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Architectural Styles (Exterior)

By: Brian Albrecht
Posted: Jan 14th, 2021

At the risk of being ostracized and harassed by the architectural community for generalizations, inaccuracies, and horrible ideas, we are going to attempt to give a general overview of the various styles of architecture that many homes fall within. The reason we are looking to go about this clarification is due, in large part, to most clients using architectural terminology in ways that mean something different to us than it does to them which causes miscommunications and issues down the line when we are trying to determine what style they are after.

In the Dayton region, a fairly traditional town when it comes to architectural style, the most common styles we see are Craftsman, Tudor, Colonial, French Country, Rustic Modern, and the occasional Modern/ Contemporary home. While there are dozens of different architectural styles, each of which could take a doctorate to fully vet and discuss, we will stick to those that are most common in this area. Keep in mind that many of these styles blend together in some respects, utilizing similar elements, but it is the combination of these elements that comprises the entire overall look and style. Once you’ve selected a style, some architects or historians might tell you that you must stick to the formula that has been set for that style. We would argue that the vast majority of homes and architecture pull from various inspirations to create new and beautiful compositions. In the end, your home is your home and it is up to you what will make you happy as you pull into the driveway each night.

Yellow Double Form


Craftsman, or American Craftsman, is a style that is almost exclusively residential, and is easily one of the top styles in the Dayton area. The style dates back to the early 1900s and was a popular choice among the old Sears Catalogue house kits. The Craftsman style typically features lower pitched roofs (usually gables), deeper roof overhangs, shingles or siding as a predominant wall cladding that is paired with stone, double-hung windows, and simple tapered columns. The style also typically includes some manner of ornamentation in the form of brackets and a front porch that acts as a focal point of the front elevation. It was also typical for a Craftsman house to be a single story, or, if it had a second story, it would only be articulated by dormers on the front of the home making it more of a story and a half.

Craftsman style home showing many quintessential details. Home built by R.A. Rhoads.

With the advancement of modern materials and using concrete or composite siding and trim,the required maintenance on the craftsman style has dropped considerably over the past decade. However, it is still a style that features a substantial amount of painted cladding and trim which will need to be refinished every 7-10 years.


Tudor architecture is a style that was part of the Medieval movement. It was most commonly found and developed in England in the 1500s and was a favorite of the English aristocracy during that period. It is a common style in the Oakwood neighborhood of Dayton but is rare to see as newly-built construction these days due to it being both an expensive style to build, as well as requiring a fair amount of upkeep.

The main characteristics of the Tudor style are stucco walls with timber or wood trim ornamentation, steep gable roofs that were frequently slate and accentuated by dormers, brick chimneys with elaborate brickwork, and groupings of windows that were often tall and narrow in proportion. These features were often accompanied by stone at the base of the home, with the stucco and wood ornamentation on a second floor which projected out from the first level.

1929 Tudor style home. Home interior remodeled and exterior maintenance done by Albrecht Wood Interiors in 2015.

While the slate roof offers a roof that will last a lifetime (but at a substantial initial investment), the stucco and wood trim details of the Tudor style will require consistent maintenance, and depending on the amount of ornamentation, can be costly to upkeep.

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Colonial architecture is a style found predominantly on the east coast of the United States, but can be found across the entire country. The colonial style includes many more niche styles beneath its umbrella,including Georgian, French Colonial, Spanish Colonial, and Dutch Colonial. Colonial is a clean and simple style while still being traditional in feel and execution, which is what often attracts people to it. Many of the “Farmhouse” style homes that are popular today take the colonial style as the baseline for their appearance, and with some subtle tweaks, achieve a more casual version of colonial.

Colonial home showing symmetry and simplicity. Home renovated by Morris Renovations in Minnesota.
Yellow Double Form
Brick colonial home. Photo credit to Southern Living Homes, builder and designer unknown.

Colonial homes have a few large-scale characteristics that greatly influence the overall look of the home. Colonial homes are never a single story; always two, and sometimes three stories tall. They are almost always rectangular and simple in shape, with symmetry being the driving force for the overall exterior. That simple shape yields a simple roofline which is typically a gable, further simplifying the front facing elevation. Beyond these larger features, the style often has siding as the main cladding, but can also be predominantly brick or stone, multipaned windows flanked by shutters, and large brick or stone chimneys.

This style can range in overall cost and upkeep fairly substantially depending on the choices made. With an exterior that is predominantly siding, the increased upkeep can be considerable, while a brick exterior offers an almost maintenance free cladding option. The simplicity of the shape can also be a positive when it comes to overall cost and upkeep as complexity often drives the price up fairly quickly.

