Cape Cod-style house.

What Is A Cape Cod House?

Morgan McBride4-Minute Read
February 14, 2022

The Cape Cod design has been popular since the 17th century when Puritan colonists first built their homes. These settlers began building homes similar to the English cottage-style homes that they left behind in their home country, and adapted them slightly to work with New England’s climate.

Many of the key characteristics of a Cape Cod-style home were designed to accommodate New England’s winter weather. The steep roofs, for example, use gravity to unload large amounts of snow accumulation. The low roofs and window shutters help keep warmth in during long, cold winters.

Colonial-style homes grew to be in-demand during a Colonial Revival period in the 1920s and 1930s. These homes were marketed as simple and comfortable and were very popular with soldiers returning home after World War II.

Characteristics Of Cape Cod Architecture

The classical American design of a Cape Cod home is easy to recognize. Most are one-and-a-half-story houses that have a box-like exterior and feature a steep gabled roof with dormer windows.

Other exterior features that are common amongst Cape Cod-style homes include:

  • Wood shingles or clapboard siding
  • Central chimney
  • A main front door
  • Symmetrical windows
  • Front and rear dormers

Types Of Cape Cod Homes

A Cape Cod is a rectangular-shaped two-story home with a symmetrical floor plan and a center entry hallway. The ground floor consists of four major rooms on the first floor, with a bathroom. The living room is usually on one side of the entrance, and the dining room on the other, with the kitchen at the back. An extra room in the rear provides flexible space and can be used as a family room or an additional bedroom. The second floor of a Cape Cod can have between two and four bedrooms, depending on the size of the house, and usually one to two bathrooms.

While all similar, there are four different styles of Cape Cod homes that are most often found in America:

Quarter Cape

A quarter cape home features a single door and single window on the front of a small home. The quarter cape is the smallest of the four variations and is the original version of the Cape Cod floor plan. This small version is much less common with modern Cape Cod-style homes.

Half Cape (or called a Single Cape)

This style of Cape Cod home features a door on one side and two windows on the other. This was the traditional “starter” home for English settlers. The settlers would often go on to put additions onto the home over time, transforming it into a three quarters or full Cape.

Three Quarters Cape

Three quarters Cape homes feature a front door on one side of the home with two windows on one side of the door and one window on the other side of the door. The three quarters Cape is a more historical layout that isn’t seen in today’s homes. This style was often a result of a half Cape receiving an addition on one side.

Full Cape (or called the Double Cape)

The full cape features a centered front door with two windows on each side of the door. The full Cape is the largest and most modern version of a colonial-era Cape Cod home. This style is what was most often built with the Cape Cod Revival and is still very popular today.

Why Are Cape Cod-Style Homes So Popular?

There are many characteristics that make Cape Cod-style homes particularly appealing, from their charming scale to the cozy rooms. Cape Cod-style homes are very attractive from the front, with a steep gabled roof line that usually boasts dormers, adding to the eye appeal of the home. Most commonly there are two windows on the second floor in the front of the house, one for both front bedrooms. Often the rear of the house has two dormers, as well, to offer the same for upstairs bedrooms.

Smaller Cape Cods are an affordable option for many first-time homeowners looking to buy a house that optimizes its living space. These homes make a great starter home because they have ample room for expansion, allowing additions off the sides or the rear.

The first floor layout of Cape Cods is popular with home buyers, too. These homes usually include a living room, dining room, kitchen, and a flex room around a central staircase. The flex room can be especially popular with home buyers with families looking for extra room to spread out.

Where Are Cape Cod Houses Found?

Cape Cod houses were originally built in Massachusetts before spreading into other parts of New England, like upstate New York and coastal Maine. You can even find a variation of this home style today throughout the Midwest and West Coast. These homes are most popular in areas that experience harsh winters due to their low ceilings and steep roof, which are beneficial during severe winter weather.

The Bottom Line

Cape Cod-style homes have been hugely popular for over a century. They have beautiful curb appeal, a functional layout, and practical features for cold weather climates. These characteristics make them a great starter home or long-term family home.

Whether you’re looking for a Cape Cod house – or any style that strikes your fancy – why not get started on the first step today? Start looking at homes in your area on Rocket HomesSM today. Learn more about the home buying process by finding a local agent.

Morgan McBride

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