What makes a home a Colonial?

Real Estate Agent with Long & Foster Real Estate Inc 610-225-7400 PA License - AB067198

Most buyers ask for a Colonial Home when they look for a home. It is probably the most popular home for buyers today regardless of size. It is also the most enduring, the name is not all smoke and mirrors, really the first colonial homes were built back in the 1600's, and even today the style is popular.

This photo of Stourhead House shows a little of the symetrical layout, although the two wings were added later and you can see they are slightly different.

Stourhead House

The style was brought over from Europe with the first settlers, people when they build a home pretty much stick with what they know. Many of those original homes reflect where the first immigrants came from be it Wales, Germany, England or France for example. In our area of Pennsylvania you see home styles from Cornwall and Wales in many of the older homes, of course today most have been expanded and it can be hard to see the original layout of the home when it was first built.

So what is "Colonial Style"? Here are some ideas I have, Zillow recently posted ablog on this subject showing homes from around the country and giving their definition of the defining features for a colonial home which frankly inspired me to give you my opinion.

Most Colonial homes have a Georgian style layout to them, they are balanced when you look at them architecturally with the same number of windows each side of the front door. When you enter the living room is to one side and the dining room is to the other side, often with the kitchen behind. There is usually a second floor and the roof sits above this, these rooms are full height without pitched ceilings as in a Cape Cod style home. Roofs have little or no overhang and most colonials will have at least one chimney and fireplace. 

A Victorian home may be a colonial, but does not necessarily have to be, many homes along the Main Line are referred to as Victorians, especially in places like Wayne and this relates more to when they were built than the style of the house although the term is used loosely today to reflect a certain style of house.

I often see these housing terms mis-used in home descriptions, for example it is hard to have a split level that is a colonial, but you sometimes see this used and I often wonder what the agent is trying to convey or simply did not know how to describe the house accurately and believed because of the popularity of the colonial home it was better to have this in the description.

Our first home when we came to America was described as a Colonial, although the dining room was behind the living room, however it did meet many of the other criteria with a symetrical design to the front of the house. If you see a colonial home locally why not post a photo?

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Nick Vandekar, 610-203-4543

Tredyffrin Easttown Realtor, Philly Main Line
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