Exterior front of a simple American house

Ultimate Guide to Maryland Residential Architecture

Ready to learn about architecture in America? Below, learn more about each style and where to find them!


aframe architecture 1

There is often confusion between this type of architecture and that of a cabin or chalet—generally, the A-Frame style applies to more sacred constructions (though by no means is this a rule). Despite providing excellent roof supports, they can be challenging to decorate due to their angular walls. These homes feature a roof that starts near the foundation; their materials include timber and stone.


airlite architecture 1

During the mid-century period, AirLite houses were famous in Baltimore and Philadelphia. Typically characterized as one-story, attached homes with a detached garage, these buildings often have a moderate elevation at the front door and a ground-level front yard. These split-level designs were trendy following the second world war. AirLite homes date from roughly 1950-1960.

Art Deco

artdeco architecture 1

Among the different architectural designs influenced by the “Arts and Crafts” trend is the Art Deco style. Derived from the French word “Arts Décoratifs,” Art Deco started as a movement in France before World War I. Albeit elaborated, diverse, and typically elitist, its labels represent social and economic progress. One example of such design is the Chrysler Building in New York City.


beauxarts architecture 1

This type of architecture identifies by its flatter roofs, small panes of glass, an elevated first level, and the use of classical ornamentation (such as columns or pilasters). Beaux-Arts also emphasizes the use of polychromy (canopies) or sculptures, adding a sense of symmetry, novelty, and sophisticated interior spaces. The name derives from the French architectural school, École des Beaux-Arts.


cabin architecture 1

This expansive architectural style is similar to the chalet/lodge style made from natural materials. Few nails appear in their construction; instead, they use interlocking joints. America’s northern region is home to many cabins or cabin-style homes. Although quite common in rural, mountainous, or wooded landscapes found in many locations.

Cape Cod

capecod architecture 1

Architectural roots of this style date back to 17th-century New England. These buildings have a stormproof mindset due to the turbulent weather in Cape Cod. Key architectural features include a moderately pitched roof, a central fireplace, and nominal amounts of decoration. Their popularity grew in the mid-1900s as part of the Colonial Revival movement.


coastal architecture 1

Though a somewhat less common style of architecture in the American South, the region’s warm climate leaves coastal homes vulnerable to intense storms like hurricanes and floods; reinforced crawlspaces are a go-to protection option. As a result, the homes frequently use high ceilings on their upper level, which generally sports an open floor plan. Broadly hipped roofs, covered porches with hinged windows, and sturdy footings assist withstanding heavier winds. Materially, most of these homes use brick, wood, and stucco in their construction. 


colonial architecture 1

There is some misconception about the term “colonial” as a type of building, and it typically refers to North America’s collective Federal, Georgian, Spanish, French, and Dutch architectural styles. Some pre-colonial homes fall under this category, such as the homes of the original English settlers, but most of these structures no longer exist. For a more detailed overview, I recommend reading my post on the history of colonial homes.


contemporary architecture 1

This type of architecture has two characteristics: buildings with clean, uncluttered space and design and buildings that stretch beyond the traditional understanding of structural restrictions—the use of 20th-century technology, such as computers, which assist artists in creating these inspiring structures. Buildings are mostly concrete, glass, aluminum, or combinations thereof with various modernist and post-modern aesthetics. Famous architects include Mario Botta and Santiago Calatrava. Well-known structures such as The Shed in New York City and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles are fantastic examples of this style.


cottage architecture 1

This home style’s influence originated from Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon residences. Smaller, detached homes make up the majority of cottages, but this is only sometimes the case. Cottages usually have square or rectangular shapes. Interestingly, the size connotation depends on geography. In America, these homes associate with smaller dwellings in rural areas. The word “cottage” derives from the Old English cot, cote “hut.” 


craftsman architecture 1

This architectural design style has existed in various forms throughout history, though it was most popular in the United States Pacific Coast region in the late 1800s and early 1900s. In its simplest form, the house typically had a contrasting mix of asymmetry and irregularity in size and shape (with few limitations). Deep eaves protruding from pitched rooflines, exposed timbers on exterior structures, and multi-colored surface finishes are commonplace. The Arts and Crafts movement influenced this architecture as a form of expression, and the Craftsman magazine initially coined the term.


dome architecture 1

The term “dome architecture” refers to domed roofs or ceilings—either a hemisphere vault or half-spherical vault—while the word “dome” derives from the Latin word “Domus,” meaning “home.” Western inspirations of dome architecture include both baroque and neoclassical buildings. Although dome architecture frequently appears atop religious buildings, it has also been used historically in secular buildings such as the igloos and yurts of the indigenous American populations.


dutch architecture 1

This type of home contains an inverted “V” roof structure with gambrel roofs, a simple one-story stone or wood exterior, and a separate central room with additions. These homes also typically have a chimney on one or both ends and hardwood flooring. Windows are typically double-hung and can open outward. Additionally, there may be an arched window above the home’s central door, akin to the Federal colonial homes during the same period.


farmhouse architecture 1

This architectural style is quite common in rural America, built primarily in agricultural communities with ample space for farm animals. They are of a simple, rectangular structure, a single-pitched roof, and a board-and-batten (or clapboard) exterior. Farmhouses are typically one-and-a-half to two stories tall and—if in a geographically colder climate—have a central fireplace.


