Architectural Styles

American Foursquare style

The American Foursquare is known by a variety of terms including box house, a cube, a double cube or a square type American house. It first appeared on the housing scene around 1890 and remained popular well into the 1930s.


The foursquare is typically a two-and-a-half-story house on a full basement, with a monitor dormer (a dormer with a roof-line that mirrors the primary roof) in the attic. Most foursquares have pyramidal hip roofs (which come to a peak in the centre). Front porches span the full width of the house, with two, three or four simple columns supporting the porch roof.


Perhaps most notably, the foursquare is a nearly square house with square shaped interior rooms. The first floor typically has four rooms, including an entry foyer or reception hall, living room, dining room and kitchen. Upstairs, three bedrooms and a bath all politely sit in their own corners.


Arts & Crafts style

The term "Arts and Crafts" refers to the early 19th-century British and American movement to revive handicrafts. The movement was also the inspiration behind the Craftsman and bungalow styles.


English reformer William Morris was one of the founders of the Arts and Crafts Movement in the late 1880s. Tired of excessive Victorian architecture and the machine-driven Industrial Age, Morris and his followers wanted to return to a pre-industrial, handmade society. Morris also wanted to make custom furnishings available to the "common man."


When the movement made its way to North America at the turn of the 20th century, Gustav Stickley, founder and editor of The Craftsman magazine and a well-known furniture maker, became the American leader. Originally, the term "Craftsman" meant a home built from a plan in Stickley's magazine, but it has come to mean homes built in the Arts and Crafts style.

The bungalow was closely associated with the Arts and Crafts Movement. Stickley preached that bungalows would give working-class families the chance to experience "serious architecture." Bungalows melded simple design with handcrafted artistry.

Arts and Crafts homes are built of natural materials. Craftsman homes are typically built of real wood, stone and brick. Built-ins were the hallmark feature of the Arts and Crafts era. Built-in cabinets allowed the furnishings to be part of the architecture, ensuring design unity and economic use of space. Even the light fixtures are often part of the design. A fireplace was the symbol of family in the Arts and Crafts movement, so most homes feature a dominant fireplace in the living room and a large exterior chimney. Most homes in the Craftsman style have porches with thick square or round columns and stone porch supports. The homes typically have a low roof with wide eaves and triangular brackets. The beams on the porch and inside the house are often exposed. The Arts and Crafts Movement rejected the small, boxy rooms like those in Victorian houses.


Classic Revival style

Parallel to the Regency Style in Canada was a serious revival of Classical architecture in Europe. The Classical Revival was an analytical, scientific, dedicated and dogmatic revival based on intensive studies of Greek and Roman buildings. Unlike the Neoclassical Style that used Classical motifs and adornments on Georgian or at least traditional floor plans, the Classical Revival was concerned with the application of Greek plans and proportions to civic buildings. The 19th Century industrialists were sympathetic to both monumental architecture and the ideas of Greek democracy. Consequently, schools, libraries, government offices, and most other civic buildings were built in the Classical Revival style. The white columned porches of the Classical Revival domestic buildings are identified with the mansions on cotton plantations in the Southern United States, but many of these can also be found in the houses of wealthy land owners in Canada.


Colonial Revival style

Colonial Revivals are a self-conscious attempt to recall the architecture of the first colonies in North America. Ontario, or Upper Canada, was largely colonized by United Empire Loyalists, English people who were not interested in joining the independence movement of the United States. Colonial Revivals are a tribute to the early settlers. They can be seen in many subdivisions and commercial buildings. The Revivals can be identified by the use of modern materials and construction methods - snap-on window glazing bars - and garages.


Clapboard and shingle are often found in the Colonial Revival, but brick is the preferred material. This is especially true for homes built after 1920 when brick veneer construction made using brick more affordable.


Gable roofs are the typical roof form found in Colonial Revival homes followed by gambrel and hip roofs. Slate shingles were commonly used until around WWII when asphalt shingles began to replace slate because of cost.

Windows are designed simply, although never reproducing the original Colonial Style primarily because, by then glass manufacturers had learned how to produce larger windowpanes that were too convenient and functional to ignore. Thus, most windows in the Neo-Colonial are rectangular with double-hung sashes, each one consisting of six, eight, nine, or even twelve panes. Multi-pane sashes with only a single sheet of glass serving as the lower pane, are also common.


