If you had to think about a classic American cottage chance are pretty big that you will get in mind a Cape Cod house. This is a simple house that is really connected to the American vision. They are in different sizes, very comfortable and easy to warm.

They are popular because they haven’t changed their style since they were first made back in the 17th century when they were first built in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

The Cape Cod house style has been live for many centuries and they still look great. Many people associate them with weekend stays or a beach due to the fact that they are very comfortable and warm. So, we really got curious and asked ourselves, what makes a Cape Cod House so cool?

So what exactly is a Cape Cod house style?

Image source: Siegel Architects

A Cape Cod home is a single-story frame type of building. It has a moderately steep pitched gabled roof, a big chimney and a few ornamentations. Its origins are back to New England in the 17th century. It has a central front door; small windows and you really have to like its simple style in which it is designed.

Image source: Ron Brenner Architect

If you believe it or not this style of home dates back to the times Puritan settlers. This came about because what they did was to bring the idea of an English cottage to America and then adapted it to the winter climate.

Image source: Patrick Ahearn Architect

You might even consider the style in some way primitive but don’t forget that this house was made to be resistant and easy to construct. Nobody wanted to lose a lot of time with the making of it. It was also pretty smart constructed because the steep roof kept off the heavy snow and the rectangular design made easily the idea of adding more space to it when the family got bigger.

History of the Cape Cod home

Image source: Smith & Vansant Architects PC

The Cape Cod style house as we know was brought into America from England by Puritan carpenters. The harsh climates to contend with made it important that any building choices that were made should be easy and durable.

They used basic materials that were available around and the most plenty of was wood, usually oak or pine. The Cape Cod house usually had a couple of bedrooms and a low ceiling together with a large central chimney that made it easy to warm the inside during the winter times.

Image source: Anna Berglin Design

In this period the Cape Cod homes were bigger having additional bedrooms and dormer windows out of the roof. Usually, they had different ornamentation on the exterior that brought a unique style to the house.

This type of house continued to be a popular choice even after World War II because they were made for soldiers that were returning home and wanted to by their first homes.

Image source: Anna Berglin Design

This being said, the modern Cape Cods we see today have been popularized in the 1920s and 1930s when the Boston architect Royal Barry Willis reintroduced this style as a contemporary housing option. He kept the same basic exterior elements but adapted the interior layout for a modern lifestyle.

Variations on the Cape Cod house style

Half Cape

Image source: Joseph B Lanza Design + Building

The starter house of its day, the half Cape evolved a lot with additions from a three-quarter Cape into a full Cape as more families were growing. However, there are still a lot of examples in smaller homes for example where a “half-cape” style was still common having just a door on one side of the house and just two windows to the other side.

Three-quarter Cape

There is no exact reason for why this three-quarter cape grew more in popularity in that time period, but we do know that it lasted till the early 19th century and that it still kept the big warming chimney.

Full Cape

Image source: Michael LoBuglio Architects

This type of Cape Cod house was quite rare in the 18th century. The ones that existed were held by the most ambitious settler. Each house had a big entrance door and a massive chimney inside. The roof was steep-pitched and from the outside, it looked like a normal house with a door in the middle and two windows on the sides.

Defining features of a Cape Cod house

Image source: Edward Deegan Architects

If we look at the time period in which this type was built, we can conclude that there are really two styles. We are talking about the ones that were built from 1690 to 1850 and the ones that were built till the 20th century. All of them had one of these features:

  • A large central chimney that was found behind the main door with the rooms positioned around it in a rectangular shape
  • A stepped roof that was perfect to shed rain or snow
  • Windows and dormer, they usually had two windows for each side of the house and a dormer around the chimney
  • A second floor that was accessed from a narrow stair that was made for boarders

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