Colonial House Design: The Guide to A Timeless Classic for Modern Living

The colonial architectural style originated in the 17th century when European settlers brought their building traditions to the United States. Colonial house design is known for symmetrical facades, steep roofs, and decorative columns.

Key Takeaways

  • Colonial architecture is a term encompassing various styles of homes built in the United States from the 17th to the early 19th century, known for their symmetrical design, simple yet elegant details, and use of natural materials.
  • Colonial-style houses are typically two or three stories tall, often with a rectangular or square footprint, a central entrance, evenly spaced windows, and a central chimney for heating and cooking.
  • Sub-styles of colonial architecture include Georgian, Cape Cod, French Colonial, Spanish Colonial, and Dutch Colonial, each with unique features but a common emphasis on simplicity and symmetry.
  • Colonial revival houses, popularized in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, are larger and more ornate, often featuring decorative details like columns, pediments, and dormer windows.
  • Modern and contemporary interpretations of colonial design can incorporate traditional elements while adding modern touches like open floor plans, stainless steel appliances, and contemporary furnishings to create a fresh and personalized look.
Colonial House Design: 
The Guide to a Timeless Classic for Modern Living
Colonial House Design: The Guide To A Timeless Classic For Modern Living

What Is Colonial House Design?

Colonial architecture is a broad term that encompasses several styles of homes built in the United States from the early 17th century to the early 19th century. These homes are often characterized by their symmetrical design, simple yet elegant details, and use of natural materials.

Colonial architecture is often characterized by their symmetrical design, simple yet elegant details, and use of natural materials
Colonial architecture is often characterized by its symmetrical design, simple yet elegant details, and use of natural materials. Via Architectural Digest

The colonial-style homes are typically two or three stories tall, with a rectangular or square footprint. They often have a central entrance, with evenly spaced windows on either side. Many colonial houses also feature a central chimney, which was used for heating and cooking.

There are several sub-styles of colonial architecture, including Georgian, Cape Cod, French Colonial, Spanish Colonial, and Dutch Colonial. Each of these styles has its own unique characteristics and features, but they all share a common emphasis on simplicity, symmetry, and functionality.

Colonial homes
Colonial homes. Via Pinterest

One of the most popular sub-styles of colonial architecture is the colonial revival house. This style emerged in the late 19th century and was popularized in the early 20th century. Colonial revival houses are often larger and more ornate than traditional colonial homes, with decorative details such as columns, pediments, and dormer windows.

Whether you’re looking for a traditional colonial house or a more modern take on this classic style, there are plenty of options to choose from. A colonial-style house can offer a timeless, elegant look that never goes out of style.

History and Types of Colonial Houses

Colonial houses are a popular architectural style that emerged under colonial rule in the United States in the 1600s and 1700s. These homes were built in different regions of the country and were influenced by various European architectural styles.

British Colonial

The British Colonial style is the most common type of colonial house found in the United States. These homes are characterized by their symmetrical design, steep roofs, and central chimneys. The most popular British Colonial styles include the saltbox, cape cod, and southern colonial houses.

British Colonial
British Colonial. Via Pinterest

Dutch Colonial

Dutch Colonial houses are known for their gambrel roofs, which feature two slopes on each side of the roof. These homes are often made of brick or stone and have a central chimney. The Dutch Colonial style was most popular in the Hudson Valley region of New York.

Dutch Colonial
Dutch Colonial. Via Pinterest

French Colonial

The French Colonial style is most commonly found in the southern United States, particularly in Louisiana. These homes are characterized by their steeply pitched roofs, dormer windows, and wrap-around porches. French Colonial homes often feature balconies with wrought-iron railings.

French Colonial
French Colonial. Via Pinterest

Spanish Colonial

Spanish Colonial homes are often found in the southwestern United States, particularly in California and New Mexico. These homes are characterized by their stucco exteriors, red tile roofs, and arched doorways and windows. Spanish Colonial homes often have a central courtyard.

Spanish colonial
Spanish colonial. Via Pinterest

Georgian Colonial

The Georgian Colonial style was popular in the 18th century and is characterized by its symmetry and balance. These homes have a central entrance with an evenly spaced row of windows on either side. Georgian Colonial homes often feature ornate moldings and pediments.

Georgian Colonial
Georgian Colonial. Via Pinterest

German Colonial

German Colonial homes were built by German settlers in the 18th and 19th centuries. These homes are often made of stone or brick and feature half-timbered facades. German Colonial homes often have a central chimney and a steeply pitched roof.

