See which home style meets your needs.
When it comes to residential architecture, style and layout are influenced not only by prevailing artistic tastes of the period, but also by the way people live in and use their homes. In the Victorian era of calling cards and rigorously orchestrated entertaining, small reception rooms that flowed to and from formal dining rooms were ideal. Bungalows built before World War II typically have front porches, while post-war ranches and midcentury modern homes offer more private socializing and outdoor spaces. Even if you love the look of a particular architectural style, it won’t necessarily suit your lifestyle and day-to-day needs. Here are seven of the most popular home styles you see in the U.S. today, as well as their pros and cons for contemporary residents.
Historic brownstones and row houses
While brownstones and historic row houses are a quintessential New York City housing type, they can be found throughout the country, particularly in cities founded before 1900. Their shared walls made them easy to build on small urban lots, while their multistory layouts accommodated large families and gracious reception rooms. Row houses typically feature living rooms, dining rooms and kitchens on the parlor floor, beds and baths above and occasionally an English basement apartment or added living space on the garden level. These historic homes are coveted for their architectural detail, square footage and outdoor space, but they do have their drawbacks. Their shared walls restrict windows to the front and back facades, often leaving interiors with minimal natural light. Narrow buildings can mean smaller rooms, especially bedrooms. And while backyards are standard, you will have close neighbors on both sides.
Modern and midcentury modern homes
First introduced in the 1920s by renowned architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Richard Neutra, American midcentury modern architecture is known for its minimalism, clean lines and openness. Modern home design closely embodies the idea that form follows function, and postwar innovations in construction led to the abundant use of new materials, including glass, steel and concrete, in place of traditional brick and wood. These houses earn high marks for their walls of windows and fantastic natural light, and open floor plans offer plenty of space to stretch out and entertain. On the downside, that abundant glass brings with it a certain lack of privacy, and those modern building materials can often leave interiors feeling stark and cold. Many modern homes look their best when sparsely furnished and ultra-tidy, so collectors and families with small children may struggle with keeping their midcentury modern looking magazine-ready.
There’s quite a bit of variation in so-called “bungalow architecture” in the U.S., with examples ranging from small, shingled Queen Anne homes to stucco Spanish Colonial styles with red-tile roofs. Common traits within the genre are single or one-and-a-half-story profiles and layouts that strive to maximize space within modest proportions. Grand entrances and space-stealing hallways are absent, and front doors open directly into living spaces. Built primarily between 1900 and 1930, these houses offered homeownership at an affordable price. And while those benefits ring true today, even the most charming bungalow can suffer from cramped living spaces, low ceilings and small lot sizes. These homes were constructed economically nearly a century ago, so you should expect to dole out money for modernization and upkeep or be careful in choosing a bungalow that’s already been thoroughly updated.
Popularized after World War II, ranch-style homes, often called ramblers, feature boxy, single-level layouts built on a concrete slab with low-pitched roofs and wide overhangs. They are particularly common in the West and Southwest, but can be found across the U.S. Single-story accessibility is a major selling point for ranch homes, especially for those with limited mobility or for families with young kids. Their flat, square layouts provide spacious and sunny living spaces typically with sliding glass doors that open to a rear yard, but with only one floor, you’ll find less separation between entertaining and sleeping quarters. However, ranches can seem bland compared to other architectural styles. They lack basement storage, and their low-slung roofs make them less than ideal in locales where the temperature dips below freezing.
Originally inspired by its Georgian and Palladian predecessors in Europe, American Colonial architecture can be traced back to our nation’s earliest settlements, especially in Virginia and Maryland. Today, colonial revival is a leading architectural style among both new and historic homes featuring a uniquely American combination of gabled roofs, dormers, columned entryways and center-hall layouts. In this configuration, you arrive in a central hallway flanked by formal living and dining rooms. Kitchens and family rooms are placed in the rear of the main floor with beds and baths above. Rooms are typically bright and spacious. On the other hand, those who gravitate toward open floor plans may find colonial home entertaining spaces overly compartmentalized.
Popular for most of the 19th century and the start of the 20th century, Victorian architecture in the U.S. was heavily influenced by the Industrial Revolution. Facades include machine-cut and tooled ornamentation and flourishes, asymmetrical layouts and steep gable or mansard roofs that are decorated with dormer windows. Today, the colorful Victorian homes known as the Painted Ladies in San Francisco often come to mind, but houses of this era can be found across the U.S. in a combination of many styles and influences. Victorian homes are not for the faint of heart when it comes to maintenance and upkeep. Unless you acquire a thoroughly modernized Victorian, you can expect to put some money and effort into updating systems. Ornate woodwork and fixtures require skilled tradespeople for restoration and replacement, and these homes can be drafty if windows, insulation and walls aren’t upgraded.
Not so much an architectural style as a housing type, high-rise apartments and condo buildings are the epitome of contemporary city living. Glass curtain walls deliver impeccable views, and modern construction means that systems like electrical and central air conditioning are top-notch. Within the latest luxury high-rises, residents enjoy desirable amenities, including fitness centers, roof decks, lounges, parking garages, storage and laundry facilities. However, there are downsides to living in a high-rise. Depending on the location of your apartment or condo, you could have multiple neighbors sharing walls, ceilings and floors, which makes noise and privacy a concern. Waiting for elevators is the norm with skyscraper living, and imagine walking down (and possibly back up) multiple flights of stairs if elevators need repairing. Private outdoor space is limited, and you’ll pay a premium when it is available.
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