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Ann Architect, Renovation Design GroupAnnie Architect, Renovation Design Group

Renovation Solutions is weekly column on architectural home design by Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer, Principal Architects of Renovation Design Group, a Utah architectural firm focusing on home renovation design.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Cape Cod is an American classic

By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon


If you've followed our columns for the past few weeks, you'll know we have been taking you on a tour of some popular homes styles of the past century to help you identify (or create) your own home's style. This week we look at the Cape Cod style.

Cape Cod Home

The classic Cape Cod, above, is Americana at its best. When renovating, its simple lines can be nicely embellished with features such as a more prominent porch. The exterior is generally symmetrical.

If the Tudor Revival was a nod to English aristocracy, the Cape Cod is the house of the people. As its name suggests, its American roots are on the East Coast dating back to the colonization of the United States. British colonists built what they knew — simple, boxy homes with little adornment or decoration. The Cape Cod's original run spanned from about 1710 to 1850, with the style evolving during that time to match the climate and natural resources of New England.

The Cape Cod saw a revival from about 1940 through 1960, when the style spread throughout the country. Versions of the Cape Cod house are now found in almost every suburb in America. While the style is still being constructed even today, the vast majority of Cape Cod revival homes were built in the decades following World War II.

The exterior is generally symmetrical — usually rectangular boxes with steep roofs and a simple one and one-half story form. The roofs are typically gabled (in which the sides come to a triangular point), but variances include gambrel (in which the triangle is interrupted by a panel) and bowed roofs (in which the sides of the triangle are curved).

Cape Cod renovation

When renovating the popular basic Cape Cod home, its simple lines can be nicely embellished while maintaining the home's cozy, classic feel.

These homes are typically sided with shingles or clapboards, although they are sometimes seen with brick, stucco, or stone. You'll also commonly see a brick chimney and decorative shutters — which should be wide enough to cover one-half of the window.

Inside the Cape Cod, if there is a second story it is tucked within the roof structure. This requires knee walls (shorter exterior walls) and dormers (windows with their own roof) to gain head room on the second floor. The interior woodwork is typically painted, not stained, and the staircases are simple.

If you will be renovating a Cape Cod, note that details matter on this simple style (See Cape Cod Renovations). Rake boards (trim under the roof on the gable ends), corner boards, and window and door trim are required to give the home added character and distinction. Original Cape Cod homes were generally built without porches, but because of the simplistic exterior, the style lends itself to adding one to embellish the blank look of the simple roof line.

In its simplicity, the Cape Cod tends to be seen as a cozy cottage. It combines characteristic Yankee practicality with a timeless aesthetic and has become an enduring symbol of domestic comfort. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at ask@renovationdesigngroup.com.

© 2005 Renovation Design Group. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Renovation Design Group.

If you are considering a remodel project, please Request a Free Consultation with Ann or Annie.


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