Defining a House Style: What Makes A Creole Home?

Louisiana is a place like no other. It and its surrounding areas are home to a truly unique style of architecture known as the Creole home. Though you’re less likely to see this home outside of New Orleans, that in no way discounts the rich history and one-of-a-kind make up that this home style has to offer.

Take an in-depth look at the Creole home, including its complex beginnings, its two distinct sub-types and some of the defining features of the style. Read on to learn for yourself what makes this type of architecture so special.

creole home

Creole homes can be traced back to French colonization. Image: Wangkun Jia / Shutterstock

History of the Creole home

The word “Creole” has a varied and complex history. It can refer to anything from ethnic heritage to recipes or styles of music. In much the same way, the history of Creole architecture comes to us from a variety of different paths. No one knows for sure what the exact origins are.

However, we do know that rather than resulting as an adaptation to the environment, Creole architecture formed out of cultural influences from the various settlers who called the Mississippi Valley home. Some believe that Creole architecture is due largely to French Canadian settlers in the area. Others think it came directly from France. Still others argue that the architecture shows more influence from the West Indies.

To complicate matters further, after two fires in the late 1700’s destroyed many original Creole houses, Spanish settlers from the time responded by strengthening building codes and adding their own architectural influences to the mix during reconstruction.


There are two distinct subtypes of Creole homes. Image: dejjf82 / Shutterstock

Types of Creole homes

There are two main sub-types of the Creole home. You can tell them apart in the following ways.

The Creole Cottage

The smaller of the two house types, the Creole cottage is also the oldest. These houses feature anywhere from one to four rooms with no hallways to speak of. However, unlike the similarly-built shotgun house, which is also prevalent in the area, these cottages have rooflines that run either side-to-side or parallel to the street. They also feature a second half-story for bedrooms. In rural areas, these homes are known for their sprawling front porches. However, in New Orleans, where space is at a premium, they meet the street.

The Creole Townhouse

The Creole townhouse is perhaps most well-known for its presence in New Orleans’s French Quarter. These houses date from after the Great New Orleans Fire in 1788. Made from stucco or brick, rather than wood, these homes are more fire-resistant. This type of Creole home features thick walls, open courtyards, arcades,and cast-iron balconies. Additionally, they show both Spanish and French influence with their steeply-pitched roofs and dormers.


Creole homes have a unique set of defining features. Image: Phuong D. Nguyen / Shutterstock

Defining features of Creole homes

Though the two sub-types of Creole homes differ from one and other, they still share many similarities.  There are as few defining features that tie this style together. Here are some of the exterior and interior features to look for in a Creole home.


  • Large front porches on every story (also known as galleries)
  • A broad, spreading roofline that overhangs the galleries
  • Gallery roofs that are held up by colonnettes


  • Principal rooms above grade (in case of flooding)
  • A lack of hallways between rooms
  • Lots of French doors
  • Presence of French wraparound mantels

What do you think of this style of home? Let us know in the comments!

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What Classifies A House Style: What Makes A National Home?

The national home is one of the oldest architectural styles that originated in the United States, yet we still see these homes – and their descendant styles – being built today. If you’ve ever wondered what it is that made this style stand the test of time, you’ve come to the right place. This post will take a deeper look at national-style homes. Read on below to find out what this type of architecture is all about.

national house

National-style homes date back to the first settlers. Image: Romakoma/Shutterstock

History of the national home

National homes are perhaps the earliest style of architecture to be born in North America. Early settlers mixed the structure of a traditional English home with some aspects of Native American design. The narrow profile of a national home, with steeply-angled roofing, is similar to teepee and lean-to construction and was better suited for withstanding harsh New England winters.

However, this style got its name because, with the advent of the railroad, it eventually spread beyond New England to all areas of the country. Each region was then able to put its own spin on the style. For example, Midwestern versions typically have two stories while Southern ones typically feature a large veranda.