Colonial Revivals frequently present a notable decorative entrance. This may consist of a paneled front door flanked by sidelights, a broken pediment over the door, a modest portico with columns, and perhaps a pediment supported by pilasters.


Dutch Colonial / Maritime Vernacular style

Beginning in the late 19th century, North America began to look back romantically upon its colonial roots and the country started reflecting this nostalgia in its architecture. Within this Colonial Revival, one of the more popular designs was a redux of features of the original Dutch Colonial.


Dutch Colonial is a style of domestic architecture, primarily characterized by gambrel roofs having curved eaves along the length of the house. Modern versions built in the early 20th century are more accurately referred to as "Dutch Colonial Revival," a subtype of the Colonial Revival style.


The modern use of the term is to indicate a broad gambrel roof with flaring eaves that extend over the long sides, resembling a barn in construction. The early houses built by settlers were often a single room, with additions added to either end (or short side) and very often a porch along both long sides. Typically, walls were made of stone and a chimney was located on one or both ends. Common were double-hung sash windows with outward swinging wood shutters and a central double Dutch door.


Georgian Revival style

The Georgian style, with its long history in America, is among our country’s most consistently popular styles. Admired for its symmetrical design, classic proportions, and decorative elements, it is commonly associated with the reigns of England’s King Georges, I through III. In reality, however, it is directly tied to the work of English architect Sir Christopher Wren. 


Much of the inspiration for Gunston Hall came from pattern books brought over from England. These books were an early species of how-to manuals imported from Europe by colonial builders at a time when professional design advice was scarce. Such manuals played an enormous role in spreading the Georgian style throughout the colonies. Typically, pattern books focused on the design details for windows, doors, fireplaces, and moulding elements, which were adopted or modified by the builder. 


The basic Georgian proportion was typically geometrical, with the main block of the building frequently augmented by hyphens and wings. The axial symmetry of this style will always be a safe design approach. However, this static configuration does not necessarily optimize the actual functioning of a home. The somewhat less symmetrical Federal style that followed was likely in response to this problem.

The Georgian style utilized many of the hallmarks of Renaissance design, for example, rigid symmetry in building mass, in window and door placement, and even in the layout of interior rooms.


Not surprisingly, interpretations of the Georgian style tended to vary with locale. In Canada, it was common to use wood with clapboard or shingle cladding. Occasionally the corners of the building were decorated with wooden quoins to imitate stone. Sometimes stone and stucco were used instead of wood.


A hip roof, sometimes with dormers, typifies the Georgian style. Because of Georgian’s relentless symmetry, a more asymmetrical gable roof would be noticeably inappropriate. The hip roof was popular with Christopher Wren, and therefore with all who admired and emulated his rules of design. When variations were sought, a roof would sometimes sport balustrades further embellished with decorative mouldings and trim.


Double-hung sash windows, along with small panes, or lights, usually 12 over 12, or 9 over 9, were the standard variations, typically incorporated as a stylistic embellishment. Georgians built of wood often had decorative pediments over the windows, while brick Georgians had decorative brick headers above a window.


As a vehicle for decoration, entrances were often fitted with pediments, broken pediments, arched tops, and ogee caps. In the North, wooden pilasters often flanked the entrance, while in the South, doorways were typically enhanced with tasteful brick patterns.


Italianate style

Italianate was one of the most popular Victorian-era housing styles from the mid-to late-1800s. Homes in this style ranged from modest two-story town houses to ornate mansions of sea captains and other wealthy entrepreneurs.


Inspired by villas of Italy - or at least pictures of them, since few Canadian architects traveled abroad - the style is defined most by the use of single or paired decorative brackets under wide cornices.


The homes were typically two to three stories in height, with flat or hip roofs, bay windows with inset wooden panels, corner boards and two over two double-hung windows. The windows often had curved or moulded window caps.


Like the Gothic Revival, the Italianate style was a rebellion against the formality of the more formal Georgian and Greek Revival styles. It used rambling, informal Italian villas as a model.

