Over the years I have accumulated a number of books dealing with various elements of the home. Books on kitchens, baths, basements, built-ins, electric, plumbing, costs, codes and so forth – reference books if you will.  One of my favorite books in this library is a slim(ish) volume called The Visual Dictionary of American Domestic Architecture by Rachel Carley.

In it, and together with illustrators Ray Skibinski and Ed Lam, Carley paints American Architecture in 12 chapters. What I love most about it, and making convenient sense of the book’s title – I can easily find my way to both representative drawings and the (American) origins of many of the architectural elements still employed in building today.

Why Learn the Historical Architectural Elements?

Well – beyond satisfying the building geek in, well, me, it (and the others) have helped, pretty simply, with my learning of “the language.”

The Language of Architecture

Moxilian, Constructionese. Yeah, idk.  But I do know – when building, remodeling or even when owning a home, we must speak it fluently. We use it when communicating with our contractors, our suppliers, architects and designers, with the lady at the permit office and even with the dude at the home center.

It contains thousands of words and phrases, a lot of proper names and yes, maybe even some slang. “Slap some mud on that knee wall.” “Where can I find your HardiBacker?” “We’ll be dried in after we set that Palladian.” “Give me a Craftsman style trim.”  Maybe you can offer some of your own, in fact I welcome your comments. But learning it is lifelong endeavor and often still happens on the fly.


A good place to start, I think, is knowing first off what style of home you live in (or in some cases, what style of home you want to live in) and the terms that you might find associated with that style. The easy indicators (or clues) come from looking at the roof, the siding, and the interior trim detail.  But the easiest may in fact be simply looking at the windows.

As I reported last year, Andersen (yes, Windows and Doors) had released a Home Style Library. In it, the company defines ten major American Home Styles, to which packages are then presented. And I’ll admit it – now, on being offered related content, this post was born.

A Visual Guide to (10) American Home Styles (Windows)

Note: Click any image to enlarge.

* American Farmhouse

The American Farmhouse home style is influenced by Colonial and Victorian styles, features tall, narrow double-hung windows, bay windows and window groupings, and 2-over-2 grille patterns.

American Home Style :: Farmhouse

* Craftsman Bungalow

Craftsman Bungalow home styles developed from the British Arts & Crafts movement, featuring double-hung or casement window, exterior trim that contrasts with the window frame color, and grille patterns that create vertical proportions. (Learn more about the Craftsman Style, here: Craftsman Key Features. Learn more about the historical significance of the Bungalow (at least in my locale), Baltimore.)

Would This Article Also Help?  The Tip of the Rowhome: Baltimore's Cornices and Working with Aluminum Coil Stock

American Home Style :: Craftsman Bungalow

* French Eclectic

The French Eclectic home style features combination of French architectural styles. It was popularized by soldiers returning from WWI. Key features include tall, steeply pitched, hipped or gabled roofs, and vertically oriented windows with grilles.

American Home Style :: French Eclectic

* Georgian/Federal

The Georgian/Federal home style is a variation of colonial architecture, features tall double-hung windows simple window combinations and multiple divided lights with rectangular grilles.

American Home Style : Georgian Federal

* Modern

The Modern home style has flat roofs and simple lines, features casement windows that combine in long ribbons, aligning windows/doors for clean look, and no grilles in windows or doors.

American Home Style :: Modern

* Prairie

The Prairie home style is the first architecture of American origin; features casement windows that combine in horizontal shapes, brown, red and rust window trim colors, and art glass or Prairie grilles.

American Home Style :: Prairie

* Queen Anne (aka Victorian)

The Queen Anne home style emerged during Victorian era (1880-1910), features gables, bay windows, towers and overhangs, double-hung windows often with art glass, and grille patterns create geometric shapes.

American Home Style :: Victorian

* Ranch

The Ranch or rambler home style is a single-story, long and narrow architecture, features casement or double-hung windows flanking a large picture window, and horizontal grilles or no grilles.

American Home Style :: Ranch

* Spanish Colonial

The Spanish Colonial home style features a combination of Spanish home styles, stucco walls, balconies, patios, casement windows and French doors, and tall, narrow windows with rectangular grilles.

American Home Style : Spanish Colonial

* Tudor

The Tudor home style is based on English folk/late medieval palaces. It features asymmetrical-style architecture, window frames tend to be dark wood tones, and rectangular or diamond-shaped grilles.

American Home Style :: Tudor


More Moxie: To learn more about the Home Style Library >> http://www.andersenwindows.com/home-styles/ and for further help with deciphering the language used in construction >> The Visual Dictionary of American Domestic Architecture (on Amazon).  For more on these and other popular home styles, a post from This Old House – American House Styles.

Images with permission.

Thanks and a good one. ~jb