Greater demand than inventory is driving up prices. Markets that are seeing the steepest increases are all on the West Coast.
TOP STORY: Which Home Style Best Suits You?
Most homebuyers are happy to find a suitable place to live, given the high demand and low supply in today’s market. Other buyers, however, hold out for homes in a particular style: They must have a Colonial or a Cape Cod, a Mission, Mediterranean or a Mid-Century Modern.
Take, for example, the writer Amanda Palley. She’s in love with the Craftsman style of the early 1900s. “My uncle Michael had a great Craftsman house, and I fell in love with its amazing wood details, built-in bookshelves and giant front porch,” she writes. “I promised myself that when I grew up, I would buy myself an ‘Uncle Michael’ house.” Why do people prefer one style over another? The reasons are often personal as well as esthetic. For some, homes in particular styles evoke childhood, or, as in Palley’s case, a favorite relative.
For homebuyers who remain undecided on which home style best suits them, here is a short catalogue of some of the most popular types of residential design:
An American Favorite
With its stylistic roots in the Old World, Colonial is one of the oldest home styles in the US, remaining popular well into the 20th Century. These homes are formal looking, with symmetrical facades, centering on protruding doorways featuring columns.
The roofs of these homes are pitched, helping to protect the original Colonials against the rain and snow of New England. Inside, a central stairway typically leads to a hallway and bedrooms on the second floor.
The original Colonials were made of wood, although in places further west like Ohio and Illinois, they were built out of brick. In the South, builders raised the ceiling heights to promote ventilation.
Although the style is good-looking, it’s unclear what made Colonials so perennially popular. In earlier times, Colonial was a respectable-looking home style that owners could build themselves, relying on pictures in books rather than architects. (Architects did not exist in the US until well after the Revolutionary War.) Colonial is also durable and practical, and its square, compact shape with flat walls makes it comparatively easy for owners to add rooms to the home.
Cozy and Affordable
Perhaps no home style is as familiar to Americans as the Cape Cod. Originally from New England, “Capes” have become common across America, especially the Eastern Seaboard.
Although Capes were popular before World War II, the style became widespread in the postwar years: In the rush to create housing for returning soldiers, developers built thousands of small Capes, possibly because the style was simple and unadorned, and could be easily constructed. These affordable, 1,000 square foot homes soon became standard for suburban home building across the U.S.
The original versions of Cape Cods consisted of two rooms, a hallway and a parlor. By 1900, Cape Cod houses had separate kitchens with pantries and small bedrooms, and people began to build onto them. By the 1930’s, Capes typically had a central chimney, a living room, dining room, bedrooms, bathroom and an attached garage.
Popularizing the Shingle Style
Cape Cod-style homes are easily recognized by several design features: The fagade is often symmetrical (and because “Capes” lend themselves well to additions, many homes that started out symmetrical have taken on more complex shapes.) Roofs tend to be steeply pitched, with upright dormer windows protruding from loping, gable roofs.
Cape Cod exteriors are wood-framed and covered either in clapboard or shingles; both materials were popular as low- maintenance exterior cladding.
Like other homes dating from the pre- Revolutionary period, the original Capes had massive fireplaces located in the center of the homes, providing heat to all the surrounding rooms. Most modern Capes have fireplaces located on one side of the house, and are still considered small and cozy.
Ranches—the Classic Starter Home
Like the Cape Cod home, the relatively simple-and-straightforward Ranch house is another style that was popular with home builders. Largely invented by architect Cliff May in the 1940s and ‘50s and published in the pages of Sunset magazine and others, the original prototypes were sprawling structures, often featuring long hallways.
The Ranch concept emphasizes convenience and easy access to all parts of the house. Accordingly, nearly all Ranch homes are single-story, and tend to have large, asymmetrical footprints, unlike Capes and Colonials, which typically have two stories and are more compact.
The sprawling layout of ranch homes seemed made for suburbia, where land was cheaper than in cities and home lots were often much larger. Sometimes, designers like May arranged hallways in an L-shape at the rear of the house to provide a sort of “picture frame” to the backyard.
The Ranch style became identified with suburbia, as if buying a tiny ranch house was the gateway of entering the leisurely and privileged world of the suburbs. Although ranch homes began with a sophisticated concept, home builders liked the style because it was comparatively simple to build. Soon, small-scale ranch houses began popping up in subdivisions all over the Western U.S.
The dry climate of the Southwest lends itself to simple homes built of thick masonry walls and tile. This style of building was first seen in California during the 1700s and 1800s, during the era of the California missions.
In the early 20th Century, the Mediterranean style, together with its California cousin, the Mission Style (both built in light stucco meant to simulate stone), became popular as a nostalgic throwback to the days of the Spanish rancho. For this reason, some people still refer to Mediterranean as “Spanish style.” This simple, unadorned style soon became popular with home builders in Southern California and elsewhere, because both Mediterranean and Mission are economical to build.
Homebuyers in the early 20th Century in Los Angeles and San Diego areas embraced the style as a way of showing that they were genuine Californians, with a Mediterranean-style house and an orange tree in the front yard. This was the imagery of the California Dream circa 1910.ss
THE GAMBLE HOUSE, A ‘SYMPHONY IN WOOD’
If one word comes to mind when considering the houses of brothers Charles and Henry Greene, it is “wood.” They used lots of it, from the structure to surfaces and even the furniture they designed. Yet their use of wood is as much about quality as quantity, for they exploited the wood’s potential through craft and raised the beauty of their architecture. Easily one of their masterpieces of the California bungalow style is the Gamble House in Pasadena, CA, designed for David Gamble, an heir to the Proctor & Gamble soap empire. -John Hill, Houzz.com
Craftsman Homes Offer Rich Materials
Also dating from the early 20th Century, Craftsman homes are notable for their rich texture of materials, including field stone and intricately detailed wood construction. Craftsman homes are often called “bungalows,” which means a home with porches, often on several sides of the house. These homes are notable for low, gabled (pitched) roofs that protrude far beyond the footprint of the house, exposed wooden rafters under the eaves, wide porches suitable for sitting and large dormer windows on the front facade.
