Details, Materials, and Color Palette
Colonial style in residential architecture is characterized by its traditional, symmetrical design and use of historical elements such as columns, pediments, and dormer windows. The benefits of this style include its timeless aesthetic, which today adds a sense of elegance and sophistication to a home, along with an ability to blend in with the surrounding architecture in older neighborhoods. Additionally, the symmetrical design of colonial homes creates a sense of balance and harmony, making the program intuitive and the spaces inviting and comfortable. The use of historical elements also adds character and charm to the home, making it stand out from more modern designs.
Colonial style in residential architecture typically uses a combination of natural materials such as wood, brick, and stone:
Natural Wood: Wooden elements such as clapboard siding, shutters, and elegant moldings and casings are used to enhance the traditional look of colonial-style homes.
Brick: Brick is a common material used in colonial-style homes, particularly for the chimneys and sometimes as a veneer on the exterior walls.
Stone: Fieldstone was traditionally used for the foundation, but today can be used as a detailing element for quoins, and chimneys.
Roofs were traditionally constructed of slate, but today employ more common (and economical) asphalt shingles. Roofs are most commonly gabled but can be hipped, with at least one (central) dormer and symmetrical chimneys. Windows are typically double hung with multiple panes and wood shutters. Other details such as cornices, dentil moldings, and window fanlights, can be used to add character and charm to the exterior of the home.
Interior features include hardwood floors, paneled walls, wainscotting, and fireplaces. The color palette used in colonial homes is often muted, featuring shades of white, beige, and gray.
Program and Layout
The overall layout in a colonial home is simple, functional, and efficient, and the layout of rooms is symmetrical and centered around a central hallway or foyer (also known as a hall-and-parlor plan), with rooms branching off on either side. The main entrance opens directly into the foyer, which provides access to a formal living room and dining room on either side. The foyer is anchored by a central stairway, which leads to the second floor where the bedrooms are located, with the master bedroom traditionally located at the front of the house with smaller bedrooms located at the rear. The kitchen is located on the first floor at the back of the house, along with a separate pantry and/or mudroom.
Many colonial-style homes feature a basement, which today is used for storage, laundry, or additional living space. It is worth noting that not all colonials have basements, as it depends on the region and the availability of materials and labor. Originally basements were more common in the colder climates and in the houses built with stone or brick, where they were used for storage, work spaces, or even to house livestock, grow root vegetables, or make preserves.
Era and Location
Colonial architecture can be found in the East Coast of the United States, particularly in New England, the Mid-Atlantic states, and the Southern colonies. The most notable examples are found in cities like Boston, Philadelphia, and Charleston.
Not surprisingly, Colonial architecture was most popular in the United States during the Colonial Period, which lasted from the early 1600s to the late 1700s. The colonial era saw the establishment of the first permanent European settlements in North America, including the Thirteen Colonies along the East Coast. During this period, the most common styles of colonial architecture were the First Period, or Post-Medieval English, which was popular in New England, and the Georgian style, which was popular in the Southern colonies.
In the 1600s, the first European settlers in New England built simple, one- and two-story homes using local materials such as timber and stone. As noted above, these homes featured steep gable roofs, central chimneys, and small, diamond-paned windows.
In the 1700s, the Georgian style of architecture became popular in the Southern colonies, particularly in Virginia and the Carolinas. These homes were typically larger and more elaborate than their New England counterparts, and featured symmetrical facades, central entrances, and formal, ornate interiors. Colonial and Georgian residential architecture are both styles that were popular during the colonial period in the United States. However, there are some key differences between the two styles.
Colonial architecture is a broad term that encompasses a variety of styles that were popular in the American colonies during the 17th and 18th centuries. It is characterized by simple, symmetrical designs, steep roofs, central chimneys, and (originally) small, diamond-paned windows. Colonial architecture can be found in New England, the Mid-Atlantic states, and the Southern colonies.
Georgian architecture is a specific style that was popular in the Southern colonies, particularly in Virginia and the Carolinas. It is characterized by symmetrical facades, central entrances, and formal, ornate interiors. Georgian homes are typically larger and more elaborate than their colonial counterparts, and feature formal elements such as pediments, cornices, and dentil moldings.