House Styles Through The Decades, Plus Pros And Cons Of Buying Each Type (2024)

The last century has witnessed many architectural styles, each adding a unique dimension to the American housing landscape. Be it the ornate Queen Anne houses of the early 1900s, the minimalist dwellings of post-WWII America, or the sprawling modern Ranch-style homes of recent decades, every architectural form tells a tale of changing design trends and societal transitions.

Let’s traverse each decade from the 1900s to the 2020s shedding light on the most dominant architectural styles and their respective pros and cons.

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1900s: Queen Anne

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The Queen Anne style, named after the English monarch who ruled from 1702 to 1707, emerged as a popular architectural design in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This style, prevalent in both the U.S. and Great Britain, is known for its intricate details and asymmetrical façade.

Queen Anne homes are easily recognized by their steep roofs with multiple gables, grand chimneys, and distinctive elements such as towers, turrets and wrap-around porches. Today, these homes are sought after for their fairytale-like appearance and rich history.

Pros:

  • Architectural beauty: The distinctive visuals of Queen Anne homes add charm and character to any property.
  • Historical value: Many appreciate these homes’ long, rich history and heritage left by past owners.
  • Spaciousness: These homes are typically spacious, boasting large rooms and high ceilings.
  • Uniqueness: As relics of a bygone era, Queen Anne homes stand out on the street with unique features like towers, turrets and bay windows.

Cons:

  • High maintenance costs: The intricate ornaments of these homes require specialized services, leading to higher maintenance costs than modern homes.
  • Low energy efficiency: Older Queen Anne homes may present insulation, heating and cooling challenges, leading to less energy efficiency.
  • High market cost: Queen Anne homes often have a hefty price tag due to their unique features and historical value. However, this could be considered an advantage if you sell the property.

1910s: Prairie

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Prairie-style homes emerged as a defining architectural style in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, particularly in the Midwest. Most notably associated with architect Frank Lloyd Wright, these homes are characterized by their symmetrical design and understated exterior.

Key features of the Prairie style include low horizontal lines, flat or low-pitched roofs, wide overhanging eaves and harmonious integration with the surrounding landscape. This last point is crucial to the essence of the Prairie home, as Wright sought to create a uniquely American style that seemed to grow naturally from its environment.

Pros:

  • Open floor plans: The spaciousness, seamless flow between rooms, increased natural light and flexibility for renovations make open floor plans a popular choice.
  • Iconic and historically relevant design: Prairie homes represent a piece of American architectural history, a factor many homeowners value.
  • Large windows and natural light: Prairie homes often feature large windows, allowing abundant sunlight.
  • Environmental integration: The Prairie style emphasizes harmony with its natural surroundings, creating a serene environment.

Cons:

  • High Maintenance Costs: The unique style and custom elements can make maintenance and repairs more costly.
  • Limited Curb Variety: Compared to other styles, Prairie-style homes may offer less exterior variation. Other styles may be a better choice if you seek a home that stands out for its intricate ornaments and variety.

1920s: Craftsman Bungalow

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The Craftsman Bungalow style, originating in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the United States, began to wane in popularity around the 1930s. This style blends the British Arts & Crafts movement and Colonial Indian architectural styles.

Craftsman Bungalow homes were a response to the Industrial Revolution’s ornate styles, which relied heavily on emerging technologies. In contrast, these homes emphasized craftsmanship, simplicity and natural materials. Key elements include low-pitched roofs, wide overhanging eaves, front porches with tapered columns and handcrafted details.

Pros:

  • Timeless design: Craftsman Bungalows have a distinctive style characterized by harmonious proportions that stand the test of time.
  • Functionality: Many homes feature open floor plans that seamlessly blend living spaces together, and incorporate functional areas like built-in bookcases and breakfast nooks.
  • Meticulous details: Despite their commitment to simplicity, Craftsman Bungalow homes are known for their craftsmanship and attention to detail, with features like hand-carved woodwork, stained glass windows and intricate tile designs.
  • Historical value: The style’s rich history and unique American appeal make them desirable for many looking to own a piece of cultural expression.

Cons:

  • Limited space: Craftsman Bungalow homes tend to be smaller, which may limit options for larger families.
  • High maintenance costs: Older Craftsman Bungalow homes may require regular maintenance. Tasks such as refinishing woodwork and replacing original windows can add significant costs over time.

1930s: Colonial Revival

Colonial revival-style homes have their roots in late medieval and early Renaissance England. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, this style experienced a revival that brought its distinctive features to American shores, leading to what experts call the American Tudor Revival or Tudor-style homes.