Introduced in the late 1800s and popular through the 1920s, Craftsman houses celebrate the art of home building. Fancier examples of Craftsman homes have built- in book shelves and breakfronts, large airy rooms and stained glass.
Craftsman homes are based on a design concept emphasizing both looks and comfort. In reaction to Victorian houses with their many small and poorly ventilated rooms, Craftsman houses emphasize natural light, access to the outdoors, and a more open floor plan. The deep porches provide cool and comfortable living spaces by shielding the home from the sun’s glare, while the open floor plan helps circulate air throughout the home.
Craftsman windows are among the most familiar features of these homes; they consist of large, double-sash windows, with four or six panes in the upper window sash and a single pane in the lower sash.
Prairie Style vs. Victorian
Advances in wood construction in the late 1800s, such as longer structural timbers, gave rise to tall homes with flamboyant roofs. These homes, very often designed by their owners or builders, have become known as Victorians or “Gingerbreads.” Although tasteful varieties exist of these ornate homes, such as the delicate Queen Anne, other Victorians were a hodge-podge in the interiors, with many small, cramped, uncomfortable rooms.
Partly in reaction to the Victorians, architects like Frank Lloyd Wright pioneered Prairie Style homes in the first two decades of the 1900s. These homes are horizontally oriented buildings that seem to hug the flat Midwestern landscape. Both the interiors and exteriors emphasize simplicity and a streamlined look.
Wright, who worked mostly in the first half of the 20th Century, became the most famous American architect for daring designs that went far beyond the Prairie Style. The Fallingwater House in Pennsylvania is famed for its dramatic position above a natural waterfall.
WHY I FELL IN LOVE WITH FALLING WATER
We drive for hours to get to Fallingwater in the mountains of southwestern Pennsylvania. Frank Lloyd Wright, America’s most famous architect, named and designed it, so I expected to hear falling water, but I didn’t expect to fall in love with the sound and the idea of all that moving water. The house is cantilevered from the rocks. It hangs, levitates really, like a diving board over the clamor of the waterfall. This sandstone building that unites art and nature isn’t a weekend home or even a mansion. It’s a miracle. Where water runs through your days and into your dreams.-Rebecca Allen, Orange County Register
Living in a Work of Art
Maintenance is not always routine in a Frank Lloyd Wright house, according to architect Dan Nichols, who lives in a Wright-designed home in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. His small home is not just a house, he says, it is also a work of art that needs to be honored and preserved for the future.
Nichols is among the owners of Wright homes who try to keep those properties as little changed from the originals as possible. “Since (the Wright building is) all custom made, it’s important to keep the character of the home.”
So, what’s it like to live in a work of art? Nichols is enthusiastic. The home, he says, “really is one with nature. You really get a sense of the outdoors. You notice the passing of the seasons.”
Mid-Century Modern Is the Rage
Some architectural styles go out of fashion only to return to popularity at a later time. Mid-Century Modern is an example of a Sleeping Beauty home style that became dormant and later re-awakened by a wave of mass enthusiasm.
Mid-Century Modernism has its roots in high-brow Modern Architecture, which stresses extreme simplicity in shape and the use of materials, an open floor plan and a sense of no-frills practicality. Typical materials are concrete stucco on the exterior and hand-crafted Modernist furniture on the interior, often with many built-in features, such as bookshelves.
Like other kinds of Modern Architecture, the Mid-Century style emphasized a frank expression of construction: Like the Craftsmen homes before them, the rooflines of Mid-Century homes feature over-hanging eaves supported by a row of wooden roof beams. Many Mid-Centuries also feature vaulted ceilings near the front entrance and floor-to-ceiling windows looking onto the back yard
The style came into prominence in the 1950s and ‘60s in Southern California, particularly Los Angeles and the desert resort of Palm Springs. Tastes changed and the Mid-Century style, with its square lines and sense of practicality and cost- effectiveness, was slowly phased out in favor of more popular emerging styles, such as Tuscan, which is meant to evoke farm houses in the Italian countryside, with a mix of stucco, exterior stonework and large, sunny rooms.
THE MAKING OF MODERNIST PALM SPRINGS
When the Pittsburgh department store mogul Edgar J. Kaufmann Sr. bought land in Palm Springs, he already had one world-class piece of architecture: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater in Pennsyvania. However, in 1946, he chose to commission a winter holiday home from Richard Neutra in this exclusive desert town. Neutra delivered a classic, constructing an open-plan, flat-roofed, glass-walled retreat that appears to float over the desert landscape, and in both construction and landscaping is comparable in importance to Fallingwater. -Phaidon.com
The Kaufmann House
In 1986, Vanity Fair published a spread on the now-famous Kaufmann House in Palm Springs, a 1940s house by architect Richard Neutra. It created a sensation. The house is a complex structure that emphasizes the mountain views in the desert resort, while featuring subtle transitions between indoors and outdoors.
In a short time, architecture buffs were buying Mid-Century built half a century earlier in the Coachella Valley and vigorously renovating them. Meanwhile, other communities with a rich inventory of Mid Century homes – such as Los Angeles and Phoenix – began to see renewed interest, and rising prices, in these “retro” homes.
Home styles remain a priority for home- buyers. Interested in buying a home in a classic American style? Give us a call.