Instant Architecture Expert

Your crib sheet to five timeless home styles.

February 1, 2008

Don’t know a capital from a cupola? You’re in the right place. These classic architecture styles are often echoed in modern homes. With this crib sheet, you can bring new depth and authority to your listing descriptions. By the way, a capital is the decorative top of a column. A cupola is a tower.

Greek Revival

Famous Example: Monmouth Plantation, Natchez, Miss.

Broad front porch with one- or two-story columns. Columns may echo classical structures such as the Parthenon. Narrow rectangular windows with small panes on sides of the front door. Very popular from 1830 to 1850, spurred by archeological finds in Greece and sympathy with the Greek independence movement.

SOUND BITE: “These beautiful Doric columns make the home seem timeless.”

Photo courtesy of: The Monmouth Plantation


Famous example: The Breakers, Newport, R.I.

Square and symmetrical. Brackets or other ornamentation just below the roof. Regular windows with larger panes often topped by a squared arch. Later, square towers were added. Popular in the 1850s to 1880s.

SOUND BITE: “The symmetry of this house is so serene and restful.”

Photo courtesy of: Patrick O’Connor/ The Preservation Society of Newport County

French provincial

Famous example: The Biltmore, Asheville, N.C.

High, sloping mansard roofs (a type of hip roof). Rounded arches over windows and porch. Multipane symmetrical windows, often breaking out of the second story. Patterned after French chateaus under the reign of Louis XIV, the style had several revivals.

SOUND BITE: “The mansard roof gives you great ceiling heights on the second story.”

Photo courtesy of: The Biltmore Asheville, N.C.


Famous example: The Robie House, Chicago, Ill.

Low overhanging roofs. Narrow high windows. Typically one story with porches supported by large square columns. Originated in the late 1800s by Frank Lloyd Wright, Prairie homes are the ancestors of the 1950s ranch house.

SOUND BITE: “Prairie is the first truly American style of architecture.”

Photo courtesy of: Tim Long/The Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust

Victorian/Queen Anne

Famous example: Carson Mansion, Eureka, Calif.

Round or square towers and turrets. Stone foundations topped by brick. Ornately carved and painted wood trim. Spindle railing on porches. Popular from the 1850s until around 1900.

SOUND BITE: “The handcrafted quality of the detailing makes this home so special.”

Photo courtesy of: Ron Kuhnel/The Eureka Heritage Society

Mariwyn Evans

Mariwyn Evans is a former REALTOR® Magazine writer and editor, covering both residential brokerage and commercial real estate topics.


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