Colonial Revival homes are easily recognizable. Their combination of pitched gable roofs, half-timbered exteriors, brick and stucco, decorative chimneys and often asymmetrical design make them stand out on any street.

Pros:

  • Aesthetic charm and cultural heritage: While not native to America, the Tudor style has become firmly embedded in the American architectural landscape of the early 20th century. Many homeowners find their aesthetic and cultural charm irresistible.
  • Craftsmanship and attention to detail: Many Tudor homes showcase exceptional craftsmanship, with intricate details that have withstood the test of time.
  • Cozy interiors: Tudor interiors are known for their coziness, featuring wood paneling, exposed beams and fireplaces. It’s the kind of home many dreams of waking up in on a chilly morning.

Cons:

  • Lack of natural light: Tudor homes often have narrow windows, limiting the amount of sunlight that enters.
  • High maintenance: Like many architectural styles of the past, authentic Tudor homes can be costly to maintain.
  • Limited interior flexibility: Tudor homes often have smaller rooms and more divided layouts, which may not appeal to those seeking open interior spaces.
  • Potential insulation and climate control issues: Some Tudor homes may struggle to maintain a comfortable interior temperature.

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1940s: Minimal Traditional

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Focusing on affordability and simplicity, Minimal Traditionalism emerged in the late 1930s and early ‘40s as a response to the economic and social changes of the time. This commitment to simplicity has led some to dismiss the style, overlooking that the large-scale post-WWII development required cost-effective and mass-producible homes.

Minimal decoration, simple windows, small size, a single story and gabled roofs characterize Minimal Traditional homes.

Pros:

  • Space efficiency: The rooms in these homes are relatively small and well-organized, maximizing a small footprint.
  • Affordability: Their minimal decoration and smaller size make them very affordable.
  • Adaptability: The lack of intricate decoration makes it easy to expand and renovate without adhering to complex architectural guidelines.
  • Minimalist appeal: These homes perfectly match those seeking functional and minimalist spaces.

Cons:

  • Limited space: Their smaller footprint may pose a challenge for larger families.
  • Lack of variety: Minimal Traditional homes can look very similar. Owners looking to stand out may prefer a style with more variety.
  • Potentially high maintenance: Older homes of this style may include deteriorated or outdated materials, plumbing and electrical systems and poor insulation.
  • Lack of open spaces: The more compartmentalized spaces can limit natural light and spaciousness, especially for larger families.

1950s: Ranch

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Ranch, Rancher, or California Ranch-style homes emerged in the mid-20th century and quickly rose to popularity during the 1950s and 1960s.

Typically, Ranch homes have a single story, are relatively low to the ground and feature cross-hipped roofs. Other hallmarks include a long profile, open floor plans, simple exterior designs and a tendency to integrate with the surrounding landscape. The relative simplicity of the style has made it a timeless choice for American homeowners.

Pros:

  • One-story living: A single-story eliminates stairs, making it accessible for owners with mobility issues or elderly members.
  • Open floor plans: Ranch homes often feature open floor plans that allow for seamless flow and abundant sunlight.
  • Outdoor spaces: Ranch homes often have spacious patios or decks, making them ideal for outdoor enthusiasts or those who enjoy entertaining guests.
  • Easy to renovate and expand: Their simple, flexible design makes renovations and expansions relatively straightforward.

Cons:

  • Roof maintenance costs: The sprawling design leads to a large roof, which may increase maintenance costs.
  • Climatization challenges: The large footprint can make Ranch homes costlier to heat and cool, increasing the need for efficient insulation and HVAC systems.

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1960s: Mid-Century Modern

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Mid-Century Modern is an architectural style that emerged in the mid-20th century and peaked in the 1960s. This style is characterized by simplicity, functionality and seamless integration with nature.

Mid-Century Modern homes often feature clean lines, large windows, open floor plans and a strong connection to the outdoors. The era’s new materials and technologies also allowed for innovative forms and designs.

Pros:

  • Timeless appeal: Mid-Century Modern homes have a timeless aesthetic that remains popular today, thanks to their clean lines and minimalist design.
  • Indoor-outdoor living: These homes often feature large windows and open floor plans, creating a seamless flow between the interior and exterior spaces.
  • Functionality: The design of Mid-Century Modern homes prioritizes functionality, with every element serving a purpose.

Cons:

  • Maintenance costs: Mid-Century Modern homes may require significant maintenance or updates to meet current building standards due to their age.
  • Limited privacy: The large windows and open floor plans that characterize these homes can sometimes compromise privacy.
  • Specific aesthetic: The distinct look of Mid-Century Modern homes may not appeal to everyone, potentially limiting their market when it comes time to sell.