Doors are usually centrally located, sometimes with sidelights and transom window. The porch is sometimes a verandah that wraps around the front and side facades, but can also be an overhang with an upper storey to suggest a tower. Windows are usually tall and narrow, topped with an arched cap or a rounded hood. Italianate houses have a flat or, more commonly, a low-pitched hip roof with wide overhangs supported by elaborate brackets. Dormers are rare, usually replaced by a square cupola.


Queen Anne Revival style

The Queen Anne Revival style emphasizes asymmetry and intricate ornamentation. The facade usually incorporates a variety of decorative wood and shingle work. Almost all are unique. Eclecticism, asymmetry, contrast, and even excess, were the hallmarks of the Queen Anne Revival style. Every building sported a variety of surface textures. Elaborate motifs decorated gables, spandrel panels and, indeed, almost any flat surface.


The Queen Anne Revival look was achieved in a variety of ways with an array of materials that included patterned brick or stone, wood shingles and clapboard, slate, occasionally stucco, and sometimes, terracotta panels. Decorative stone panels were frequently set into the wall, as were custom-moulded and coloured bricks, allowing some variation and detailing. Wood buildings could assume the full range of colour and design with paint.


Steeply pitched and complex, Queen Anne Revival roofs provided visual interest and variety with gables, dormers, and turrets or towers, often all in one roof.


Queen Anne Revival towers—square, round, or polygonal—were a favourite feature among architects designing Queen Anne Revival homes. Sometimes instead of a tower, a turret, supported by a corbel, projected from the second floor. The towers and turrets were capped with a conical, tent, domed, or other artfully shaped roof and finished off with slate shingles and a copper finial ornament.


Single-story, wrap-around porches were essential to detached Queen Anne Revival style homes. Frequently, the porch was framed by decorative columns, brackets, or applied ornament. In urban areas, town houses often featured a second-story porch, sometimes recessed into gables or towers.


Typically, Queen Anne Revival homes were embellished with bay windows and oriels; sometimes the latter was part of a turret. Window surrounds were, as a rule, simple. Lower window sashes usually had only a single pane of glass. The upper sash may have followed suit, although it was frequently multi-paned or framed by small square panes. More elaborate window sashes featured stained glass in the upper portion of a double-hung window or in a transom.


Curved glass is a unique Queen Anne Revival detail, occasionally found in round bays and towers. Doors are usually offset and often decorated with irregularly placed inserts and multi-paned, sometimes leaded, windows. May be paired or single. Doors also may have delicately carved decorations surrounding a single large pane set into the upper portion of the door. Porches can be part of a tower, extend into a verandah, capped by a portico – or all of the above. Windows are irregularly placed and often incorporate coloured glass.


Queen Anne Revival style houses usually have a blend of hip and gable roofs. A tower, turrets and dormers are often featured.

The Queen Anne Revival Style like many of the larger residential styles that were prominent during the final decades of the 19th century, was fuelled by the wealthy upper middle classes who through luck and very hard work had managed to make a success of their new lives in Canada. It was a style meant to be enjoyed by those who lived within it and those who lived near it. At the centre was a solid family who needed a large, opulent home where the children could grow into prominence surrounded by the fruits of their ancestor's labours enjoying a lovely garden, many spacious and highly ornate living areas, and enough bedrooms for all the family, guests and servants. Like the Victorian Villa, the Italian Villa, and the large Romanesque homes, the Queen Anne Revival style was meant to impress.


Richardsonian Romanesque style

The one word that describes this style is 'heavy'. The owners wanted to give the impression of solidity and permanence. Romanesque Revival residences are almost all very large buildings with undulating rooflines, enough room to house all the necessary servants.

The eclectic Richardsonian Romanesque style is Romanesque Revival architecture named after architect Henry Hobson Richardson. It was inspired by the ancient Romans (1066 – 1200), but it was Richardson’s personal interpretation and adaptation that accounts for the originality and importance of the work. Richardson, born in 1838, left behind a legacy of beautiful buildings, many of which we still enjoy today. Though he only lived to the age of 48, his contribution was so significant that we refer to this specific architectural style as a tribute to his work.

