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.
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).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.