By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon
A year or so ago, we spotlighted several home types: the craftsman bungalow, the Tudor, the Cape Cod, and the California ranch. Of course there are more than just four styles, so we thought we would again spend a few weeks featuring a few more types, beginning with the colonial style home.
You know the colonial home when you see it. Characterized by its symmetrical, sometimes boxy look and front porches that often include columns, the colonial home is the quintessential American family home. Its very form suggests tradition and stability.
As the name implies, the colonial style home harkens back to the homes of the early colonists and dates to the 1600s. The influence was mainly from Northern Europe. The homes are generally two-story structures, square or rectangular in plan, and have a side-facing gable roof or a variation thereof. The exterior can be wood clapboard siding, shingles, board and batten, stone, brick, or even stucco.
With a centered front door, evenly placed windows, and a rectangular frame, the colonial home is a longstanding symbol of tradition and stability.
This symmetrical home has a front door in the center of the structure and windows evenly spaced in an orderly pattern. The door is the focal point of the design and is often adorned with a crown or pediment. This may be modestly sized with pilasters on the wall, or it may be large and supported by columns to create a porch. You may even find porches extending across the entire front of the house.
The interior is typically designed with formal, public spaces, like a living room and dining room, on the lower level at the front of the house. More private, practical spaces, like a kitchen and storage room, are at the rear. The second story houses sleeping quarters.
When it comes to renovation, colonial style homes can be a bit puzzling. Each room is an independent space, with full walls to make sure the role of each room is clearly defined. This does not lend itself naturally to our modern lifestyle, which often seeks a more open, inclusive environment. Also, the second story generally eliminates the option of varying the ceiling height, which is a way to add interest to a space when you are renovating.
One pitfall to avoid when renovating a colonial style home is the temptation to add to the rear of the home while the front rooms of the home sit unused. Living rooms and dining rooms have all but been abandoned in many modern families. But with today’s cost of construction and high property taxes — not to mention the impact to the environment — we cannot endorse a renovation that would leave sections of a home unused while new sections were being added elsewhere.
Therefore, it takes a clever solution to integrate the separate rooms of a colonial home into a dynamic master plan which allows living in all areas of the home. And if you have used all your space wisely and you still feel you need more, then you’ll have no argument from us when you decide to add on.
The important thing to remember is, it is possible to renovate or add on to a colonial home and still keep the feeling of tradition, charm, and place intrinsic in this style. It is a type that has served us well for hundreds of years and with good design should continue to thrive into the 21st century. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.