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Colonial Revival style is a balancing act… and a doorway to die for!

You may not be familiar with Colonial Revival houses, but if you live in a North American city or town, chances are there’s one on your block. Its noble pedigree is complicated. It extends back to classical Greece by way of the Renaissance Italian architect Andrea Palladio. His work influenced the Georgian architecture of England in the 1700s. The style then came to North America with the early colonists. Throw in a little Dutch influence, and you have the most popular house style in the U.S.

Confused? Don’t be. Colonial Revival is really about the staying power of a simple idea. The movement kicked off around 1880, shortly after the centennial of the American Revolution inspired U.S. residents to revisit the solid homes of their ancestors. They were inspired by what they saw, sparking a renewed interest in the building style. 

Colonial Revival homes tend to be two-storey buildings with brick (or sometimes clapboard) exteriors. They often have rectangular multi-pane windows and side-gabled roofs with pointed walls on the two sides. The roofs can feature a series of gabled windows and sometimes you’ll see gambrel roofs - like a barn. That’s theDutch influence.

Symmetry is a key design element, and the decoration is dignified rather than showy with white-painted wood trim and large corner blocks. The greatest emphasis is usually placed on a central front door, which may be framed by a glass fanlight on top and sidelights on either side. There may be a curved, triangular or “broken” wooden pediment above the door, or even a portico. White-painted wooden columns are a giveaway feature for Colonial Revival buildings.

The style flourished until the 1950s. It was particularly prevalent in the northeastern U.S. and Canada, but today, examples of this pleasing form can be spotted all across the continent. It’s a style based on principles of balance, proportion and order that literally withstood revolutions to hold its place at the forefront of North American home design.

Takeaway: A great doorway can make a simple home sensational!

-by Sarah B. Hood