It’s thought that national-style homes are the predecessor of many of the more common architectural styles that we see today, especially Colonial and Federal homes.

national home

There are three subtypes of national homes. Image: Ppa/ Shutterstock

Types of national homes

With all that expansion, it’s only natural that there are a few distinct subtypes of national-style homes. We’ve listed the three most common below:

Hall-and-parlor house

The hall-and-parlor house is the earliest configuration of national homes. The homes were made up of two rooms, which stood side-by-side with a wall dividing them. The larger of the two rooms was the “hall,” or main living space. It took up about two-thirds of the house and was where the family spent most of their time. The remaining third was the “parlor,” or sleeping quarters. It was usually to the back of the house and a little more private.


The I-house is similar in construction to the hall-and-parlor house in that it is two rooms wide and one room deep. This time, however, the home is two stories tall. Additionally, in more modern versions, there is a separate rear wing for the kitchen. These homes received their name in the 1930s when Fred Kniffen, a cultural geographer, remarked that they were common in rural farm areas of Indiana, Illinois and Iowa – all states beginning with the letter I.

Massed house

The term “massed house” refers to national homes that are more than two rooms deep. This type of home also typically has a large gable on one side and a shed-roofed porch.


National style homes feature simple ornamentation. Image: Karen Culp/Shutterstock

Defining characteristics of the national home

Despite the differences in floorplans and regionality, there are some distinct characteristics that tie all national-style homes together. They are as follows:


  • Narrow profile
  • Rectangular or square shape
  • Pyramid-shaped roof
  • Steeply-angled roof
  • Side gables
  • Simple ornamentation


  • One to two stories
  • Rectangular or square floorplan
  • Side-by-side room layout

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What Classifies A House Style: What Makes A Bungalow Home?

If you’ve been paying attention to architectural trends lately, you know that bungalows are back in a big way. With that in mind, we thought it was the perfect addition to our What Classifies A House Style series. Keep reading to learn what makes this architectural style so unique and why the bungalow home has held a special place in our hearts for so many years.

bungalow home

Bungalows originated in Bengal, India. Image: M Valdes Architects PLLC

History of the bungalow home

The word “bungalow” derives from the Hindustani word “bangala,” meaning “belonging to Bengal.” Bungalow houses were first constructed in Bengal, India in the mid-nineteenth century. At the time, India was under British rule and the ambassadors who traveled there sought to design an informal, easily-constructed rest house to use during their visits.

Soon after, the style became popular in England and it was eventually brought over to America. Architect brothers Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene are credited as the most influential early practitioners of this style in the United States.

Together, they designed bungalows in Pasadena, California. Their designs were well received and were highlighted throughout the country through popular magazines like House Beautiful and Good Housekeeping. Soon enough, pattern books featuring bungalow designs and complete mail order house kits became widely available, allowing the bungalow style to spread quickly across the country.


Bungalows come in many shapes and sizes. Image: Bovender Team with Allen Tate Realty

Types of bungalow homes

Believe it or not, not all bungalows are created equal. The bungalow home comes in many different variations throughout the country. We’ve listed a few of the most popular styles below. Read them over to get an idea of the different types of bungalows that exist in today’s design landscape.

Craftsman bungalow

The term “Craftsman bungalow” is used to describe classic bungalows, no matter where they might be located. Traditionally, these homes feature street-facing gables with shingled roofs. Additionally, they’re often painted or stained brown or dark green to blend with nature. Finally, they’re most known for their wide, overhanging eaves

California bungalow

Since the California bungalow is very similar to the Craftsman, the two can be told apart by the materials used in their construction. California bungalow home exteriors typically use stucco, wood – especially redwood – shingle and horizontal siding but not brick. However, other bungalow subtypes do use brick.


Modern styles have curved corners to provide a sense of motion. Additionally, they may have portholes or bulkheads. They’re usually made of materials like concrete, glass and brick. Meanwhile, the interiors are typically light and airy with modern touches.

Tudor revival

Tudor revival bungalows have steeply-pitched roofs with large, elaborate chimneys. Additionally, they feature wall cladding, tall and narrow windows and decorative half-timbering.

Prairie style

Prairie style bungalows were developed by an especially creative group of Chicago architects known as the Prairie School. Frank Lloyd Wright was among the members. These homes have massive piers, used to support their porch roofs, as well as rows of casement windows, broad and flat chimneys and contrasting wall materials and trim.


