What Is a Traditional-Style House?

Exterior of traditional home
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As the name suggests, traditional-style homes are inspired by, well, tradition. Rather than sticking to a single, specific blueprint, traditional homes mix and match characteristics of multiple historic architectural styles, primarily those of the 17th and 18th centuries. 

What Is a Traditional-Style Home?

A traditional-style home is the most popular style of home in the U.S. today. The style is a mix of classic elements pulled from home's past with modern elements of home design. Common elements of this style include symmetrically placed windows, simple rooflines, and modest details.

The History of Traditional-Style Houses

In most cases, “traditional” houses built during the 20th century will mix various elements drawn from colonial, farmhouse, and neoclassical styles. That being said, many “modern” traditional homes will incorporate contemporary interpretations of historic elements. 

Though these homes have no standardized floor plan, traditional homes are generally known as simple, elegant, and welcoming. Because their understated looks blend in seamlessly in just about any location, traditional homes can be found in cities, suburbs, and rural areas. No matter where you are, traditional-style houses always look like they’re in the right place.

Large traditional style house with green lawn.

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What Makes a House Traditional Style?

A traditional-style home's design combines characteristics from one or more historical architectural styles, primarily those of the 17th and 18th centuries. 

Even without a firmly defined style, there are certain things you can expect from a traditional house’s floor plans which are, shall we say, “traditional.” These homes most always have two stories, with defined living and dining rooms on the first floor, bedrooms on the second, and a basement down below. 

The exterior of a traditional-style home is warm and inviting, and their unique mix of historic architecture styles gives them a serene, classical beauty. Rooflines and simple and unobtrusive, and almost always feature at least one front-facing gable. Windows can be of any style but are most always symmetrically spaced around the house. Some traditional homes will have a large covered porch supported by columns, but more frequently, the design will not include a functional front porch.

A traditional style house with white siding under a blue sky

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The most common materials used for the exterior of traditional-style homes are stone, stucco, and brick. Most older traditional homes are constructed entirely from brick; newer ones may use brick only for the exterior, framing, and building the house with contemporary building materials. That being said, homeowners and architects are free to use any sort of siding they'd like, and in any color they so choose.

Because there are no firm guidelines regarding the size and shape of these houses, traditional-style homes can range from simple starter homes with modest footprints, to large, expansive mansions with state-of-the-art amenities and defined spaces for modern needs, like home offices and gyms. 

The most common features of a traditional-style home are:

Exterior:

  • Varying design elements influenced by historic architecture
  • Simple, clean rooflines
  • Modestly overhanging eaves
  • At least one front-facing gable
  • Symmetrically-spaced windows
  • Stone, stucco, or brick exterior

Interior:

  • Practical layouts
  • Foyer or entryway
  • Defined living and dining spaces
  • Separate laundry room
  • Basement

Floor plans are generally basic, but also flexible, since traditional-style homes are almost always designed to accommodate families. It is common to find a large family room or den, as well as up to four bedrooms. Functionality is a key component in traditional-style homes, and modern designs are adapting to match 21st century needs with 18th-century charms. Open floor plans are becoming more and more common, though in keeping with tradition, living and dining “rooms” are well defined, even without walls. 

Some traditional-style homes feature a foyer or entryway. Most have a separate laundry room; in older homes, the washer and dryer are normally found in the basement, whereas in contemporary versions, they are found near either the kitchen or bathroom, where there are existing water pipes. The majority of the modern traditional style homes will include an attached garage.

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