German Colonial
German Colonial. Via Pinterest

Colonial houses are a popular architectural style that has influenced many other styles of homes. Whether you prefer the New England colonial style or the French colonial style, these historic homes are sure to impress.

Key Features of Colonial Houses

Colonial houses are a popular architectural style that originated in the United States in the 17th century. They are known for their symmetrical design and classic features. Here are some of the key features of colonial houses.

Exterior Features

Symmetrical Design

One of the most notable features of colonial homes is their symmetrical design. The front door is typically centered and flanked by evenly spaced windows on either side. The windows are usually multi-pane, double-hung, and symmetrical in placement. Shutters are also a common feature that adds to the symmetry of the house.

Shutters are a common colonial feature that adds to the symmetry of the house
Shutters are a common colonial feature that adds to the symmetry of the house. Via Pinterest

Gambrel Roof

Another characteristic of colonial homes is the gambrel roof. This type of roof has two slopes on each side, with the lower slope being steeper than the upper slope. This design allows for more living space on the upper level of the house.

Gambrel roof has two slopes on each side
Gambrel roof has two slopes on each side. Via Pinterest

Front Porch

Many colonial homes have a front porch that spans the width of the house. The porch is usually supported by columns and features a pediment above the front door. The porch provides a welcoming entrance to the home and is a great place to relax and enjoy the outdoors.

Front Porch is a quintessential part of colonial style
The Front Porch is a quintessential part of the Colonial style. Via Pinterest

Clapboard Siding

Colonial homes are often clad in clapboard siding, which is made of wooden boards that overlap each other. This type of siding is durable and adds to the classic look of the house. The siding can be painted in a variety of colors to match the homeowner’s style.

Clapboard siding is durable and adds to the classic look of the house
Clapboard siding is durable and adds to the classic look of the house. Via Pinterest

Interior Features

Crown Molding

Crown molding is a decorative feature that is often found in colonial homes. It is a type of molding that is installed at the top of the wall where it meets the ceiling. Crown molding adds a touch of elegance to the room and can be painted to match the trim.

Dormer Windows

Dormer windows are another common feature in colonial homes. They are windows that are set vertically into the roof and protrude out. Dormer windows provide additional light to the upper level of the house and can be used as a decorative feature.

Multi-Pane Windows

Multi-pane windows are a hallmark of colonial homes. They are windows that have multiple panes of glass separated by muntins. The muntins can be arranged in a variety of patterns to add interest to the window.

Double-Hung Windows

Double-hung windows are another common feature in colonial homes. They are windows that have two sashes that slide up and down within the frame. This type of window provides ventilation and is easy to operate.

Crown Molding

Crown molding is a decorative feature that is often found in colonial homes. It is a type of molding that is installed at the top of the wall where it meets the ceiling. Crown molding adds a touch of elegance to the room and can be painted to match the trim.

Colonial House Materials

When it comes to colonial house design, the materials used to construct the homes were often based on what was readily available in the area. Some of the most common materials used in colonial house construction include wood, brick, or a combination of both.

Wood

Wood was a popular choice for colonial homes because it was abundant and easy to work with. Many early colonial homes were built using timber framing, which involved using large wooden beams to create the structure of the house. These beams were often left exposed, giving the home a rustic, natural look.

In addition to timber framing, wood was also used for the exterior siding of colonial homes. Popular types of wood siding included clapboard, shingles, and board-and-batten. These types of siding were not only durable, but they also gave the homes a charming, traditional look.

Brick

Brick was another common material used in colonial house construction, particularly in areas where clay was abundant. Brick homes were popular because they were sturdy and long-lasting, and they also provided good insulation.

Many colonial homes featured brick chimneys and fireplaces, which were often the focal point of the home’s interior. In addition, some colonial homes were constructed entirely of brick, giving them a stately, elegant appearance.

Wood and Brick Combination

In some cases, colonial homes were constructed using a combination of wood and brick. For example, the lower level of the home might be made of brick, while the upper levels were constructed using timber framing and wood siding.

This combination of materials provided both durability and aesthetic appeal, and it was a popular choice for colonial homes in many parts of the country.

Overall, the materials used in colonial house design were often based on what was available in the area. Whether constructed of wood, brick, or a combination of both, these homes were built to last and continue to be admired for their timeless beauty and charm.

Modern and Contemporary Colonial Designs

If you’re looking to incorporate a colonial style into your home design, but still want it to feel modern and fresh, there are plenty of ways to do so. Here are some ideas for modern and contemporary colonial designs:

Keep it Simple

One of the hallmarks of colonial design is simplicity. To give your home a modern twist, keep the design simple and uncluttered. Stick to a neutral color palette with pops of color in the decor. Use clean lines and minimalistic furnishings to create a sleek, modern look.

