This guide provides general descriptions of the architectural styles of homes and buildings found across America. There are overlapping brackets of time and many interior and exterior colors, used, interchangeably, were popular in more than one era.
These descriptions and color lists serve as a springboard to what is possible when painting a buildings exterior, trim, interior walls and floors as well as details like accents, decorative stenciling and overlays.
Using this guide and the Historic Colors of America, homeowners and professionals can create the effect of a given historic period while applying variations to suit personal tastes.
The early colonists arriving in the New World from Europe brought with them the prevailing architectural styles and building practices of their native countries. Most colonial dwellings built during the 1600s might be classified as folk houses if they did not so strongly reflect the distinctive traditions of their countries of origin. Old World practices persisted in Colonial empires well beyond the end of European rule.
Original Colonial styles were built primarily along the east coast, gulf coast and portions of the southwest. They were built before the era of industrialization, and unaltered examples have a characteristic handmade quality in such details as doors, windows, brickwork or siding. The most characteristic Colonial house is usually a one or two-story box, two rooms deep with symmetrical windows. Many examples of Colonial houses survive today and are among the most popular styles of American building.
|Shaker Red||English Bartlett||Bold Bolection||Parsnip||Ginger Root||Rawhide|
|Cogswell Cedar||Tailors Buff||Newport Indigo||Langdon Dove||Portobello||Chocolate|
|Pumpkin||Blonde Lace||Wainscot Green||Pettingill Sage||Tankard Gray||Quincy Granite|
|Knightley Straw||Meetinghouse Blue||Blue Winted Teal||Burnished Pewter||Otis Madeira||Vinal Haven|
|Asian Jute||Lexington Blue||Philips Green||Milkweed||Liberty||Polished Pewter|
|Georgian Yellow||Standish Blue||Warren Tavern||Pitch Pine||Burnt Umber||Redrock Canyon|
|Farmhouse Ochre||Tory Blue||Sayward Pine||Nankeen||Wooden Nutmeg||Wooly Thyme|
The federal style was the dominant style of the new Republic. During this period the population tripled in size and expanded to the west and south. The style was most concentrated in prosperous port cities of the eastern seaboard in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, New York, South Carolina and Georgia. Diversity of spatial planning found in interiors of the period reflected the style of Robert Adam, the gifted English architect who also popularized design elements such as swags, garlands and urns.
The Federal or Adam style is characterized by symmetry, lightness and delicacy. One of the earliest examples of this style was the ceiling in the Mount Vernon dining room, executed for George Washington in 1775. In general, Federal houses may be rectilinear and boxlike, with perhaps an elliptical fanlight over the front door and sidelights flanking the door. Door trim may include thin columns or pilasters and curved or octagonal projections may reveal the shape of interior rooms. Also characteristic are curving steps and windows recessed within arches. The roof is often concealed behind a balustrade.
|Stagecoach||Barrett Quince||Lucinda||Bristol Green||Wild Oats||Pettingill Sage|
|India Trade||York Bisque||Bulfinch Blue||Longfellow||Parsnip||Burnt Umber|
|Pumpkin||Lyman Camellia||Citadel Blue||Viscaya||Langdon Dove||Wooden Nutmeg|
|Knightley Straw||Woodstock Rose||Meetinghouse Blue||Green Bonnet||Jackson Antique||Quincy Granite|
|Asian Jute||Mountain Laurel||Tory Blue||Wainscot Green||Phelps Putty||Vinal Haven|
|Georgian Yellow||Rundlet Peach||Amelia||Grasshopper||Bayberry Wax||Curry|
|Farmhouse Ochre||Tudor Ice||Morning Dew||Boardman||Sandy Bluff||Rain Barrel|
|English Bartlett||Appleton||Coral Springs||Jewett White||Flaxen Field|
The Greek Revival period began and ended in this country with public buildings built in Philadelphia. One of the most familiar icons of American architecture is the full-colonnaded Greek Revival mansion of the southern states with its large veranda or living porch. The front-gabled house was popularized in the early nineteenth century and became the predominant form of urban houses in the northeast and Midwest well into the twentieth century.