See the list below for some of the defining characteristics of bungalows. Image: Carl Mattison Design

Characteristics of a bungalow home

Even though there are many different types of bungalows, the style still has a defined set of characteristics that ties them all together. To that end, we’ve taken the liberty of listing some of those bungalow home characteristics below:


  • Balanced and well-proportioned, but not symmetrical, appearance from the front
  • A low, exposed roof, often with beams or rafters showing
  • A modest front porch or veranda
  • Square, tapered columns, sometimes called “bungalow columns”


  • Usually 1.5 stories
  • The front door opens to the main living space
  • An open floor plan that lacks a formal parlor or sitting room
  • Simple decorative accents
  • Plenty of built-ins as a means of decoration

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What Classifies A House Style: What Makes An International Style Home?

Whether you know it or not, you’ve seen an international style home before. These buildings look impressively modern, yet their concept has stood the test of time. We’ve been marveling over feats of international style architecture for the past four decades.

With that in mind, we decided to take an in-depth look at what makes these structures so unique. Keep reading to learn more about the history behind this architectural movement, as well as for an explanation of some of the defining characteristics of its buildings. By the end of this post, you’ll know for sure whether or not you’re a fan of the international style.

international style home

International style homes are a result, in part, of the Industrial Revolution. Image: Charlie & Co. Design, Ltd

History of the international style home

Like most architectural styles, international style homes can be seen as a rejection of the trends of its time period. During the 1920s and 1930s in Europe, there was an emphasis on eclectic buildings that hosted a mix of decorative elements from different architectural periods. Architects of the time were starting to search for ways to create less ornamental and more utilitarian designs.

As luck would have it, at the same time, the Industrial Revolution brought about a host of new building materials such as mass-produced iron and steel. These materials meant that architects like Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and J.J.P. Oud were able to create structures in which the form and aesthetics were dictated by a desire to push the boundaries of structural engineering, rather than decoration.

With the advent of World War II, international style came to the United States along with its architects, who were hoping to escape persecution. There, it stayed the dominant architectural style until the 1970s, when architects began to get frustrated with international style’s formulaic, “boxy” appearance.


Most international style buildings are for commercial use. Image: David Small Designs

What makes international style so unique

The difference between the international style home and many of the other types of architecture that we’ll talk about in our “What Classifies A Home Style” series is that only a small percentage of these buildings are residential homes. By and large, these buildings are used for commercial purposes. In fact, if we had to think of one type of building that was synonymous with international style architecture, it would be the American skyscraper.

With that in mind, some famous international style buildings include:

  • The World Trade Center (New York, New York)
  • The Museum of Modern Art (New York, New York)
  • Willis Tower (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Villa Savoye (Poissy, France)
  • The Design Museum (London, England)
  • Glaspaleis (Heerlen, Netherlands)

These homes are known for their rectangular form. Image: Lochwood-Lozier Custom Homes

Defining characteristics of international style homes

Since international style homes are so uniform in their design, it’s especially crucial to look at the defining characteristics that tie them together. With these homes, there’s little ornamentation to speak of so most of the similarity comes through their form. Below is a list of identifying features:


  • Rectangular shape
  • Flat roof
  • Utilitarian materials such as concrete, steel and glass
  • Smooth, untextured surfaces
  • Rounded corners
  • A “weightless” quality, as if parts are floating


  • One or more stories
  • Open floor plans 
  • Continuation of utilitarian materials (e.g. concrete floors)
  • Large, floor-to-ceiling windows

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Defining a House Style: What Is a Mediterranean Home?

If you’re a fan of luxurious living, there’s no better architectural style for you than Mediterranean. These homes remind viewers of seaside villas and time spent on vacation. That said, have you ever wondered what exactly it is that makes the Mediterranean home so unique?

We decided to take an in-depth look at what it is that sets Mediterranean homes apart. If you take the time to read over these distinctions, you’ll be an expert on this style before you know it.

Mediterranean home

Mediterranean homes boast both Spanish and Italian influences. Image: McHarris Planning & Design

History of the Mediterranean home

Mediterranean homes as we know them today are based off an architectural style known as Mediterranean Revival. This style aims to emulate the feeling of being in a luxurious Mediterranean villa. It became popularized during the 1920s when a cultural obsession with wealth and leisure led to a boom in seaside resorts.