The Richardsonian Romanesque architecture stressed intricacy, unusual and sculpted shapes, and individuality. It was a very eclectic style.

Richardsonian Romanesque buildings were always built of solid masonry stone work—stone  was the preferred material, although it was often mixed with brick. Solid masonry was used because the masonry veneer method had not yet been perfected in the decades following 1880. Stone buildings, then and now, were more expensive to build than wood buildings in other styles. The stone work was usually square-shaped, called Ashlar, with rough exposed faces, sometimes referred to as rustication. Limestone, granite, and sandstone were often used.

A hipped roof with lower cross gables was often used. There were also many large square masses capped by a hip roof (smaller gable roofs were placed at the sides and front, which intersected the larger hip roof). The last basic building form, most familiar in Washington, DC today, was the townhouse. For townhouses, mansard roofs and front gabled roofs were normally used. Many Romanesque style buildings also had round or polygonal towers. Tower roofs were usually conical or pyramidal. The eclectic nature of the Richardsonian Romanesque style also generated other roof forms, such as a side-gabled, cross-gabled, and more.

Wide-rounded arches were a key feature of the style and were used around doors and windows. The nature of the design required that the arch be a true semi-circle, not pointed or a low-spring arch other styles incorporated. Romanesque arches typically rested on short columns that were either free standing or incorporated into the wall surface. Decorative windows and doorways frequently had arched tops and small columns (colonnettes) on each side. Often, three or more arched windows were grouped together. Windows were recessed deeply into the masonry and had one large pane of glass per sash.

Many doorways had arched tops and small columns (colonnettes) on each side, and brick was often arranged in interesting patterns to enhance entryways. To further embellish the façade, decorative patterns were incised into the stone lintels and trim.


Spanish Colonial Revival style

The Spanish Colonial Revival Style is a United States architectural stylistic movement arising in the early 20th century based on the Spanish Colonial architecture of the Spanish colonization of the Americas.


Spanish Colonial Revival architecture is characterized by a combination of detail from several eras of Spanish Baroque, Spanish Colonial, etc. The style is marked by the prodigious use of smooth plaster (stucco) wall and chimney finishes, low-pitched clay tile, shed, or a low-pitched roof with little or no eave overhang, a red-tiled roof, and terracotta or cast concrete ornaments. Other characteristics typically include small porches or balconies, Roman or perhaps a prominent rounded arch over a door, window or porch, usually an asymmetrical façade, wood casement or tall, double–hung windows, canvas awnings, and decorative iron trim.


Tudor Revival style

From 1890 to 1940, some American homes were built based on a medley of late Medieval and early Renaissance styles. Homes with these distinguishing characteristics were grouped under the heading of Tudor.” In the Washington, DC, area, Tudor homes (along with Colonial Revival) made up the largest portion of homes built during the 1920s and 1930s. European-trained architects, influenced by Old World styles, brought the eclectic, asymmetrical Tudor style to America toward the end of the nineteenth century. Built for wealthy homeowners, Tudor houses were of solid masonry with elaborate decorative stone and brickwork. They were sometimes called “Stockbroker Tudor” because their financially successful owners had frequently made their wealth in the booming 1920s stock market.

The Tudor style fell out of popularity around World War II when a resurgence of patriotism encouraged an appreciation for a more American style, that is, Colonial Revival. Tudor architecture was also expensive to build, not easily replicated, and prone to maintenance issues.

Tudor homes are characterized by their steeply pitched gable roofs, playfully elaborate masonry chimneys (often with chimney pots), embellished doorways, groupings of windows, and decorative half-timbering, this last an exposed wood framework with the spaces between the timbers filled with masonry or stucco.


There are several easily identifiable features of North American Tudors, the first being stucco walls with or without decorative wood half-timbering. A few houses of this style had weatherboard or shingled walls with stucco and half-timbered gables. Other Tudor-style houses used stone for the walls, often with a decorative stone trim. The most prevalent building material for American Tudors was brick, frequently laid out in an elaborate pattern on the first story with a second story of stucco or wood and false half-timbering in a decorative pattern.

A distinguishing feature of the Tudor house was the steep gabled roof, often punctuated with small dormers and clad with slate. The main gable frequently had a secondary side or cross gable. Gable ends were often adorned with verge boards whose decoration ranges from simple to highly carved. A few variants had gables with parapets, which is very English.