Add Contemporary Touches

To bring a contemporary feel to your colonial design, add modern touches like stainless steel appliances, sleek light fixtures, and modern artwork. This will create a unique blend of old and new that is both elegant and stylish.

Colonial Revival

Another option is to go with a colonial revival style. This style incorporates traditional colonial elements like symmetrical facades, shutters, and columns, but with a modern twist. For example, you could use a bold color palette or add contemporary furnishings to create a fresh take on a classic design.

Mix and Match

Don’t be afraid to mix and match different styles and eras. For example, you could combine a colonial-style facade with a modern interior design. This will create a unique and personalized look that reflects your individual style.

Embrace Natural Materials

To give your colonial design a modern feel, use natural materials like wood, stone, and brick. These materials will give your home a warm and inviting feel while still maintaining a modern aesthetic.

Overall, modern and contemporary colonial designs are all about finding the right balance between old and new. By incorporating traditional colonial elements with modern touches, you can create a unique and stylish home that is both elegant and functional.

Colonial House Plans

If you’re looking for a classic and timeless home design, then Colonial house plans might be just what you need. The Colonial style originated in the late 1800s and early 1900s and is still popular today. These homes are typically two to three stories tall with symmetrical facades and gable roofs. They often feature pillars and columns, which are usually expressed in temple-like entrances with porticos topped by pediments.

Traditional House Plans

Traditional Colonial house plans typically feature a center hall with a staircase leading to the second floor. The first floor usually has a living room, dining room, and kitchen, while the second floor has bedrooms and bathrooms. Some Colonial house plans also include a basement and an attic.

One of the most popular traditional Colonial house plans is the Georgian style. This style features a symmetrical facade with a central front door and windows on either side. The roof is typically hipped or gabled, and the house is usually two stories tall.

Modern House Plans

Modern Colonial house plans take the classic style of the traditional Colonial and add modern elements to it. These homes often feature open floor plans, large windows, and modern amenities like home theaters and smart home technology.

One popular modern Colonial house plan is the Cape Cod style. This style features a steep-pitched roof with dormers, a central chimney, and a simple rectangular shape. The first floor usually has a living room, dining room, and kitchen, while the second floor has bedrooms and bathrooms.

When choosing a Colonial house plan, it’s important to consider your lifestyle and needs. Do you need a large house for a big family, or a smaller house for a couple or a single person? Do you want a traditional or modern style? Take the time to research and find a Colonial house plan that fits your needs and budget.

Room-Specific Design in Colonial Houses

When it comes to designing a colonial house, each room has its unique characteristics and charm. Here are some tips to help you design the kitchen, living room, and dining room in your colonial house.

Kitchen Design

The kitchen is the heart of the home, and in a colonial house, it can be both functional and stylish. To create a colonial-style kitchen, consider the following:

  • Use natural materials like wood, brick, and stone for the flooring and countertops.
  • Install a large, farmhouse-style sink with a brass or copper faucet.
  • Use open shelving to display your dishes and cookware.
  • Add a large, wooden kitchen island for food preparation and storage.
  • Consider installing a fireplace or wood-burning stove to add warmth and ambiance.

Living Room Design

The living room in a colonial house is often the most formal room in the house. To create a colonial-style living room, consider the following:

  • Use warm, earthy colors like beige, brown, and cream for the walls and furniture.
  • Install a large, ornate fireplace with a mantle and surround.
  • Use hardwood flooring with a large area rug for added warmth and comfort.
  • Add decorative molding and trim to the walls and ceiling.
  • Use classic furniture pieces like wingback chairs, a camelback sofa, and a wooden coffee table.

Dining Room Design

The dining room in a colonial house is often used for formal occasions and entertaining guests. To create a colonial-style dining room, consider the following:

  • Use warm, rich colors like burgundy, navy, and forest green for the walls and furniture.
  • Install a large, ornate chandelier as the centerpiece of the room.
  • Use hardwood flooring with a large area rug for added warmth and comfort.
  • Add decorative molding and trim to the walls and ceiling.
  • Use classic furniture pieces like a wooden dining table, upholstered chairs, and a wooden sideboard.

In conclusion, designing a colonial house requires attention to detail and a focus on classic, timeless design elements. By following these tips, you can create a beautiful and functional home that reflects the charm and elegance of colonial architecture.

Importance of Fireplaces and Chimneys

When it comes to colonial house design, fireplaces, and chimneys were crucial elements. They served as the primary source of heat during the colder months and provided a space for cooking meals. Fireplaces were often located in the main living area, such as the great room, and were designed to be large and efficient.

