Every house has a style. Sometimes it has two or more, because of eclectic architectural mixes or renovations. Fitting a home into one specific category can be daunting, but let this be your overarching guide to Austin residential styles.
The architecture of Texas through the ages has certainly traced the cultural history of the state. From the missions built by Spanish settlers to the log cabins constructed by Anglo-American pioneers, the Spanish Colonial/ Mexican style era helped form an identity that is still uniquely Texan.
Austin homes reflect the area’s climate and eclectic style. A strong relationship to the outdoors is evident in these houses — a response to the relatively warm year-round temperatures. It’s distinctive landscape, alternatively lush and dry, calls for architecture that optimizes shading and ventilation in a variety of ways.
Texas Country & Texas Regional
Texas Country architecture is very popular in Austin and the Hill Country, with its wide use of Austin white limestone. Although local limestone is widely used in regional design, rammed earth, stucco, and wood siding all complement regional landscape and provide attractive, environmentally friendly, functional alternatives.
A more sophisticated style, Texas Regional, is also influenced by local materials, but tends to be more modern and elegant, compared to its Country cousin. Many designs utilize metal brackets with awnings, and no divided-lite windows are common.
Hill Country Contemporary
Hill country contemporary refers to floor plans and designs developed with modern living in mind, but not utilizing a modern style of architecture. These are comfortable, casually modern home styles.
They also make use of local, native materials. In modern homes, less is more – simple elegant designs but are spiced up with exciting modern touches. The style is defined by tall windows, mixed use of materials (wood, stone, brick). You’ll often see exposed beams, flat or gabled roofs and one-story structures.
Spanish Revival / Mediterranean / Tuscan
This style encompasses most architecture with a stone/stucco exterior and a red barrel tile roof including: Spanish Hacienda, Tuscan, Santa Barbara, Mediterranean, and Floridian. In Austin, Tuscan homes tend to utilize more stone than Spanish Hacienda which are primarily stucco with large covered porches.
Austin enjoys a lot of really great weather, so it makes sense that Mediterranean and Tuscan home architecture is so popular in the area. These architectural styles are all about bringing the outdoors in, so they tend to feature courtyards, wide archways, verandas and other gorgeous touches like pergolas. To achieve the most authentic look possible, the landscaping of these homes are as thoughtfully planned as the homes themselves.
One architectural tradition that never goes out of style is the Tudor home. This architecture style was popular in the 1920s and 1930s and continues to be a mainstay in suburbs across the United States.
Tudor homes are defined by one or more steeply pitched roof gables and stucco and brick facades with distinctive timbering around windows and upper stories. Patterned brick or stone walls are common, as are rounded doorways, multi-paned casement windows, and large stone chimneys.
Sometimes called the California ranch style, this home in the Modern family, originated there in 1930s. It emerged as one of the most popular American styles in the 1950s and 60s across the country as suburbia sprawled onto bigger lots.
Now mobile homebuyers could move to the suburbs into bigger homes on bigger lots. The style is characterized by its one-story, pitched-roof construction, built-in garage, wood or brick exterior walls, sliding and picture windows, and sliding doors leading to patios.
Craftsman homes dominate certain parts of Austin and are definitely a local favorite. The style was originated as a reaction to the over-decorated Victorian homes. Popularized at the turn of the 20th century by architect and furniture designer Gustav Stickley in his magazine, The Craftsman, the Craftsman-style bungalow reflected, said Stickley, “a house reduced to it’s simplest form… its absolute lack of ornamentation gives it a character so natural and unaffected that it seems to… blend with any landscape.”
The style, which was also widely billed as the “California bungalow”, feature overhanging eaves, a low-slung gabled roof, and wide front porches framed by pedestal-like tapered columns. Material often include stone, rough-hewn wood, and stucco.
These narrow, rectangular one and one-half story houses originated in California during the 1880s, also as a reaction to the elaborate decoration of Victorian homes. The style then moved eastward to the Midwest in the early 20th century, where it remained popular until the Great Depression. Bungalows have low-pitched gabled or hipped roofs and small covered porches at the entry. The style became so popular that you could order a bungalow kit from Sears and Roebuck catalog. The name “bungalow” had its origins in India, where it indicated a small, thatched home.
