Whether you’re getting ready to purchase your first home, starting to prepare for your next move, or simply fantasizing about your dream home, it helps to understand exactly what you’re looking for. While porches, tall ceilings, hardwood floors, big windows, and two-car garages may seem like details that are no-brainers, design features aren’t the only thing you need to be well-versed in. Knowing the difference between various home styles will ensure you shop smarter. To help you think beyond the basics and better understand the difference between everything from bungalows to Spanish revivals, we’ve complied a guide to common architecture styles.

American Craftsman

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Also known as arts and crafts, this architectural style emphasizes hand-built goods over mass production. Key design features include low-pitched gable roofs with overhangs that make for spacious porches, exposed beams, and natural materials. The inside of the home, often airy and light-filled, features ample woodwork, such as built-in bookshelves, beams, and window seats.

Bungalow

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First built in California in the 1890s, these homes were inspired by the small, efficient houses constructed in India in the mid-19th century by the British. Similar to American craftsman architecture, bungalows feature roofs with overhangs—oftentimes extending across the entire front of the house—which create spacious covered porches. Inside, you can find an open floor plan across one to two stories with beamed ceilings and built-in cabinetry.

Cape Cod

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Also known as American cottage, Cape Cod homes are renowned for their steep roofs and shingled exterior (most in the weathered gray color). The simple, unadorned faces typically feature a centered doorway with two windows on each side, and if it’s a two-story home, you can expect five windows up top. Many consider this charming Massachusetts-born design to be the quintessential American style.

Colonial Revival

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Rectangular in design, these homes can be anywhere from one to two stories. On the exterior you’ll find a stately front door in the center often surrounded by columns featuring pilasters for added decoration. Like the Cape Cod, windows are placed symmetrically on both sides of the door. These windows, however, have traditional multi-pane sashes and classic shutters. Once upon a time these homes were only seen with white clapboard paneling; nowadays the design is available in brick, too.

Dutch Colonial

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This style of architecture is renowned for its barn-like gambrel roof (a double-pitched roof which is flat on top and then features a steep drop). You’ll often find a tiny dormer window close to the top integrated into the design. Original Dutch colonial homes were constructed in brick or stone and feature doors split in half to allow the top half to be open.

Farmhouse

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These simple, straightforward homes are best known for their large porches, gabled roofs, and large eat-in kitchens. “The classic ‘Americana’ farmhouse is one of the oldest home styles in our country; the farmhouse has been around since the early 1700s,” says Ashley Moore of Moore House Interiors. “We love farmhouse style for its simplicity, it’s functional design, and the coziness it offers.”

Greek Revival

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Drawing inspiration from ancient Greece, this architectural style features columns, white exterior, and plenty of cornices. “The roofs of Greek Revival buildings are often gabled and may feature decorative elements, such as cornices or friezes,” says Jackie Mosher, co-founder of Dzinly. “This style became popular in the United States during the early 19th century, one of the most famous nods to this is the White House.”

Italianate

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Loosely inspired by villas in Italy, Italianate designs emanate intricate flamboyance, showcasing ornate brackets and cornices. These homes feature flat or low-pitched roofs. The interiors, however, boast high ceilings.

Midcentury Modern

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This beloved flat-roof architectural style often features big glass windows, open, airy floor plans, and clean lines. It’s typically seen in one-story and split-level homes. “One of the hallmarks of midcentury modern design is its expansive windows—many times floor to ceiling—bringing in natural light and blurring the lines between indoors and outdoors,” says Mosher. “Functionality is a core principle, so furniture and architectural features are typically crafted to fulfill a function while maintaining an appealing aesthetic.”

Spanish Colonial

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Envision the cheery red tile roof homes of Miami and the Hollywood Hills, and your head is in the right place. These homes are characterized by elaborate tile work, arched walkways, low-pitched roofs, a stucco exterior and are often L-shaped with a courtyard in the center.

