English Expressions

The influence of English architecture in America remains stylishly evident in homes all over the country.

June 1, 2005

The style is influenced by the Italian Renaissance period and the classical architecture of Andrea Palladio. With its refined lines, Georgian became the expression of civilized formality, symbolic of an owner's elevated financial standing in the community. The style continues to convey dignity and substance today. Modern-day builders often combine features of the Georgian style with decorative flourishes from the more formal Federal style.

To recognize a Georgian-style home, look for these features:

  • Symmetrical with a highly ordered façade
  • Two or three stories with chimney at each end (located in the center toward the late 1700s)
  • Ornamental entrance; typically a paneled door capped with a pediment or arch supported by pilasters or columns
  • Front hall illuminated by a transom above the door or by small glass panes across the top of the door, and second story illuminated by a Palladian window centered above the door
  • Windows of same size arranged in rigid vertical and horizontal pattern, with five windows right below the eave across front façade
  • Sash windows with many small panes, surrounded by decorative framework

Georgian's classic lines also are apparent in the Regency style, which flourished under King George IV and has been built in the United States since the early 1800s. To distinguish this style from the Georgian, look for an octagonal window over the front door, double-hung windows, and a chimney on the far left or right side of the house.

Tudor: One Style, Many Faces

Tudor—a style that was exceedingly popular in America in the 1920s and '30s, and again in the 1970s and '80s—embraces three stylistic variations.

The traditional Tudor is a masonry or stucco home reminiscent of English manor houses. The Elizabethan variation of this style is more informal and clearly identified by half-timbered exteriors, while the Jacobean variation is an English-Dutch hybrid featuring shaped parapets and gables.

As is so often the case, the wealthy first built homes in the Tudor styles before they filtered down to mainstream America. Tudor, in all of its versions, conveys stability and success. You can identify this style by looking for these characteristics:

  • Two or more stories
  • Commanding masonry exterior
  • Parapeted gables
  • Arched entry
  • Projecting oriel windows
  • Large leaded glass windows with stone mullions

The Elizabethan variation also features:

  • Steeply pitched roof with cross gables on the front
  • Prominent chimney
  • Half-timbered exterior where exposed wood timbers mark the structural framework, spaces in between filled with brick or stucco
  • Tall casement windows composed of small-paned leaded glass

English Cottage: Fairytale Ending

Cottage homes seem to define fantasy with nooks and crannies that tickle the senses. They're patterned after the rustic cottages constructed in southwestern England since medieval times. You might hear them referred to as a Cotswold Cottage, an Ann Hathaway, or even a Hansel and Gretel cottage.

The English cottage is considered a subclass of the broader Tudor style, so the exterior might feature stone, brick, or stucco, and half-timbering isn't uncommon. A low front door leads inside to rooms generally of irregular shape.

These fairy-tale houses are easily recognized by characteristics including:

  • Sloping, uneven gable roof
  • A feeling of being low to the ground, no matter how many stories
  • Asymmetrical
  • Prominent chimney made of brick or stone
  • Casement windows of leaded glass
  • Small dormer windows

Victorian: The Machine Age

The term "Victorian" describes many styles built during and shortly after the reign of England's Queen Victoria. In the United States, the Victorian era—about 1840 to about 1900—was a time when new machines made it possible to mass-produce ornamental features such as moldings, columns, and brackets. The expansion of the railroad meant that building parts could be sent to far corners of the country so people in remote rural areas could build fancier homes.

Among the most popular Victorian styles are Queen Anne and Gothic Revival. Created by English architect Richard Norman Shaw, the Queen Anne style was popularized after the Civil War by architect Henry Hobson Richardson and spread rapidly, especially in the South and West. Here's how to recognize this style:

  • Steep cross-gabled roofs, towers, and vertical windows
  • Inventive, multistory floor plans that often include projecting wings, porches, and balconies
  • Multiple chimneys with decorative chimney pots

Gothic Revival, influenced by English romanticism, was championed by American architects Alexander Jackson Davis and Andrew Jackson Downing. Most Gothic Revival homes were constructed between 1840 and 1870 in the Northeast. This style can be recognized by:

  • Gothic windows with distinctive pointed arches
  • Exposed framing timbers
  • Steep, vaulted roofs with cross-gables
  • Ornate wooden detailing generously applied as gable, window, and door trim
freelance writer

Linda Legner is a freelance writer in Burr Ridge, Ill., who covers design, engineering, construction, and real estate topics for newspapers, magazines, and businesses. She can be reached at LLwritebiz@aol.com.


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