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What are the various types of American house styles found in New Jersey?

  • Posted Feb 1, 2021

Just about every type of American architectural home style can be found in New Jersey. Yep, the Garden State has it all:

If you’ve just started your journey toward buying a new house, you’re on an exciting and challenging adventure. There is much to learn about the housing market in New Jersey.

Enjoy the journey. Within a short time, your education will offer new appreciation of this wonderful market—including, as you’ll find by searching house listings at NJMLS.com, a dazzling collection of different types of houses.

You may have already asked yourself, “which home style do I see myself living in?” Or you may be more concerned right now with more pressing questions, like “how much can I afford?” “where do I want to live?” and “when do I want to move?” But sooner or later, “which home style do I like?” needs answering.

Your local real estate agent can be a great resource in helping to answer this question. After all, it’s part of their job to know about different home styles, and they’re happy to discuss them. With all of New Jersey’s unique house style personalities, learning about them is one of the most enjoyable components of home shopping.

How does New Jersey’s geography influence home styles in the state?

Upon examining New Jersey’s geographical makeup, it isn’t surprising that its degree of diversity supports a wide range of house styles. The Garden State belongs to the small collection of states that boast a shoreline, mountain range, pine lands, river valleys, urban centers and rolling countryside—all located within the borders of one of the nation’s smallest states.

Since many house styles reflect the community they “live in”, it’s easy to align the variety of geographical regions with the vast collection of home styles the state supports—cabins in the mountains, Mediterranean-style homes near the shore.

Proving there is something for everyone, the rich variety of home styles is good news for home-buyers. Perhaps the only downside of having so many options could be choosing from the dizzying number and array of styles.

What New Jersey’s history tells us about its real estate variety: from Colonial style houses to Ranch style houses, and more.

As much as the state’s geographical features help explain its vast diversity of home styles, New Jersey’s rich and productive history also plays a significant role. One needs only to stroll through certain neighborhoods or historic districts to see how history has influenced the local housing stock, character and personality of the state’s towns and cities. Consider the Victorian brownstones built for magnates of industry around Jersey City’s Hamilton Park, or the Classical Revival and Art Deco gems erected in Paterson’s downtown after the “Great Fire” in 1902.

Influential time periods in New Jersey architectural history

  • Wealthy New Jersey settlers in the 17th century influenced the American Colonial architecture. Depending on their country of origin, these early residents built houses in the Federal, Dutch, French and Spanish sub-types of the Colonial home style.
  • Built in the early 1800s through the 1900s, Victorian cottages, houses and mansions throughout the area capture a bygone age of elegance and sophistication aligned with the reign of Queen Victoria in England, as well as fortunes built during the industrial revolution.
  • After a modest start in the 1930s, ranch style homes exploded in neighborhoods throughout New Jersey at the end of WWII. The efficiencies and amenities of these houses, as well as Cape Cods, Craftsman and Post-Modern styles found in sprawling suburban neighborhoods represent baby boomers’ desire for an easier life.
  • Bustling urban centers, including high-rise residential architecture, townhomes and condominiums—many built in the last 20 or 30 years—are largely influenced by a more recent influx of city-dwellers from Philadelphia and New York.
  • Additionally, the state’s prevailing independent spirit has produced 565 separate municipalities. Embedded into many of these individual towns, cities and boroughs are distinct communities whose individual personalities determine myriad neighborhoods with a host of home styles.

Every House For Sale showcases a House Style!

The style of a house determines how it looks from the outside, how it functions inside and its overall personality. The fact that New Jersey boasts almost every home style known in America is an accomplishment that few states can claim.

The following list of the most common home styles in the New Jersey real estate market highlights the state’s diverse housing stock:

American Foursquare
With a name defined by neither an inspiration nor an historical origin, Foursquare tells it all: the shape is cube-like with four walls. Its square structure holds two full floors with an attic. Popular between the 1890s and the 1930s, the American Foursquare was a favored home style for America’s growing middle class. It was cheaper to build than its Victorian predecessors and for the money, offered a roomy living space.

The Cabin home style is divided into two groups. For hundreds of years, the rustic, one-room, primitive style cabins, hand-built by owners, still show up in the mountains or heavily wooded regions of New Jersey. The contemporary cabin provides a more expansive, feature-rich dwelling for occupants as their secondary or primary residence in rural and suburban settings. Both cabin styles use logs, milled or raw, for both the exterior and interior.

Cape Cod
Typically one story, this classic mainstay of suburban communities is named after the Massachusetts coastline where English settlers first built clapboard-sided homes with fairly small footprints. During a second period of popularity in the 1950s, many homeowners added a full or half story, dormers, extra trim and/or additions to the side or back of their Cape Cod houses.