Tudor

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Inspired by medieval European architecture, Tudor homes (sometimes called English cottages) are defined by their steeply-pitched gable roofs, brick façade, tall windows, and half-timbered structure (exposed wood frames with stucco or masonry filled in between).

Gothic Revival

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While Gothic architecture is the style associated with European cathedrals built prior to the 16th century, Gothic Revival is a more eclectic style that came to the U.S. in the mid-19th century. The style is characterized by its steep roofs and gables, pointed-arch windows and door frames, leaded glass, and front porches. But perhaps the most notable element is the intricate decorative woodwork that adorns the gables and other architectural lines, making this style popular with maximalists and Victoriana aficionados alike.

Prairie

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Originating in the early 20th century, prairie-style homes are a distinct architectural style that is sometimes confused with modern architecture. “Some key characteristics and features are strong horizontal orientation, long, low profiles, geometric shapes like square or rectangular, cantilevered projections, and terraces,” says Mosher. “Natural building materials like wood, brick, and stone are commonly used for the exteriors of Prairie-style houses to integrate with the natural environment.”

Ranch

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The ranch architectural style originated in the United States in the early 1900s, reaching peak popularity in the mid-1900s after World War II. “Its very simple characteristics are single story, low-pitched roofline, deep overhanging eaves, and attached garage,” says Mosher. Although the original ranch style was basic in design, ranch-style houses have adapted into increasingly more dramatic features and exterior ornamentation. “Its enduring popularity persists because the open floor plan and single-story convenience remain highly sought-after by many,” says Mosher.

French Modern

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A contemporary take on traditional French architectural styles, this home style blends French architecture’s class elegance with modern features. French modern styles typically feature symmetrical gable roofs and a blend of materials (stone, brick, stucco, and wood siding) to create a textured exterior. “Large windows allow for abundant natural light and connection to the outdoors,” says Mosher. “The large sliding glass doors and open floor plans often blur the boundaries between indoor and outdoor spaces, creating a seamless connection between the interior and exterior.”

Mediterranean Revival

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Commonly seen in California and Florida, this home style draws inspiration from the Mediterranean region, particularly the coastal areas of southern Europe. “Some characteristics are stucco cladding, arched openings and windows, terra cotta tile roofs, balconies, and terraces with ornate ironwork,” says Mosher. “These homes almost always have symmetry and balance with a central entrance.”

French Provincial

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French provincial architecture began in rural France in the 1600s and became popular in the United States during the mid-20th century. “Key features include: steeply pitched slate roofs, symmetrical design, brick or stone exterior, and multiple chimneys, giving an English estate feel,” says Mosher. “Most French provincial homes are built on a grand scale, you’re not likely to find a starter home in this style but rather, a spacious, luxurious property that showcases the epitome of refined living and craftsmanship.”

Modern Minimalist

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“Less is more” is the ethos of this architectural style. “You know you are looking at a modern minimalist house by the uncomplicated exterior cladding of simple continuous material,” says Mosher. “The cladding features clean, straight lines, smooth texture, and is free from decorative elements or excessive ornamentation, creating a sense of order and simplicity.” Inside, you’ll find clean, open, and light-filled spaces.

Queen Anne

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Introduced by English architects, Queen Anne is a Victorian-era style that was very popular between 1880 and 1900. Eventually, the English style evolved into an exuberant American version. “Noted for its patterned shingles, brackets, curlicue cutouts, turrets, and extensive sleeping porches and verandas, this expressive style can usually be identified by a steep roof, asymmetrical facade, and decorative wood front trim,” says Mindy O’Connor, principal designer for Melinda Kelson O’Connor Architecture & Interiors.

Federal

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Federal architectural styles dominated American homes from 1780 to 1840, during the development of the American federal system of government. “Federal style homes are largely understated with exterior decoration typically centered on the entry, and often made of brick,” says O’Connor. “A simple box, rectangular or square, with a hipped roof, the Federal house could be two or three stories high and two rooms deep, sometimes with attached wings.” 

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