1970s: Split-Level

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Also known as Tri-Level homes, Split-Level homes gained popularity in the U.S. during the mid-20th century. The population boom required affordable housing which the Split-Level style was able to provide.

The defining features of these homes are their multiple levels (most often three, but sometimes two), staggered floor plans that follow the land’s natural slope and short flights of stairs. The design is simple and spacious.

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Pros:

  • Ample living space: The multilevel model provides plenty of living space. The staggered floor plan also creates varied living areas, including living rooms, entertainment rooms, dining areas and recreational centers. It’s ideal for large families.
  • Integration with uneven terrains: One of the signatures of Split-Level homes is their design to accommodate slopes, reducing grading or foundation work expenses.

Cons:

  • Unfriendly for mobility-limited individuals: The multiple stairs can pose challenges for family members with mobility issues, young children or older adults.
  • Limited flexibility: Load-bearing walls and staircases limit the potential for exterior design experimentation.
  • Limited space: Some Split-Level homes have narrow hallways and small rooms, limiting storage space and resulting in smaller individual areas.
  • Climatization challenges: Large staggered spaces can pose a challenge for heating and cooling equipment and cost more, which emphasizes the importance of proper insulation.

1980s: Contemporary

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Contemporary-style homes are another architectural style that prioritizes function over form. Emerging in the mid-20th century, Contemporary homes emphasize clean lines, simplicity, open floor plans with large windows, abundant natural light and minimal exterior decorations.

A major element of Contemporary homes is their seamless blend of interiors and exteriors, creating free-flowing routes. The style remains popular today, constantly evolving while retaining a distinctive aesthetic.

Pros:

  • Minimalist appeal: The clean lines and minimalistic exteriors appeal to homeowners seeking uncomplicated aesthetics.
  • Flexibility: Open floor plans are a staple of contemporary homes, creating a sense of spaciousness and providing flexibility for renovations.
  • Abundant sunlight: Contemporary homes generally incorporate large windows, allowing ample sunlight to illuminate the interiors.
  • Outdoor-indoor integration: The style prioritizes integrating indoor and outdoor spaces, often implementing decks, patios or courtyards.

Cons:

  • Limited privacy: The large windows and emphasis on transparency may compromise privacy.
  • High maintenance costs: Contemporary homes often feature a combination of materials and finishes that require specialized maintenance.
  • Sensitivity to temporary trends: As an evolving style, some Contemporary homes may feature design choices that will fall out of style in the following years or decades. Outdated styles may reduce resale value.

1990s: Neo-Colonial

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Neo-Colonial, or Colonial Revival, is a reinterpretation of the architectural styles that emerged during the U.S. colonial period. American colonial architecture was a mix of British, Dutch, Spanish and French designs but implemented in a simpler, symmetrical and practical way.

While emerging at the turn of the 20th century, it has remained one of American history’s most enduring architectural styles. Its main features include simple layouts, symmetrical window pairs, gabled roofs and Victorian ornamental features like porticos, moldings and large windows.

Pros:

  • Historical charm: The symmetrical façades, prominent entryways, columns and other elements provide a sense of elegance and rich cultural heritage.
  • Functionality: Neo-colonial homes often have multiple stories and well-defined living areas. The variety of living spaces allows family members to experience various lifestyles within the same home.
  • Established neighborhoods: Many American neighborhoods were built using the Neo-Colonial style, evoking a sense of community and architectural cohesion. Although, individual homes still provide enough variety to be distinctive among a crowd.

Cons:

  • Cost: Authentic Neo-Colonial homes are more expensive than other styles.
  • Availability: Finding a neo-colonial home in an area you can afford can be challenging since its historical charm makes them a preferred choice for many.
  • Potentially limited sunlight: More traditionally-designed neo-colonial homes tend to have smaller windows, limiting sunlight.
  • Limited flexibility: The emphasis on symmetry and smaller rooms limits your options for interior renovations.

2000s: Millennium Mansion

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Millennium Mansions, also known as McMansions, is a term that equates these homes to popular, generic and mass-produced fast food.

Emerging in the ‘80s, Millennium Mansions exploded in popularity in the ‘90s as part of a nationwide trend towards larger homes. These homes are most common in high-end suburban American neighborhoods. Key features include a large footprint (often above 3,000 square feet), large rooms, tall ceilings, windows, walk-in closets, large decks and large garages.

