The type of home you want to build is the first choice of hundreds that you’ll make leading up to the move-in date of your new dream home. The architectural style is that big first decision, and because it can be so unique and deeply personal, you need to consider two aspects of design– functionality and aesthetics. You want to find a design that balances what works for your family with what looks visually appealing. 

To help you find what you like, we’ve put together a guide of the most common architectural styles. When you have a general style in mind, your architect has a foundation upon which he can draw up the perfect plans. 

Here are some of the most common architectural styles:

Cape Cod

This style was brought by British colonialists to New England and was originally designed to withstand the harsh New England winters. They were primarily made of wood, single-story, rectangular designs with a central chimney and steep roofs for easy snow removal. The main living area in a Cape Cod-style home consists of a kitchen and living room with a few bedrooms off the main space. Modernized Cape Cod designs have features such as dormer windows and rear garages.


This is what many Americans may recognize as a classic look. Colonial style homes have rectangular shapes with large, square rooms on all levels of the home, chimneys on both ends of the home, gambrel or barn roofs, and, most notably, evenly spaced windows, shutters, and porches. Colonial architectural styles come from homes built in the 1600s to 1800s in the American colonies and eventually US states. 


A Craftsman-style home often features beautiful woodwork, wrap-around porches, exposed roof beams, and low-pitched gabled roofs. Craftsmans typically have open floor plans and are bright, natural, and simple. 


European style homes typically feature brick, stucco, or stone exteriors, but as there are many countries in Europe, there are also many variations to the architectural style. For example, Spanish home plans may include low-pitched clay tile and decorative terracotta and a set of Palladian windows are considered Italian style. Any design inspired by a European country design fits in this category.


This is a highly functional style that’s also highly stylized– featuring exposed beams, shabby chic finishes, and simple, large open rooms. Farmhouse style homes prioritize utility over aesthetic so that families have more open space to live in. 

French Provincial

Like Colonials, this style is an American favorite. French Provincial style homes boast large features such as oversized fireplaces, luxurious bathrooms, and lush gardens. They also have tall, ceilings with grand matching windows and stone on both the exterior and interior of the home.

Modern/Praire School

This style was created by a group of architects in Chicago in the early 1900s and was popularized by Frank Lloyd Wright. Prarie-style homes are sleek and simple in design with flat roofs, overhanging eaves, and rows of square windows. There’s a focus on the surrounding landscape and optimizing natural light to be more eco-friendly. This modern style is uncluttered and sophisticated. 


Ranch style became popular in the US in the 20s. It’s a simple, rectangular shape with a long, low profile and large windows. This style is becoming popular because it enables your family to live entirely on a single story– which is also great for aging in place, due to its accessibility. Ranch style homes also often feature large attached garages.


The Victorian-style was the supreme style in Britain and the US from 1825 to 1900. They’re still popular today, with their bright exterior paint variations, gable trim, corbels, sweeping verandas, two-story turrets, and decorative railings. Unlike the more simplistic modern designs, this style is all about decor and detail. 


Choosing the right architectural style isn’t just about aesthetics, you also need to consider its utility. Is it suitable for your family’s size? Is it suitable for your lifestyle? For your budget? Talk to your architect about your needs, your wishes, and– based on the guide above –the architectural style you most like. From there, you can work together to find design specifications that are perfect for you. 

Ready to talk about your new custom home? Contact Donnelly Timmons Custom Builders to set up a free consultation.