French Country

French Country is a style that was incredibly popular between the two world wars as soldiers returned from France having seen the homes in the French countryside. Unfortunately, this style does not lend itself to smaller homes, and as such, is most frequently seen in more affluent areas.

The style features balance, which may manifest as symmetry (but not always), steep hip roofs,tall windows with the second story often being arched, and exteriors that are frequently stone or a simple brick. On a more detailed level, to achieve the overall balance of the style, homes typically have two chimneys on either end of the house, and any windows on the second level are always aligned with those on the first. French Country homes always pull their color palettes from nature, so they are frequently beige or gray in their overall color.

Quintessential French Country style home complete with slate roof and copper spouting. Photo credit to IDX Real Estate, builder and location unknown.

The cost implications of the French Country style depend on how true you wish to be to the standard. In true French Country architecture, the roofs are slate, and the gutters and trim are most often copper. While these two features do add a fair amount to the overall aesthetic of the home, they also add a substantial amount to the overall cost. However, beyond the initial investment, the French Country style offers an exterior that is, for the most part, as close to maintenance free as a home can be (especially if you splurge for the slate roof and copper spouting).

Rustic Modern

“Rustic Modern” is a fairly new term used to describe the blending of modern elements with a more natural and rustic feel. A more traditionally rustic home featured individual rooms, often times smaller in scale, and never shied away from the rough and grating textures of many of the elements. With Rustic Modern, the style seeks to compliment the clean, simple forms and lines of modern, with the warmth and textures of more rustic materials. In this style, the designer frequently lets the materials do the work for them. The design is simple and elegant, allowing the character of the wood and stone to act as the dominant features. Exteriors are almost always stone with shake shingles or siding, and often times feature some form of timber-frame aesthetic.

Rustic modern home with stone and composite shake shingle cladding with timber-frame brackets and details. Home built by R.A. Rhoads.

With the Rustic Modern style, the choice is frequently whether to use a real wood or composite on the exterior when it comes to the siding or shake shingle cladding. While the real wood offers as lightly more authentic look, it also comes with substantially more maintenance and decreased lifespan. The composite, however, will require it to be painted, which means a more even overall aesthetic and color to the exterior, which, in the case of Rustic Modern, may, or may not, be the aesthetic you are looking to achieve. No matter which direction you go, there will always be upkeep on the trim and non-stone cladding of the exterior, it just depends on how much time and money you are willing to invest to ensure the exterior of the home stays looking great.

Modern and Contemporary

The terms “modern” and “contemporary” are oftentimes used interchangeably when discussing the style that someone is looking to achieve. However, they are not synonymous. Modern architecture is a distinct and unique style with certain characteristics, while Contemporary architecture simply refers to the architecture being built today (which is always changing and may draw on styles of the past beyond Modern). If you tell your builder you would like a Contemporary home, they will most likely assume you mean Modern, but there may be elements that you have seen used in contemporary design that do not apply to the Modern aesthetic, and as such, it is something that is important to distinguish.

Modern architecture is predominantly minimalist. It features clean, straight lines that emphasize horizontal and vertical rectangular interlocking forms, which often means flat, or very low sloped roofs with deep overhangs. Modern also embraces man-made materials with concrete floors, exposed steel and concrete block, and large expanses of glass. This does not mean there is no use of natural materials in the modern aesthetic, however, there is an emphasis on the “honesty” of the material which means woods are frequently stained rather than painted and brickwork is never complicated or ornamental, using the materials as the aesthetic at their most base level.

Modern home emphasizing horizontal with low-slope roofs, horizontally proportioned windows, and elongated stone facade. Home built by R.A. Rhoads.

While the simplicity of the modern aesthetic is what drives its beauty, it should also be noted that its simplicity is also what drives its price. As mentioned previously, colonial architecture’s simplicity helps lower the overall price of construction, however, that is not the case with modern. Modern uses a minimalist aesthetic, but not a minimalist form, meaning it’s interlocking forms create a lot of overhangs, floating spaces, recesses, and overall a lot of edges and corners which emphasize the vertical and horizontal lines that the style is known for. All of these vertical and horizontal lines add cost; especially when they are the focal point of the aesthetic. While in other styles a line might undulate slightly, it will never be noticed amongst the myriad of details that surround it. In modern, if a line is not nearly perfect, it will almost certainly draw attention as there is little else beyond the lines created to draw your eye away from the imperfection. It is this, near perfection of lines, that drives the overall aesthetic of the style, while also driving the cost.

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