Arguably one of the most popular home styles in American and New Jersey, American colonial home styles derive from the British or Georgian architecture prevalent in colonial times. Usually two or three stories, with fireplaces, dormers, brick or wood facades and a central door, the Colonial style grew to include a number of subsets, influenced by settlers from several other countries as well as uniquely American modifications: Dutch Colonial, French Colonial, Spanish Colonial, Colonial Revival and Neoclassical Colonial, to name a few.

Contemporary, Modern and Post Modern
Though Contemporary and Modern are used interchangeably, there are differences between these two home styles. A timeline would show the Modern and Post Modern styles introduced around 1940 through 1970, while Contemporary homes continue to evolve. Open floor plans, irregular shapes, exposed beams and flat roofs contribute to simple forms and geometric lines with a purposeful lack of ornamentation. Often experimental, seldom do two Contemporary homes look alike.

Cottage (English)
Modest homes of European origin, usually faced with stone or wood, cottages exude a cozy old-world charm. Though not part of the suburban swell of the 1950s style house, present day adaptations of the cottage are now seen in almost all environments. Original cottages may have used raw earth materials like straw for thatched roofs and wooden planks for flooring. Even the new “mock” cottages stay true to the original small footprints and simple floor plans characteristic of the cottage style.

The Arts and Crafts movement of the early 20th century gave birth to the Craftsman home style during the 1910s to 1930s. Its comeback today testifies to its enduring qualities. Also known in its variations as the Mission, Bungalow and Stickley home style, Craftsman style homes share common elements like abundant interior woodwork (such as built-in bookcases), low-pitched roofs with wide eave overhangs, and colors of earthy greens, rusty oranges and browns.

True to its name, the Farmhouse home style is often found on large acreages of land, occupied by farmers. For centuries, unpretentious farmhouses had simple open floor plans with minimal ornamentation. Over time, design elements borrowed from the Victorian and Colonial styles included tall windows and wrap-around porches.

Greek Revival
Ancient Greece and Rome are the inspirations for the classical architectural home style know as Greek Revival. Still found in many communities of Northern Europe, the term Greek Revival was first titled in 1842. True to the advanced skills of engineering and construction of the Greco-Roman world, the Greek Revival home style is one of the longer lasting styles that still see popularity in new communities today. With a full appreciation of parallels (at the time, new to the modern world), Greek Revivals are known for their large columns, stucco exterior surfaces and classical ornamental details.

Though geographically tied to Greece, don’t confuse the Mediterranean style with Greek Revival. Influenced by homes in the Mediterranean, its American popularity started in Southern California in the 1920s and 1930s. Known for their low-pitched red tile roofs, detailed grillwork and stucco or adobe exterior surfaces, a Mediterranean home features arches (inside and out), a courtyard, fountain and gardens. Central to all Mediterranean homes are floor plans that promote cross ventilation for cooling fresh air throughout the house.

Found in almost every state, Ranch homes are one of the most popular home styles in America. Started in the 1930s, its popularity exploded after World War II. Flush with energy, jobs and low mortgages from the GI bill, Americans sought the American dream—including a house with a carport or garage. Traditional Ranches have simple floor plans and efficient use of living spaces. Easily engineered to be expanded with additions, the Ranch home style evolved into two subsets of Split Level style homes: the Bilevel and Trilevel.

Row House
Also known as Town Houses, the first characteristic of the Row House style is that the homes are built directly next to one another. In the early 19th century, with the rapid pace of immigration to America, blocks of Row Houses populated large areas of urban communities. With a narrow footprint of around 20 feet wide, the Row House style usually has three to four levels. As urban migration continues today, Row Houses remain relevant–enjoying new development in New Jersey cities lining the Hudson, Passaic and Delaware rivers.

If you love details and embellishments, the Victorian home style belongs on your list. Beginning in the early 1800s during the reign of Queen Victoria, their popularity rose with the growing middle class. Larger and more elaborate homes, Victorians normally have irregular floor plans, turrets, scrolls and overhangs. Variations include: Queen Anne, Romanesque and Gothic Revival. Additional features most Victorians share are lacy woodwork (Gingerbread Style) and several combinations of exterior colors, giving rise to the term “Painted Lady.”

A house listing provides details like price and location. To find specific home styles that match your lifestyle, nothing beats working with an NJMLS REALTOR® Member.

At some point in your home buying journey, you’ll start a list of likes and dislikes. You’ll picture yourself living in a particular style of house and decide what fits you and what doesn’t.

There are so many considerations, including home style options, related to your final selection and your decision to make an offer on a house. Price, location, number of bedrooms and neighborhood are but a few. One thing is certain, everyone has their own style. Find yours at NJMLS.com