecture and grand covered porches. Clearly, one thing is consistent in the American south— porches. This wasn’t just to look pretty (which they do). On top of the architectural character they add, porches also act as a heat barrier. Since the roof line extends further, the inside of the home is almost always protected from the hot southern sun. Additionally, it’s where social gatherings took place, as they allowed friends and family to enjoy the outdoors without getting too toasty. 

Identifying Features:

  • Symmetrical, proportionate architecture
  • Columns
  • Triangular gables or dormers
  • Elevated foundation or stilts (to prevent flood damage)
  • Lower-pitched roof line
  • Grid windows

Pacific Northwest Homes

Technically speaking, there isn’t one particular style that defines the Pacific Northwest architecture. American Craftsman bungalows are sprinkled throughout the Northwest, as well as modern McMansions. But the homes that stand out the most are the ones that fuse with nature. These homes are named Northwest Regional. Taking cues from International Style architecture while incorporating natural elements, Northwest Regional homes first sprouted up in the early 20th century. As a result, these houses were largely made from local timber and stone (inside and out) to create a warm, earthy feel.

Large walls composed entirely of metal-cased windows are a tell-tale sign of a Northwest Regional home. Similar to Mid-Century Modern architecture, that of the PNW is very angular and spacious, creating a good balance with the considerable use of raw earthy materials.

Identifying Features:

  • Raw natural materials (wood, stone, metal)
  • Post-and-Beam architecture
  • Low-pitch or flat roof
  • Extended roof overhang for large outdoor spaces
  • Lots of windows
  • Simple, minimalist layout and decor

Southwest

In such a distinct region of the country, the American Southwest had garnered an eclectic mix of design styles. This is mostly the result of a number of different cultures calling it “home”, as well as the unique climate conditions of the Southwest. The signature style of our final corner of the U.S. comes from Native Americans, Spanish, and Mexican designs.

In this hot and sunny corner of the world, it was important to regulate indoor temp as much as possible for the Southwest’s first architects. That’s why you’ll see a lot of clay- and/or stone-sided homes. These earthy mediums kept the interior from baking in the sun AND stoped cold desert nights from creeping in. Sticking with natural form, this style was often low on sharp corners and hard lines. Rather, they display elegant curves and rounded edges. But more importantly, these homes now send us back in time with their timeless exteriors.

The same curvy motifs follow us inside the homes, as well. Winding staircases and rounded doorways pay homage to the regions European roots. Warm woods and stones contrast with cool metals and pops of turquoise in traditional southern homes. For a truly Southwest home, geometric patterns paired with pottery and fresh cacti create the perfect design moment.

Identifying Features:

  • Stucco siding with rounded corners
  • Flat or slightly-sloped terra-cotta roof
  • Bright orange, turquoise, squash gold and red accents
  • Exposed wood beams
  • Ornamental metal gates on windows and doors

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