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6 Classic homes: Which architectural style is right for your family?

Mary Fetzer is a freelance writer and marketing consultant with a marketing degree from Penn State University and 15 years of international business experience. Mary specializes in writing about parenting, children, pregnancy, college, h...

Let our expert help you choose the best architectural style for your home

After you decide where you want to live, then you must determine what kind of home you want.

As an architect, Deryl Patterson, president and founder of Housing Design Matters, Inc. and a regular contributor to Ply Gem's ProTalk blog, is passionate about authentic housing styles and the details that make them unique. Her analysis of the various styles may help you decide which architectural style is best suited for you and your family.

1. Craftsman: Loads of charm

Let our expert help you choose the best architectural style for your home

"When I think about styles and personality, I think of Craftsman first," says Patterson. The style can be unique from one house to another, but there are some common elements among them:

  • Charming front porches that extend the home to the outdoors
  • Low-pitched roof lines
  • Large, tapered columns
  • Accent trim on doors and windows
  • Nontraditional windows: smaller vertical panes over one larger pane or prairie-style windows
  • Saturated earth tones colors complemented with brick or hand-crafted stone

2. French Country: Rustic and refined

Let our expert help you choose the best architectural style for your home

"When I think of French Country, I think of elegant, graceful French fashion models," Patterson says of her favorite architectural style. "It's a style that embraces asymmetry — think of a dress that provocatively exposes one shoulder."

  • Steeply pitched roofs
  • Exterior materials ranging from stucco to brick to stone (alone or in tandem)
  • Warm or cool colors (but not both at the same time)
  • Large windows with a mutton window pattern, vertical mullions, arches and (sometimes) shutters

More: 13 Fabulous front door colors

3. Folk Victorian: Fancy, yet fun

Let our expert help you choose the best architectural style for your home

Patterson describes the Folk Victorian as part-elegant and part-playful, not to be confused with the more formal Queen Anne and East Lake Victorians. "This style is about simplistic elegance with restrained ornamentation in gables and around porches," says Patterson.

  • Steep roof pitches
  • Usually sided, with multiple profiles
  • Double-hung windows often single-flanked with a panel shutter
  • Fresh colors: pastel sherbet shades in the south (think Key West), more saturated colors further north

4. Tuscan: Casual and rustic

Let our expert help you choose the best architectural style for your home

"The Tuscan style carries a casual, no-rules expression that has become crazy popular," says Patterson. What makes this style so popular is its "rustic and haphazard aesthetic. No symmetry here!"

Patterson explains that the "haphazard nature" comes organically. "Imagine a small farm house in Tuscany built of the indigenous materials like stone pulled out of fields to make way for grapes and olives to flourish." Over time, families outgrew these homes and added lean-to sheds. The next, even larger family would add yet another addition, with no intention to mask that it is an addition. There are no rules, but expect to see:

  • Lower-pitch roofs featuring concrete tiles (flat tile or Spanish S tile)
  • Warm, rustic materials: stone, stucco, rough-sawn timbers
  • For windows, a four-over-one mullion profile with darker colors (like bronze)

More: What's your home decor personality?

5. Georgian: Traditional and reliable

Let our expert help you choose the best architectural style for your home

This style dates back to the founding of our nation. "It is a formal style firmly grounded in tradition," says Patterson. "A strong sense of order is a real draw for people, giving them a feeling of stability." Some parts of the country refer to this style as "five, four and a door," says Patterson, "referring to five windows across the second floor with four windows below and a door in the center."

  • Often symmetrical, but not always
  • Windows are typically evenly spaced and line up from one floor to another
  • Use of brick reinforces the sense of endurance and stability
  • Red brick signals ultra-traditional; brown brick suggests a modern adaptation of the style

6. Low Country: Southern favorite

Let our expert help you choose the best architectural style for your home

"As an architect in the southeast, I have the fortune to design many low country-style homes," says Patterson. "They boast the relaxed character of the traditional, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods of the past."

  • Elevated front porch (two-story homes boasted double-stacked porches)
  • Traditional, often symmetrical appearance
  • Single-hung window flanked by louvered shutters
  • Raised foundations on brick or wooden piers (with lattice to keep out the rodents)
  • Countless color options: from classic cream siding with black shutters to russet red with a sandy colored trim

More: 11 Cool, sunshiny ways to use yellow in your home

"Each of these housing styles carries with it a story that is well-worth keeping," says Patterson. "They allow a homeowner to take comfort in a design that has been refined over decades (or centuries) and create a story of their own. Let’s bring back the nostalgia and character of historic homes and infuse them with the functionality and vibrancy of our modern lifestyles."

All images: Housing Design Matters, Inc.

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