What style home do you like? Terminology varies around the country regarding home styles, so here is a quick primer on types of single family homes that you will find in the towns of North Central New Jersey.
Colonial homes are perennial favorites in our area, and you do tend to pay a higher price for this style house. A colonial home is characterized by the public rooms on the first floor, and the bedrooms and bathrooms on the second floor, up a full flight of stairs. The stairs can be located in the center, or the side of the house, leading to the terms "Center Hall Colonial" and "Side Hall Colonial". There is usually a full basement, encompassing the footprint of the house, although depending upon terrain and the foundation, the basement could be smaller. Most of the older colonial homes have a detached 1 or 2 car garage, only the newer homes have attached garages. ("newer" being a very loose term, encompassing houses built in the 1950s/60s and later.)
Variations on a Colonial home are based on the outside appearance and roof line.
The Dutch Colonial style is frequently seen in this part of New Jersey, and was first built by German (or "Deutsch") settlers in Pennsylvania in the 1600s. It is characterized by a sloping gambrel roof, often with dormers, somewhat similar to a barn roof. The roof often has a large overhang, large enough to cover a front porch. The chimney is most often on the interior of the house.
The Georgian Colonial is a very formal, symmetrical style. The door is always centered, and the double hung windows are symmetrical to either side. There are often 2 chimneys, one on each side of the house. The roof line can be gable, gambrel or hip. The entrance way is often embellished, flanked with pilasters that rise to a cornice or pediment. Windows are generally of the double-hung type, and there are often dormer windows in the roofline. In this area, Georgian homes are often brick.
A variation known as a Southern Colonial is typically a Georgian design with a portico supported by slender, two story columns.
French Colonial homes are not that prevalent in this area, being more common in Louisiana, and along the Mississippi River. A true French Colonial was made of closely spaced vertical timber elements, with the areas in between filled with mortar or clay, and later, brick or stucco. Other distinctive elements include a full length porch on the front, exterior stairs climbing up to the porch, and sometimes a raised basement which elevates the main living floor of the home. This style has a distinctive roof line, which is the only element you usually see today in homes with a "French colonial" influence. The roof was often a steep hipped roof with dormers, or a side gable roof.
Homes being built today in the Colonial style tend to be larger, with a more rambling, less formal exterior appearance. The desire for large family or great rooms, at least 4 or more bedrooms, and full finished basements have grown the size of colonial homes. I call this a "Contemporary Colonial"
The Tudor style, or "Tudor Revival", has the following characteristics: walls of stucco, masonry or brick framed by distinctive half timbers, a steeply pitched roof with gables, tall narrow windows composed of many small panes (often diamond shaped), and one or more large chimneys, sometimes topped with decorative elements. The house is not symmetrical, neither outside or inside. The interior walls are often heavy plaster, sometimes applied in a swirl pattern. The living rooms often have a large stone fireplace, and some older tudors have a distinctive 2 story living space, with a smaller second floor area for the bedrooms.
In modern construction, the half timbered Tudor appearance is obtained by putting a combination of boards and stucco over a more conventional structure. Today the "timbers" may be fiber reinforced cement siding textured and painted to appear like wood. This product ages better than wood and is easier to maintain.
Victorian and Variations
Victorian homes are usually large, square, with a variety of two story bays, an occasional octagonal or round turret, and very heavily ornamented on the exterior producing a complex facade. Carvings and trimmings are applied on porch roofs, eaves and gables. These fancy trimmings are often called "gingerbread". Wrap around porches made for people watching and porch swings are often an appeal for those who like this style. On the East Coast, Victorian homes tend to be three stories tall. Some home owners like to paint these houses in multi-color hues, although that is more prevalent out west and in cities like San Francisco, than in New Jersey!
Also under the umbrella of "Victorian" can be found the Queen Anne style, which includes a dominant front facing gable, overhanging eaves, corner towers or turrets, and sometimes a second story porch or balcony. The Shingle style is characterized by plain, shingled surfaces, with the shingles often treated for a weathered look. It can have similar massing and floorplans to a colonial style, yet can also have fanciful elements such as towers or turrets, but with no applied ornament. The American Arts and Crafts movement, whose most famous proponent, Gustav Stickley, lived and worked in North/Central New Jersey, produced homes with a more rustic and "cottagey" feel, clean lines, a sturdy structure, and natural materials, often rich woods.
Cape Cod homes, as evidenced by their name, developed in New England on Cape Cod, but can now be found throughout the country. They tend to be small homes, with a steep, simple gable roof. The second story is a "half story", meaning the ceiling height is sloped underneath the roof. The original style had no dormer windows, but today two dormer windows often appear on the front facade, providing a bit more space in the two second floor bedrooms. The rear may have one shed dormer. Typical Cape Cods in our area have smallish rooms, a first floor bedroom and bath, with 2 bedrooms on either side upstairs flanking a center bathroom. If you are looking for a lower priced home, a Cape Cod may be your ideal choice. The most affordable homes in our towns are often the Cape Cod styles. While all of these homes of course have a living room and kitchen, the first floor often has 2 additional "multi-purpose" rooms which some homeowners use as a dining room, family room, or extra bedrooms as they desire.
The basic premise and advantage of a ranch is one floor living. All main living areas, kitchen, and bedrooms are on the first floor. In addition, a ranch usually has a very large basement, as it sits below the entire footprint of the home which is quite large since all rooms are on one floor. Ranches can be small, modest homes, or large, rambling and very extravagent. There are several variations on Ranches that are found in our towns.
Raised Ranch or Bi-Level
This type of home was a popular style built in the 1950s and 1960s. If you look at the photo, you can tell that in this style home, you enter onto a small entry landing which is halfway between the two stories of the home. After you enter, you walk up a half flight of stairs to the living room, dining room, kitchen and bedrooms. Or, you can walk down a half flight of stairs to a family room, sometimes an additional bedroom or office, and the garage. There is no basement in a raised ranch - the lower level with family room, garage, and usually a laundry and utility room is the lowest level of the home.
An expanded ranch is a typical ranch style home, with all main living areas, including the bedrooms, on the first floor. But the "Expanded" title arises because a second floor has been built on the home, with additional bedrooms and bathrooms. This is often an addition to the home. Sometimes the new second floor will be an expansive master suite. Other times, the master suite may be on the first floor, with additional family bedrooms built on the new level.
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