Victorian architecture dates from the second half of the 19th century, when America was exploring new approaches to building and design. Advancements in machine technology meant that Victorian-era builders could easily incorporate mass-produced ornamentation such as brackets, spindles, and patterned shingles. The last true Victorians were constructed in the early 1900s, but contemporary builders often borrow Victorian ideas, designing eclectic “neo-Victorians.” These homes combine modern materials with 19th century details, such as curved towers and spindled porches.
The Bremond Block Historic District is a collection of eleven historic homes in downtown Austin, Texas, United States, constructed from the 1850s to 1910. The block was added to National Register of Historic Places in 1970, and is considered one of the few remaining upper-class Victorian neighborhoods of the middle to late nineteenth century in Texas.
A sub-style of the late Victorian era, Queen Anne is a collection of coquettish detailing and eclectic materials. Steep cross-gabled roofs, towers, and vertical windows are all typical of a Queen Anne home. Inventive, multi-story floor plans often include projecting wings, several porches and balconies, and multiple chimneys with decorative chimney pots. Wooden “gingerbread” trim in scrolled and rounded “fish-scale” patterns frequently graces gables and porches.
America’s colonial period encompassed a number of housing types and styles. However, when we speak of the Colonial style, we often are referring to a rectangular, symmetrical home with bedrooms on the second floor. The double-hung windows usually have many small, equally sized square panes. Interiors have elegant central hallways and elaborate cornices. Unlike the original Colonials, Colonial Revival homes are often sided in white clapboard and trimmed with black or green shutters.
This American style originated in homes built by German, or “Deutsch” settlers in Pennsylvania as early as the 1600s. In the years before the Civil War, a significant contingent of German immigrants settled into central Texas, and so did their architectural tendencies.
A hallmark of the style is a broad gambrel roof with flaring eaves that extend over the porches, creating a barn-like effect. Early homes were a single room, and additions were added to each end, creating a distinctive linear floor plan. End walls are generally of stone, and the chimney is usually located on one or both ends. Double-hung sash windows with outward swinging wood casements, dormers with shed-like overhangs, and a central Dutch double doorway are also common. The double door, which is divided horizontally, was once used to keep livestock out of the home while allowing light and air to filter through the open top. The style enjoyed a revival during the first three decades of the 20th century as the country looked back with nostalgia to its colonial past.
Though not a sexy name… Shed homes were particular favorites of architects in the 1960s and 1970s. A subset of the Modern style, they feature multiple roofs sloping in different directions, which creates multi-geometric shapes; wood shingle, board, or brick exterior cladding; recessed and down-played front doorways; and small windows. There’s virtually no symmetry to the style. An Austin natural.
A Modern style that architects created to sequester certain living activities–such as sleeping or socializing–split levels offered an multilevel alternative to the ubiquitous style in the 1950s. The nether parts of a typical design were devoted to a garage and TV room; the mid-level, which usually jutted out from the two-story section, offered “quieter” quarters, such as the living and dining rooms; and the area above the garage was designed for bedrooms. Found mostly in the East and Midwest, split-levels, like their Ranch counterparts, were constructed with various building materials.
This distinctly urban style was never widely used in residential buildings; it was more widespread in public and commercial buildings of the period, as is the case in downtown Austin. The 1925 Paris Exhibition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs launched the Art Deco style, which echoed the Machine Age with geometric decorative elements and a vertically oriented design.
Towers and other projections above the roof line enhance the vertical emphasis of this style, which was popularized by Hollywood movies of the 1930s. Flat roofs, metal window casements, and smooth stucco walls with rectangular cut-outs mark the exteriors of Art Deco homes. Facades are typically flush with zigzags and other stylized floral, geometric, and “sunrise” motifs. By 1940 the Art Deco style had evolved into “Art Moderne,” which features curved corners, rectangular glass-block windows, and a boat-like appearance. Popularized in the United States by Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen, the style enjoyed a revival in the 1980s.
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