What comes to mind when you think of a colonial style house? Given the fact that architects and builders have been dreaming up American Colonial homes for about 400 years (not to mention that the style was popular before North Americans took to it), “colonial style architecture” refers to far more than a single aesthetic. Many different interpretations have left their marks on neighborhoods even just across the USA, dating back to around the time Europeans first settled in North America. Which… can make it a little tricky to nail this style down to an easy definition. That said, there are still several key features that colonial style houses are generally known for.

A colonial style home with big trees out front.

But how do you tell what’s colonial architecture and what isn’t? Well, as Maggie Burch points out in her House Beautiful article, “Architectural styles are not hard-and-fast rules…. Even within the American colonies, there are differences in the climates and building materials readily available that influence how homes are constructed.”

5 Defining Characteristics of Colonial Architecture

With all that in mind, here are several features that you’ll still tend to see on many of the various sub-styles of colonial style houses.

Entryway Pillars

Pillars in front of an old ornate home.

Pillars in front of a home are another common occurrence in colonial architecture, according to Lindsey Frankel’s article in James Hardie. The home and pillars above look to be of a more traditional style — perhaps an old Georgian Colonial home.

Crown Molding

Among the other features that Frankel mentions, is crown molding above the windows. Expect to see this beautiful stylistic choice in a wide variety of colonial style houses.

Natural Hardwood Flooring

Who doesn’t love a nice, rustic aesthetic? As MyDomaine points out, authentic hardwood throughout the home is a common theme in colonial style homes. So make sure to be careful moving that furniture!

Hardwood floor in a rustic-looking living room with a television mounted on the far wall.

Symmetry

Symmetrical design is a universally agreed-upon hallmark of American colonial houses. Morgan McBride points out for Rocket Homes that this often extends to window count and floor plan in addition to the exterior view of the home.

A brick rectangular home on a hill with large trees around it.

Pitched Roofs

McBride also touches on a common roofing setup in colonial style architecture. She explains that pitched roofs are the kind of roof where “you only see the triangle from the sides.” So if the stark, angular roof look of more contemporary architectural styles doesn’t strike you right: a traditional colonial roof may be just the ticket.

But why follow all the rules? You can always customize a home to include features that don’t necessarily exist together in traditional architectural styles. More on that later…!

Curious about all the different types of colonial architecture that make this style so difficult to nail down?

A Few Types of Colonial Style Houses

Colonial architecture may be big in the states, but as we mentioned at the top, it has a long history outside of North America. The names of three styles that McBride shares in her article clearly point to the fact that this aesthetic’s roots are not original to the USA.

  • Dutch Colonial
  • Spanish Colonial
  • French Colonial

Other types of colonial houses (from Upgraded Home):

  • British Colonial
  • Saltbox Style
  • Cape Cod Style
  • Georgian Style
  • Mid-Atlantic Style
  • German Colonial
  • Colonial Revival
  • Neoclassical Colonial
Two chairs at a home bar with hanging lights.

Luxury Lot for Sale in Dublin, Ohio

Dreaming of taking the best features of colonial style architecture and adding your own ideas for the perfect custom home? Why not build in one of Ohio’s most well-loved zip codes?

We have the last available lot on the world-famous Muirfield Village Golf Course awaiting the word to start building someone’s dream home. Want to swing by and check it out? 🏌️‍♂️🏌️‍♀️

Muirfield Village Golf Club Hole 13

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