exterior or colonial style home

The Colonial-Style House: Everything You Need To Know

Morgan McBride4-Minute Read
October 19, 2021

There are many things to take into consideration when you’re looking to buy a house. One of those factors is the style of home that you prefer. There are many popular house styles you might find on the real estate market, varying greatly depending on your location. One of these is the colonial-style home.

What Is A Colonial-Style House?

A colonial-style home usually has a simple, borderline minimalist rectangular shape. They tend to be two to three stories tall with fireplaces and brick or wood facades. Colonial homes are traditionally found on the east coast of the United States.

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Origins Of The Colonial Design Style

What most people know as traditional American colonial architecture is actually British colonial architecture, as it was originally created by colonists from Britain in the 1600s and 1700s. They were designed by colonists to be similar to the style of homes that they had back in England. This style of home rose to popularity in the American colonies, which is now considered New England or the northeastern United States.

Key Features Of A Colonial Home

While no two homes will be identical, there are a few specific identifying characteristics that home buyers can look out for when shopping for a colonial-style home.

Two Stories

Colonial homes are traditionally either two or three stories tall – never one story. They are rectangular in profile. These homes have steep roofs with gables. They are traditionally built with wood, stone or brick.

The floor plan of a colonial home usually features the kitchen and living spaces downstairs with all bedrooms upstairs. There is usually either one central fireplace or a fireplace on either end of the home.

Symmetrical Architecture

One key feature of colonial homes is symmetry. The front door is always centered and there are an equal number of windows on either side of the door. The windows are traditionally multipaned with shutters in contrasting colors.

Symmetrical Floor Plans

Colonial homes traditionally have a central hallway with symmetrical rooms on either side. Usually the formal living and dining rooms are in the front with a kitchen and family room in the rear. The bedrooms are upstairs, and spacious attics are often converted to playrooms or movie rooms. Colonial homes are generally not open-concept.

Decorative Entryways

Colonial homes often have decorative entryways. While the front door is always centered, it might have something interesting around it. Transom windows are popular to put over an entryway. Pediments are often used to create a covered porch. Some colonial homes even have columns for a more dramatic look.

Pitched Roofs

Colonial homes traditionally have pitched roofs, which means that you only see the triangle from the sides. From the front of the home, you only see shingles. When there is a third story, there are often dormer windows popping out of the roof.


Colonial homes almost always have a fireplace – if not two. A large fireplace can be centered in the rear of a home, or you can have two more standard sized fireplaces, one on either end of the home. This dates back to the pre-HVAC days when fireplaces were needed for warmth all over the house.

Multipaned Windows

Colonial homes traditionally have windows placed symmetrically across the front of the home. They have lots of small panes, giving them a grid-like look. There is usually at least one window on either side of the entry and three or five windows on the second floor, lending to the symmetrical look.

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Popularity Of Colonial-Style Homes Today

While colonial-style homes have been in the United States for hundreds of years, they are still popular today. This style seems to be timeless and well loved. colonial-style homes are most often found in the Northeastern part of the United States, though you may see similarly inspired homes anywhere.

In addition to the traditional British colonial style, there are also Dutch colonial, French colonial, and Spanish colonial homes in the United States. Each were designed by colonists from those countries to emulate the style of their homes in their native land.

These varieties of colonial homes make up some of the most popular styles in many states across the country. If you like the look of a colonial home, it is fairly likely that you can find one near you.

Dutch Colonial

Exterior of Dutch colonial house

Dutch colonial style homes were originally built in the United States by Dutch and German colonists. These homes consist of gambrel-style roofs with flaring eaves and are traditionally built from stone or brick.

French Colonial

Exterior of French Colonial house

French colonial homes were originally designed by French colonists and are most common in Illinois and Louisiana, as well as in Quebec. French colonial homes have very steep roofs with wide overhangs. They usually have stucco exteriors and lots of windows. 

Spanish Colonial

Exterior of Spanish colonial house

Spanish colonial homes are most common on the West Coast of the United States and in Florida. They often include stucco walls, red tile roofs, and interior courtyards. Windows are small and often have wrought iron grates. They are almost always one story tall.

The Bottom Line

If you live in a region where colonial homes are popular, they’re a great option. Having all bedrooms upstairs in this floor plan is typically beneficial for families with young children. The symmetrical exteriors are noncontroversial and are loved by many. If you’re interested in buying a colonial house, work with a Rocket Homes® Partner Agent to find the perfect home.

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Morgan McBride

Morgan McBride is a DIY-lover and home decor enthusiast living in Charleston, South Carolina. She has been blogging at CharlestonCrafted.com alongside her husband since 2012, where they empower their readers to craft their current home into their dream home through the power of DIY.