Studies have shown that purchasing a home is one of the most stressful things in a person's life. While I don't expect a simple writeup to take away any of your stress, below is a description of the types of homes you may encounter in your search. For the record, this is a US-centric list. I encourage noders in other countries to educate us on the types of homes in their own countries and cultures.

Major Home Designs

  • A-frame
    The A-frame is a triangular shaped house (like the capital letter "A") whose roof extends all the way to the ground on both sides. The two sides that are not roof are usually composed of many large windows. This small home design is not common, but is sometimes used in vacation cottages.

  • Beach house
    Beach houses are not a true house style because they can be built as any of the other house styles, but in many parts of the country a beach house is elevated on beams or stilts to protect it from water damage caused by coastal storms.

  • Bungalow / Craftsman / Arts and Crafts
    Not to be confused with the bungalows originally built in India, this style of home is usually 1 or 1.5 floors with small rooms and usually a wide covered front porch. The large overhanging eaves expose rafter ends.

  • Cape Cod
    A traditional 1.5 story home with a peaked roof, a central front door, and quite often, bay windows. Almost any house with dormers is usually considered a Cape Cod, though this is not always the case.

  • Colonial
    Usually a simple rectangular, 2 story design. Part of the upper floor typically overlooks a living/family room. If there is an attached garage, the living area will generally continue above it on the second floor. Colonials often have a fireplace, sash windows, shutters, dormers, and paneled doors.

    Subsets of the colonial design include: Garrison Colonial, New England Colonial, Southern Colonial, Modern Colonial plus:

    • Dutch Colonial
      A two store design with a gambrel roof with flared eaves. They are often accented with shutters.

    • Salt Box
      A simple, yet distinctive design featuring a roof that extends farther down on one side than the other (e.g., in the front, the roof comes to the top of the second floor while in the back it comes all the way down to the top of the first floor). These homes often include a fireplace.

  • Cotswold Cottage
    Mimicking homes from the English countryside, this home is made to look like it has a large thatched roof (though it is of course made with modern building materials). They often have a very prominent chimney, an uneven roof line, and windows with small panes.

  • Federal
    Most commonly made of brick, a federal is a two story home with strong external symmetry with the windows and even dual chimneys on either side of the house. They have a prominent central doorway with transom.

  • Four Square
    A very simple two story design that became popular in the early 1900's. It is so named because it is essentially a cube with a roof, though they often have a front porch as well.

  • Georgian
    A very formal and classical home design, the Georgian is a large rectangular house with a hipped roof. They very often have elaborate entrances (pillars are common) and decorative quoins on each corner.

  • Gothic Revival
    Features a steeply peaked roof, often with pointed gables, detailed trim and vertical siding. Larger Gothic revivals often resemble small castles and may even have parapets.

  • Greek Revival
    These designs attempt to imitate the style of a Greek temple. They usually have a front roof line, and may feature pillars or pilasters.

  • Italianate
    This two-story home has a flat roof with wide and decorated eaves. Both windows and doors are usually arched. Many of these homes have a cupola or pseudo turret that is often just on the second floor, but may extend to the ground

  • Log Home / Log Cabin
    While not a true "style" of home, the distinctive look and feel of a log cabin warrants its own category. These homes are, just as it sounds, built from logs rather than pre-cut wood. They are dovetailed together just like Lincoln Logs, and then the spaces between them are sealed. The interiors of these homes typically have large exposed log beams.

  • Mansard
    This style is named for its mansard roof which extends over the entire upper floor with several small windows jutting out.

  • Normandy
    These brick homes resemble small French castles. The entry is most often located at the bottom of a two story rounded tower. A steep roof with flared eaves is common.

  • Prairie
    This Frank Lloyd Wright design stresses horizontal lines. The roof has a very shallow pitch with very broad overhangs. It often has decorative bandings along the exterior walls and under the windows. Simple stained glass windows are common.

  • Pueblo
    Not to be confused with the original pueblos made by the Native Americans of the southwest, though this is where the style came from. The design has adobe or stucco exterior walls with rounded edges, a flat roof, and wooden support beams that extend outside from the framework of the house. Not surprisingly they are usually earth toned.

  • Queen Anne
    Less elaborate than a Victorian, but still contains many architectural accents. It often includes a wrap around porch, round turret, bay windows, gables, and gingerbread trim. There may be a complex roof structure with many angles and peaks.

  • Ranch
    A ranch style home is simply a single level, rectangular or L shaped home. Openness is emphasized, and the room layout is simple and efficient.

  • Romanesque
    Usually very large, they can be of almost any size or shape. What they have in common is many curves including arches entryways, rounded turrets, and are usually built of brick or stone.
    See also: Richardson Romanesque

  • Spanish
    Features arched doorways and windows and a red-tiled roof. The interior is often accented with terra cotta. These houses are usually light colored with stucco, have a beamed ceiling, and have a patio or courtyard.

  • Split-Level
    A split level home usually has a living area (living room, kitchen, dining room) which leads up a few steps to the bedrooms, and down a few steps (and only slightly underground) to the utility/rec rooms

  • Tidewater
    These homes often feature wide porches on two or three sides of the home and on multiple floors. The porches are supported by narrow posts and railings sometimes ornately carved. Hip roofs are common, and the homes contain numerous doors and windows on all sides of the house to allow maximum ventilation in warm climates.

  • Tudor
    These Olde English style homes are characterized by a half-timbered exterior stucco walls on the upper floor with brick or stone on the lower floor.

  • Victorian
    Very lavishly ornamented and often painted with multiple bright colors, these homes include a variety of architectural elements. They may contain ornate trim on eaves and windows, high ceilings, feature a large porch, hardwood floors, and dramatic stairways.

Other Places to Live

This writeup considers a "house" to be a single family home. Obviously not everyone has this type of living arrangement. Below are some more examples of the types of places you might live, and other homes not specifically listed above:

  • Apartment / Apartment Building
    A residence that contains multiple separate living quarters is an apartment. An apartment can be in a large house or in a building composed of dozens of apartments.

    Subsets of the apartment include:

    • Duplex - A house with exactly two apartments.
    • Efficiency - An apartment with basically one room plus a bathroom. The kitchen, living room, dining room, and bedroom are all in that single room.
       
  • Cabin
    A true cabin is simply a one or two room building, sometimes with a loft. However, it is customary to call any residence (usually temporary or seasonal) in the wilderness a cabin.

  • Condominium (Condo)
    The easiest way to describe a condominium is to call it an apartment that you own. The building itself may be owned by a separate person or business, but you and your neighbors own (as opposed to rent or lease) the rooms in which you live.

  • Cottage
    Simply stated, a cottage is a small house. The term used to be associated with the poor class, but now is thought of as quaint.

  • Mobile Home / Trailer
    A mobile home is a home that literally has wheels and can be moved, however they are most often permanently placed in trailer parks and have gas, electric, sewer hookups.

  • Hotel / Motel
    Yes, some people actually do live in hotels and motels, and don't just stay there for a night or two. I know numerous construction workers that move from job to job and just pay by the week.

  • Townhouse / Townhome
    A townhouse is a house or apartment created specifically to be rented or leased (i.e., it was not built for the owner to live in) in the city. Rowhouses are a type of townhome.


Many will probably ask what is meant by 1.5 floors. What is a half of a floor? Typically this means that the sloping of the roof takes away from the "livable" area of the upper floor. The ceiling and/or walls are sloped with the roof giving the upper floor less square footage than the lower floor.

Am I missing a home design? /msg me to have it added.

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