Originally, the style was only used for public structures like hotels. However, eventually, architects like Addison Mizner of Florida and Bertram Goodhue of California saw that the style’s breezy layout might be a good fit for their coastal climates. It still remains most popular in coastal areas today.


There are three distinct sub-types of Mediterranean homes. Image: Taralon Homes

Types of Mediterranean homes

Mediterranean Revival homes are unique in that they borrow influences from a few different cultures in that geographic region. In particular, Italian and Spanish are seen most commonly. Below is an explanation of the differences between the two:

Italian Renaissance (1890-1930)

As the name suggests, Italian Renaissance homes borrow some of their inspiration from the 16th-century buildings of the Italian Renaissance. Specifically, this can be seen in their imposing scale, as well as architectural details like columns and rounded arches. That said, this style also borrows from its own time period, which began at the end of the Victorian era. Of the different styles of Mediterranean home, Italian Renaissance homes are the most ornate.

Spanish Revival (1915-1930)

Spanish Revival homes are based off of the architecture that the Spanish Colonists brought to America in the 16th century. This architectural movement was especially popular in warmer, coastal areas like California and Florida. Spanish Revival homes are a bit simpler than the other Mediterranean varieties. They feature cleaner lines, as well as a lower-pitched roofline that appears thicker and heavier.

Modern Mediterranean

Modern Mediterranean architecture can follow either Spanish or Italian design. It brings back a concentration on resort-style living. These homes borrow aesthetic details from the traditional Mediterranean home style with many of the comforts of modern living. These homes usually feature open floor plans, expansive, updated kitchens and an emphasis on indoor-outdoor living.


Mediterranean homes play with shape. Image: GEI Homes & Design

Defining features of Mediterranean homes

Though there are some distinct differences between the sub-types, there are a few defining features that tie them all together. They are as follows:

Exterior features

  • Sprawling, symmetrical façades
  • Stucco exteriors
  • Low-pitched, tile roofs
  • Arched windows and doorways
  • Wrought-iron balconies and window grilles
  • European-style gardens or courtyards

Interior features

  • One to two stories
  • Rectangular floor plan
  • High ceilings
  • Heavy use of wood and patterned tile
  • Designed to let breezes flow through the house

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What Classifies A House Style: What Makes A Contemporary Home?

For many people, the meaning of the word “contemporary” is hard to pin down because it’s always evolving to fit a modern context. The same can be said for contemporary architecture. However, we’re here to put a face and a definition to the contemporary home once and for all. Keep reading to learn how to identify this style of architecture, as well as what sets it apart from the crowd.

contemporary home

Contemporary homes reflect today’s architecture. Image: Lochwood-Lozier Custom Homes

What is a contemporary home?

Put simply, contemporary homes reflect the architecture of today. While you may think that definition makes it synonymous with modern architecture, that’s actually a common misconception. Modern architecture refers to a style that was popularized from the 1920s to 1950s, one that embraced clean lines and stark minimalism. Contemporary architecture goes beyond that to define the ever-evolving architectural styles of the 21st century.

Most contemporary homes do have a modern flair to them, with design tweaks from postmodernism and deconstructivism, as well. For the first time, we also see homes where the building materials are just as important as the final product. With contemporary homes, we see a huge emphasis on natural and sustainable building materials.


Contemporary homes are popular because they allow for individuality. Image: Openspace Architecture

What makes these homes so popular?

Contemporary homes are popular because they’ve broken the mold when it comes to changing architectural styles. Traditionally, the dominant architectural style of the time will be the complete opposite of the one that came before it. For example, the simplicity of Craftsman homes is in direct opposition to the over-opulence of the Victorian era that came before it.

However, the same cannot be said for contemporary architecture. In fact, this style borrows a lot from modern design, its predecessor. It borrowed what worked, as you can see from the emphasis on clean, simple lines and a connection to the outdoors, and fixed what didn’t. Contemporary homes are often much warmer in design than modern versions.

This ability to pick and choose characteristics led to a never-before-seen emphasis on individuality. Homeowners were free to design their homes in a way that truly worked for them, architectural conventions aside. It also may be why contemporary design seems to be sticking around for the long haul.