Tudor-style houses usually had casement windows grouped in rows of three or more framed in either wood or metal. Double-hung windows were less common. Windows were often divided into six or eight rectangular panes or arranged in a diamond pattern, this latter style often executed in leaded glass. Windows were usually placed symmetrically in the main gable.


A Tudor entrance was part of an asymmetrical assemblage of architectural elements, some decorative and some meant to provide protection. Protection came from a thick masonry wall that allowed the door to be recessed or from a projecting bay window or small roof over the door. Renaissance embellishments included arched openings, board and batten doors, luxurious black metal door hardware, and tabs of cut stone set into the brick wall, giving a quoin-like effect.


Victorian Shingle style

Appearing on the North American scene between 1880 and 1900, the Shingle Style is distinctly North American in its wood construction typically blending into natural surroundings. The houses were often built on stone foundations that seem to emerge from bedrock. Thus, the massive, horizontal structures appeared to hug the ground. Porches, balconies, and large windows encouraged a tactile interaction with the out-of-doors; today, they evoke a slow and romantic lifestyle that most of us can only dream of. Developed in New England, the style was most popular in seaside resorts. Although indisputably of American origin, the Shingle Style borrowed liberally from other Victorian styles. Its porches, shingles, and asymmetrical forms, for example, were from Queen Anne. Palladian window, gambrel roofs, and complexity of the forms and stone are often attributed to the Richardsonian Romanesque style popular at the same time.


Freedom of design was encouraged; asymmetry was preferred. Architects handled proportion and architectural details as sculptural compositions. Because of the complexity of the forms in a Shingle Style design, the cost of construction was often beyond that of the average homeowner. As a result, the style was never adapted to mass vernacular housing and in many ways remained a high-fashion style. 


In contrast to the other Victorian-era styles, Shingle Style de-emphasized applied decoration and detailing in favour of complex shapes wrapped in cedar shingles. Its few decorative details tended to enhance the irregularity of the construction, with the shingles tying the diverse forms together.


Roofs and walls were covered in shingles, which could be stained, painted, or allowed to weather naturally, depending on the weather and location. Occasionally, the roof shingles would be a different colour from the wall shingles. More expensive homes had rough-hewn stone foundations and even stone porch columns and stone walls for the first floor.

Complex roof forms were common. A small percentage of Shingle Style houses had hipped roofs, typically handled as a large form punctured by smaller roof forms. Gables were usually arranged asymmetrically, although paired or symmetrically arranged cross gables were not unheard of. Less than one quarter of Shingle Style houses had a side gabled roof with a tower placed in the front. For houses with a T or L plan, gables were often placed to intersect each other, or the larger gable was crossed with several smaller roof forms. The gambrel roof form, used in nearly one quarter of Shingle Style homes, allowed a full second floor to be incorporated into the steeper roof shape, while giving the appearance of only one floor. Dormers were sometimes used to add visual complexity to the roof. The most common dormer was the gable, although the careful observer can find dormers with hip roofs, shed roofs, eyebrow windows, polygonal shapes, and curved tops.


About a third of Shingle Style homes had towers, with tower roofs often blended into the main volume of the house to form a continuous roofline. In lieu of a tower, a portion of the wall was often curved out, forming a bulge to provide more interior space and additional visual complexity on the exterior.

Shingle Style houses had numerous windows, some of ample proportions, some rather small. The typical double-hung window was commonly arranged with a single-pane sash at the bottom and a multi-pane sash above. For large wall areas, windows were arranged in rows of two, three, or even more. Palladian windows, as popular then as they are today, were a common eclectic ingredient. For the more complex designs, large windows were placed in bays of one, two, or three stories. Transoms or decorative windows in round, square, or rectangular shapes were also used.


Most Shingle Style homes had porches, possibly because people actually had the time to relax on them and the entry door usually recessed in the porch. Porch supports were often plain with simple straight balusters used for railings. Other support options were classical columns, shingle-clad columns, or stone supports. All porch designs related in some way to the adjacent wall or trim material.


Barry Copp Design

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