The classical temple form with a portico across the entire front and the roof ridge running from front to back, is employed for buildings of all kinds and size including cottages. Dormers are rare and roofs are generally gabled or of low pitch. The front door is typically surrounded by narrow sidelights with a row of transome lights above. The most common types of ornament are the anthemion and the Greek fret, wide pilasters and deep, heavy cornices. Wooden buildings were invariably painted white.
|Danish Pine||Canyon Gold||Amish Green||Jewett White|
The styles that were popular during the long reign of Britains Queen Victoria are generally referred to as Victorian. Growth of railroads and industrialization led to changes in mass production and shipping of house components, while the development of mechanized saws and lathes let to a profusion of wooden ornament. The extravagant use of complex shapes and elaborate detailing are clearly reflected in these landmark houses.
Late Victorian styles of this period, also known as Stick and Queen Anne, became intertwined and tend to overlap each other. Characteristics such as multicolored walls, asymmetrical facades, and steeply pitched roofs are common features. Dwellings were built with every conceivable type of trim including wooden lacework, patterned shingles, porches and towers with conical roofs. Roofs are often complex with cross gables, conical turrets, dormers and decorative brackets beneath eaves. Finials and crestings were frequently used to decorate the roofs ridges.
|Beetroot||Knightley Straw||Biloxi Blue||Newbury Moss||Winter Meadow||Bargeboard Brown|
|Madder||Asian Jute||Bowen Blue||Picholine||Coastal Sand||Fieldstone|
|Covered Bridge||Georgian Yellow||Muted Mulberry||Amish Green||Britches||Vermont Slate|
|Alden Till||Goldenrod||Concord Grape||Baize||Toffee||Curry|
|Flowering Chestnut||Farmhouse Ochre||Plum Island||Gedney Green||Giner Root||Redrock Canyon|
|Roseland||English Bartlett||Cottage Green||Pointed Fir||Maple||Cummings Oak|
|Codman Claret||Gable Green||Marrett Apple||Brattle Spruce||Bean Pot||Wooly Thyme|
|Stagecoach||Tailors Buff||Whispering Willow||Winter Balsam||Palomino||Sturgis Gray|
|Richardson Brick||Blonde Lace||Brookside||Moss Glen||Brownstone||Hazelwood|
|Portsmouth Spice||Robins Egg||Veranda Blue||Sayward Pine||Burnt Umber||China Aster|
|Clementine||Glacier Bay||Warren Tavern||Pettingill Sage||Hickory Nut||Pumpkin|
This was the dominant style for domestic building throughout the country during the first half of this century. Early examples of Colonial Revival buildings were rarely historically correct copies, but rather free interpretations inspired by colonial precendents. Pure copies of colonial houses are far less common than are eclectric mistures.
Features commonly identified with Colonial Revival houses include a balanced facade, front doorways with sidelights, fanlights, crown moldings and prediments. They are typically accentuated with pilasters, porticos or columns to emphasize the front entrance. Windows are normally symmetrically balanced with double hung sashes and multiple panes in one or both sashes. Roofs may be hipped, side-gabled, center-gabled or gambrel style.
|Codman Claret||Lucinda||Seal Blue||Melville||Yarmouth Oyster||Vinal Haven|
|Andover Cream||Bulfinch Blue||Volute||Venetian Glass||Parsnip||Monument Gray|
|Pale Organza||Emily||Asher Benjamin||Newbury Moss||Langdon Dove||Fieldstone|
|Emma||Portsmouth Blue||Beauport Aubergine||Gedney Green||Portobello||Gropius Gray|
|Lady Banksia||Rocky Hill||Hawthorne||Pointed Fir||Hitching Post|
|Jonquil||Winter Harbor||Elise||Jewett White||Tyson Taupe|
|Appleton||Saxton Blue||Cottage Green||Plymouth Beige||Quincy Granite|
For brochures, color cards and more information, please visit your nearest F&H store. Use our Store Finder, located at the top of this page, or contact us.
American Architecture Since 1780, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England: The M.I.T. Press, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1976
Foley, Mary Mix
The American House, New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1980
McAlester, Virginia and Lee
A Field Guide to American Homes, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984
Phillips, Steven J.
Old-House Dictionary, Lakewood, CO: American Source books, 1989
Old House Journal, A magazine containing articles on restoring and maintaining old houses; product Advertising. Two Main Street Gloucester, MA 01930. Subscriptions: (800) 234-3797, Back Issues: (508) 281-8803
Traditional Building Magazine, The Professionals Source for Historical Products 69A Seventh Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217, Phone (718) 636-0788, online @ www.traditional-building.com