In general, contemporary homes try to bring the interior and exterior together. Image: RW Anderson Homes

Defining features of a contemporary home

Though contemporary design does hold a strong emphasis on individuality, there are a few defining characteristics that tie this style of home together. They are:


  • An irregular, asymmetrical façade
  • Strong emphasis on geometric shapes
  • Large windows
  • Clerestory windows
  • Use of recycled building materials
  • Mixed materials on the exterior (e.g. wood and stone)


  • One to two stories
  • An open floor plan
  • Lots of natural light
  • Use of natural or recycled materials
  • Green systems for plumbing, heating and air conditioning
  • A flexible layout suited to meet the family’s needs

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What Classifies a House Style: What Makes a Cape Cod Home?

Cape Cod homes have been around for centuries, yet they continue to enchant us. This type of home, which is now synonymous with beachy style and weekends away, comes from very humble beginnings but still remains popular. That popularity led us to a question. What exactly is it that makes a Cape Cod-style home so unique?

We’ve laid out the answer below. Keep reading to learn more about the long history of this quaint architectural style, what it is that sets the different types of Cape Cod homes apart and some defining characteristics of the style as a whole. By the end of this post, you should be able to consider yourself a Cape Cod expert.

Cape Cod

Cape Cod homes have been around since the time of the Puritan settlers. Image: REEF Cape Cod’s Home Builder

History of the Cape Cod home

Believe it or not, this style of home dates back to the times of the earliest Puritan settlers. It came about because they brought the idea of an English cottage to America and then adapted it to accommodate New England’s harsh winter climate.

The symmetrical design, arranged around a large, open living space – or “hall” as it was once called – is English in its tradition. However, the steep roofs were meant to minimize the weight of snow settling on the roof. The characteristic low ceilings were meant to conserve heat and the cute shutters were put in place to block harsh winter winds.

The term “Cape Cod house” wasn’t given to these cottages until the 1800s. The Reverend Timothy Dwight IV, President of Yale University, named them after a visit to Cape Cod. His observations from his visit were published posthumously in “Travels in New England and New York” (1821-22)

That said, the modern Cape Cods you see today were popularized during a Colonial Revival period in the 1920s and 1930s. Boston architect Royal Barry Willis reintroduced the Cape as a contemporary housing option. He retained the same basic exterior elements but adapted the interior layout for modern living. His work saw another boom after World War II, when the Cape’s simplistic layout made it a good fit to house returning soldiers.


There are several variations on Cape Cod homes as we know them today. Image: Eagle Painting Inc

Variations on the Cape Cod home

Half Cape

Featuring a front door on one side of the home with two multi-paned glass windows on the other, this house was the starter home of its day. Settlers would often keep adding additions to it as their families grew until, eventually, it would transform into a three-quarter Cape. This type of home is sometimes also called a Single Cape.

Three-quarter Cape

This home features the front door to one side of the home with two multi-paned windows on one side and one multi-paned window on the other. It was the most popular style of Cape in the 18th and early-19th centuries.

Full Cape

Also known as a Double Cape, this style is common today but was rare among the settlers. It was reserved for the wealthiest among them. The full Cape has a central front door and two multi-paned windows placed symmetrically on either side. It also features a particularly steep roof and a massive chimney.


Simplicity defines Cape Cod homes. Image: REEF Cape Cod’s Home Builder

Defining features of a Cape Cod

Though Cape Cod homes come in a variety of styles, there are a few defining features that bring them all together. Here is a general overview of what you can expect from this type of home:


  • Symmetrical appearance with a centered front entry
  • Steep roofs with side gables and an overhang
  • Shingle siding
  • Gabled dormers
  • Double-hung windows with shutters
  • Centralized chimneys
  • Simple exterior ornamentation


  • 1 or 1.5 stories
  • Low ceilings
  • Symmetrical layout featuring a center hall
  • Large, open-concept living space
  • Bedrooms in dormers or under gables
  • Clean lines, little aesthetic detailing

Have you fallen in love with the Cape Cod-style home? Do you dream of owning one of your own someday? Tell us all about it in the comments below.

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