In the early colonial period, fireplaces were typically wide, deep “walk-ins” without much of a mantel. Those in the homes of Dutch settlers were often wider than tall, while the English settlers built them to be smaller and less spacious. As time progressed, the design of fireplaces evolved, and they became more prominent in the home’s overall design.

Chimneys were also an essential component of colonial house design. They allowed for the smoke and gases produced by the fire to be safely vented out of the home. Without a chimney, the home would fill with smoke, making it difficult to breathe and causing damage to the interior.

The construction of fireplaces and chimneys was a significant undertaking and required skilled craftsmen. Stone, brick, and adobe were commonly used materials, and the design of the fireplace and chimney had to be carefully considered to ensure proper ventilation and safety.

In addition to their functional purposes, fireplaces and chimneys also added to the overall aesthetic of the home. They were often the centerpiece of the main living area and were adorned with decorative mantels, hearths, and surrounds.

Fireplaces and chimneys played a vital role in colonial house design. They provided warmth, a place to cook meals, and added to the home’s overall aesthetic. Their design and construction required skilled craftsmen and careful consideration to ensure proper ventilation and safety.

Boosting Curb Appeal in Colonial Houses

When it comes to colonial house design, curb appeal is essential. The exterior of your home is the first thing visitors see, and it can make a lasting impression. Luckily, there are several ways to boost your home’s curb appeal and create a beautiful, welcoming exterior.

Color Scheme

One of the easiest ways to enhance your colonial home’s curb appeal is through color. A fresh coat of paint can make a world of difference. Consider choosing a color scheme that complements your home’s architectural style. Colonial homes typically feature muted, traditional colors such as white, gray, and beige. However, you can also opt for bolder colors such as navy blue or forest green to add a modern touch.

Landscaping

Another way to boost your home’s curb appeal is through landscaping. A well-maintained lawn, trimmed hedges, and colorful flowers can make a huge difference. Consider adding a few potted plants or hanging baskets to your front porch for an extra pop of color.

Front Door

Your front door is one of the most important elements of your home’s exterior. It’s the focal point of your entryway and sets the tone for your home’s interior design. Consider painting your front door a bold color or adding decorative hardware for a touch of elegance.

Lighting

Outdoor lighting can also enhance your home’s curb appeal. Consider adding a few outdoor sconces or lanterns to your front porch for a warm, inviting glow. You can also install landscape lighting to highlight your home’s best features.

Details

Finally, don’t forget about the details. Small touches such as a new mailbox, house numbers, or a welcome mat can make a big impact. Consider adding shutters to your windows or installing a new front porch railing for added charm.

FAQ – Colonial house design

What are some common features of Colonial house design?

Colonial house design is characterized by its symmetrical shape, typically with a central front door and evenly spaced windows on either side. The exterior of Colonial-style homes is often simple and plain, with minimal embellishments. Common exterior features include shutters, dormer windows, and a prominent chimney. Colonial-style homes are typically two or three stories, with the living space on the first floor and the bedrooms on the upper floors.

What are some popular Colonial house plans for smaller homes?

If you’re looking for a smaller Colonial-style home, there are a variety of popular house plans to choose from. Some popular options include the Cape Cod-style home, which is a smaller version of the traditional Colonial-style home, and the Saltbox-style home, which features a sloping roof that extends down to the first floor in the back.

How can I incorporate modern design elements into a Colonial-style home?

While Colonial-style homes are typically associated with traditional design elements, it’s possible to incorporate modern touches into your home. Consider adding contemporary lighting fixtures or updating the kitchen with modern appliances and finishes. You can also mix and match furniture styles to create a unique and eclectic look.

What are some ways to decorate the interior of a Colonial-style home?

When it comes to decorating the interior of a Colonial-style home, it’s important to keep the traditional design elements in mind. Consider using classic patterns such as stripes, checks, and florals, and incorporating antique or vintage pieces into your decor. Traditional colors like navy, red, and green are also popular choices for Colonial-style homes.

What are some unique characteristics of New England Colonial house plans?

New England Colonial house plans are a specific type of Colonial-style home that originated in the northeastern United States. These homes typically feature a steeply pitched roof, a central chimney, and a symmetrical facade. Many New England Colonial homes also have a large, central fireplace in the living room.

What are some potential drawbacks to owning a Colonial-style home?

One potential drawback to owning a Colonial-style home is that they can be more expensive to maintain than more modern homes. The older construction methods and materials can require more upkeep and repairs. Additionally, some people may find the traditional layout of Colonial-style homes to be less conducive to modern living.


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