8 Traditional Architectural Styles Explained

Deciding which style to base your home design on can be overwhelming. Some styles may sound familiar like Victorian or Farmhouse, but many people have a hard time matching actual houses to the categories. We are here to help dispel any confusion and give concrete examples of traditional architectural styles to help you distinguish between them!

  1. Colonial

There are four main types of Colonial style homes: Colonial, Dutch Colonial, Georgian Colonial, and Federal Colonial. These 4 types share a rectangular shape and are incredibly symmetrical, you will notice that all of the front doors are situated perfectly in the center of the house and flanked by an equal number of windows.

Colonial: This is the standard colonial home. The rest of the subtypes are slight variations of this design

Georgian Colonial: The primary difference in Georgian Colonial architecture is the decorative covered entryway

Dutch Colonial: The Dutch Colonial is a slight variation on the rectangular shape of colonial houses and also sports a broader roof. But Dutch Colonial homes still share the symmetry of the rest of Colonial styles.

Federal Colonial: This Federal Colonial is a ZED Studio Original! The main features of a federal colonial home are the square shaped wings on either side of the house which set it apart from the other colonial designs. Another unique aspect of Federal Colonials are palladian windows over the front door. These clients opted to slightly modernize this classic design by continuing the rectangular windows over the front entrance.

  1. Cottage

Thinking of cottages can bring up images of get-away or vacation homes. Cottages are defined by their size, mainly only one or two stories, and front garden features that give them a fairy tale feel. Here we include Bungalow, Cape Cod, and Tudor design within Cottage design as they tend to have the same features: small in size, front gardens, and most are built as vacations homes in North America.


Cottage: This is the traditional cottage design, again this home is only 2 stories and features the front garden. What sets traditional cottages apart from Bungalow, Cape Cod, and Tudor homes is the use of brick and steep gabled roofs.

Bungalow: What sets Bungalow’s apart is covered front porches and the use of more muted colors to seemingly blend into the environment. What is interesting about Bungalow homes is that they can take on aspects of other styles. The home shown here is a craftsman style bungalow.

Cape Cod: Cape Cod homes are typically found in New England and are based on traditional cottage design. These homes feature the steep roofs of traditional cottages but use clapboard or shingles for exteriors and tend to feature less gables.

Tudor: Tudor homes tend to be the largest and most decorative homes that could be classified with cottages. With the half timber detailing, red brick and distinctive gables, Tudor homes are almost always immediately recognizable wherever you are.

  1. Craftsman

Craftsman homes are the standard North American design style, these homes are recognizable by their exterior use of stone and wood, low gabled roofs and tapered columns. The rendering below is an example of a ZED Studio custom Craftsman home in Langley BC

The rural cousin of the Craftsman home is the Farmhouse. The similarities are found in the exterior use of stone and wood as well as the gables. The features that set Craftsman and Farmhouse apart are the location they are found in, the height of the gables, and steepness of roofs. This beautiful ZED Studio Farmhouse custom home is under construction in Anmore BC.


  1. French Provincial

French Provincial is the style of grand manor homes that originated in Europe. These homes are imposing and draw your eye upwards, giving the impression of height. Other characteristics of French Provincials are the steeply pitched roofs, a stone or brick facade, symmetrical design, and striking entrances. The two homes below are both ZED Studio custom homes built in beautiful Anmore BC.

  1. Greek Revival

Greek Revival Architecture is characterized by massive columns supporting the covered front deck. Inspired by ancient Greek temples these homes are symmetrical, proportional, simple, and elegant. A classic example of Greek Revival architecture would be the US Supreme Court Building  in Washington DC.


  1. NeoClassical

NeoClassical Architecture is very close in nature to Greek Revival. What sets NeoClassical homes apart is the scale of homes, and the use of all traditional aspects. Whereas Greek Revival architecture utilizes various classical elements, such as columns, NeoClassicism is characterized by a more whole-scale revival and often grand-scale classical volumes. The columns often continue all the way around the building, and some sport a domed roof. Many government buildings in the US and Europe are designed in this way.

  1. Spanish

Spanish architecture is characterized by the earth tone stucco, outdoor living space, and red clay tile roofs. These features alone make a Spanish style home stand out from the rest. Also within this category are Mediterranean, and Pueblo. While these three design styles are slightly different they share the earth toned exterior, building materials, and outdoor living space.

  1. Victorian

Victorian homes are extremely distinctive, there are a large number of aspects that make these homes easy to spot. Wrap around porches, turrets, steep roofs, colourful exteriors, and asymmetry are just some of the staple features in Victorian homes. Victorian homes are typically the most ornate of the traditional design styles and this is evident both inside and out.


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