Pros:

  • Size: Millennium Mansions have large and spacious interiors, providing enough room to accommodate most lifestyles and preferences.
  • Modern amenities: This style focuses on modern comforts, like providing multiple rooms, large kitchens, walk-in closets and entertainment centers.
  • Flexibility: The open spaces offer plenty of room to customize your interiors as you see fit.

Cons:

  • Somewhat bad reputation and depreciated value: Some believe this style represents everything wrong with American excess and look down on its design choices. This perception impacts their resale value.
  • Climatization challenges: The larger spaces pose a challenge for heating and cooling equipment.
  • Small exteriors: The size of Millennium Mansions tends to take away space from the exteriors, leading to small patios and lawns.
  • Maintenance costs: Larger homes are always more expensive to maintain, and Millennium Mansions tend to be extraordinarily large.
  • Potentially low-quality construction: Many Millennium Mansions are cheaply constructed due to their mass-produced nature, leading to potentially rapid deterioration.

2010s: Modern Farmhouse

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The past decade saw contemporary homes’ continued popularity and Modern Farmhouses’ rise.

The Modern Farmhouse style is a contemporary take on traditional farmhouse design. It combines the rustic appeal of a classic farmhouse with modern elements and aesthetics. The style emphasizes simplicity, clean lines, rectangular shapes, large windows, open floor plans and a blend of rustic and industrial materials.

Pros:

  • Timelessness: Modern Farmhouses appeal to many tastes by combining classic farmhouse elements with modern touches.
  • Inviting Interiors: Modern Farmhouses feature inviting interiors with spacious open floor plans, promoting a cozy and welcoming atmosphere.
  • Outdoor-Indoor Integration: Modern Farmhouses often incorporate outdoor living spaces like porches, patios and decks. These spaces allow families to enjoy the surrounding landscape and entertain guests.

Cons:

  • Potential for Falling Out of Style: Given that it’s a relatively new trend, it’s unclear whether it’ll become a staple or quickly fade into obscurity. Perception and future popularity may affect resale prices.
  • No Rich Historical Legacy: While drawing inspiration from classic farmhouses, Modern Farmhouses lack their historical heritage and cultural presence. Some homeowners may prefer the “real deal” instead of a modern reinterpretation.

2020s: Sustainable and Nature-Inspired Designs

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In the 2020s, we’re seeing a blend of past and future, strongly emphasizing sustainability, functionality and a return to nature.

As environmental concerns become increasingly prominent, architects are incorporating eco-friendly materials and energy-efficient designs into homes. Solar panels, rainwater harvesting systems and green roofs are becoming common features.

Multifunctional spaces are another significant trend, reflecting the changing dynamics of home and work life, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Homes are designed to be more flexible, with rooms serving multiple purposes.

Pros:

  • Environmental Impact: These homes are designed to minimize their environmental footprint which is increasingly important to many homeowners.
  • Health and Wellbeing: Integrating nature into interior design can positively affect mental health and overall well-being.
  • Flexibility: Multifunctional spaces can adapt to changing needs and lifestyles.

Cons:

  • Upfront Cost: Sustainable technologies and materials can be more expensive upfront, though they may offer savings in the long run.
  • Maintenance: Natural materials can require more care and maintenance.
  • Design Challenges: Creating multifunctional spaces that feel cohesive and well-designed can be challenging.

Which House Style Offers More ROI?

According to a study by American Home Shield, a home’s architectural style can affect its resale value. The study found that certain house styles have a far larger average selling price than others.

The top five styles with the highest average selling prices are:

  1. Beach Houses: Oten found on prime land close to the ocean, beach houses are the most expensive in the U.S.
  2. Mediterranean-style Homes: These homes, known for their stucco exteriors and red tile roofs, also command high prices.
  3. Traditional-style Homes: While these homes are one of the most common styles sold in the U.S., they are the most expensive in states such as Iowa.
  4. Log Homes: In Michigan and Indiana, log homes are the most expensive house style.
  5. Ranch-style Homes: This American classic is popular across 20 states and offers space and accessibility.

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The five styles with the lowest average selling prices include:

  1. Mobile Homes: Mobile homes have the lowest average selling price, with the average beach house costing more than ten times the average mobile home.
  2. Airlite-style Homes: These homes are common in Pennsylvania cities like Philadelphia but do not command high prices.
  3. Tuscan-style Homes: While Tuscan-style homes are popular in Arizona, they do not have a high average selling price.
  4. Bungalow-style Homes: These homes, known for their compact design and efficient use of space, do not typically command high prices.
  5. Cape Cod-style Homes: Cape Cod-style homes, while charming, do not typically have high resale values.
House Styles Through The Decades, Plus Pros And Cons Of Buying Each Type (2024)

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