federal architecture 1

This famous architectural style is simple, with symmetrical front facades with windows on all sides of the entryway. The technique differs from Georgian façades, which are more robust and ornamented. Entryways often featured large doors and windows, typically on all four sides. Federal buildings are urbanist (diagonal street gridding inspired by the L’Enfant Plan), primarily Grecian aspiration with a Roman architectural vocabulary. Synonymous with the Adamesque style, it was made famous by the work of James and Robert Adam.


french architecture 1

In America, this architecture was influenced strongly by the historically French colonies of Canada, the Caribbean, and Louisiana. The design generally has a raised basement, sometimes used as a living space. These buildings often contain a distinctive gallery section on the upper levels and a primarily steep-hipped or side-gabled roof. The style originated at the dawn of the 18th century and was at its height from 1710 to 1763; the colonial version closely resembles the well-known Normandy architecture in France.


georgian architecture 1

This building style was of raging popularity throughout 18th century America. Accompanied by symmetry, proportion, classicism, and restrained ornamentation, this Georgian architecture originated in England during the reign of King George I (1714-1727). It was a revival of late Renaissance English vernacular design. There were many contributions to these developments; William Buckland, among others, had a significant impact on the style in England. One famous example of classical Georgian architecture is Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts.

Mid-Century Modern

modern architecture 1

This architectural style came to prominence primarily during the post-war era. It featured clean, simple lines and honest use of materials; it seldom included decorative embellishments. A spacious feel and openness characterize it. Mid-century architects influenced by the international style and the German Bauhaus trend culminated in the production of this style. In America, this type was prevalent in suburbia, as its purpose was to meet the needs of a typical family. Florence Knoll is one well-known Mid-Century Modern architect.


ranch architecture 1

This domestic architectural style also referred to as “rancher” or “rambler,” originated in the United States. Inspired by modernist ideals and wide-open spaces, the original ranch style was informal and structurally basic. Though the turbulent 1960s yielded more creative builds—cathedral ceilings, sunken living rooms, and extensive landscaping—a renewed interest from younger generations who did not grow up in such homes led to a revival of the ranch style. Ranch homes now typically have an L-shape or U-shape design with living areas separated from the bedroom(s). Deep overhanging eaves and cross-gabled roofs are common. Some have an attached garage with sliding glass doors that open into a patio area; the exteriors include stucco, brick, wood, or stone.

Salt Box

saltbox architecture 1

These homes are generally asymmetrical, two-story builds, with a rear roofline approximately the same length as the front (the front roof is slanted, while the back roof slopes upward). Their inception accommodated New England’s dense and heavily-populated cities in northeastern America. The layout is not atypical: a central chimney provides heat to both floors, and the roof’s asymmetry offers excellent storage space. The Hyland House Museum in Guilford, Connecticut, demonstrates this type of architecture very well.


spanish architecture 1

This architectural style includes vertical posts and horizontal beams, both typically made from wooden material along clay walls. Materially solid, with ornate Baroque-style decoration, these homes offer distinctively Spanish design concepts. Masons built most homes in the East Indies between the 18th and 19th centuries; the Mexican Churrigueresque architecture was pervasive. Although culturally different, similarities between the Spanish, Mediterranean, and Villa styles are apparent.

Split Foyer

splitfoyer architecture 1

These homes are popular in many suburban regions of the United States. The style became particularly popular in the mid-20th century, as it accommodated living spaces and bedrooms without needing to climb a full flight of stairs. The lower level is technically considered a below-grade level but can serve as a living room, bathroom, and laundry area. Often, the upper-level functions as a living space, which may contain a dining room, kitchen, bathroom, and bedrooms.


traditional architecture 1

This “traditional” style is more of a catchall term. Traditional architecture can refer to various kinds, from unique regional/national residential buildings to manufactured single-family developments. 


tudor architecture 1

This architecture emerged in England during the Tudor period from the mid-15th century to 1603. Standard features include arches (historically called “Tudor arches” for their distinctively low/multi-centered arch height), leaded windows, and deep, decorative patterning. Usually, the architecture contains a tall roof, chimneys, and an asymmetrical design. Though it has Italian influences and Northern Mannerism roots, the architecture is most prevalent in England and mimics Gothic and Elizabethan styles. It influenced Jacobean architecture, among others, during the succeeding Stuart period (1603-1714).


victorian architecture 1

Unlike the later Tudor style, Victorian homes are identifiable by a mix of Gothic Revival and Italianate architecture that combine eclectically. These homes can have a pronounced degree of ornamentation, including elegant exterior house colors, enormous porches with steep, pitched roofs, and decorative gables. Interiors contained exquisite furniture, artwork, and other luxury items in their prime.

What’s your favorite style of architecture? Let me know in the comment section below!


Harrison Greenough
September 30, 2021 9:34 am

What’s your favorite style? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Kateri Delaplaine
February 24, 2023 12:28 pm

I am interested in finding out about an architectural style called Maryland Piedmont. It’s somewhat Georgian looking but rather than “5, 4 and a center door”, the door is off center. I’ve seen 3 in Frederick County. One at Utica Park, another at the farm adjacent to Frederick Municiple Airport, and at 459 W. South St. in Frederick. I’ve poked around extensively and cannot seem to find any information, other than on a sign at the house in Utica Park. Do you know where I can find reference material?
Many Thanks

Harrison Greenough
August 25, 2023 4:05 pm

Hey Kateri! There is very limited text on this, but I recommend starting with “Buildings of Maryland” by Lisa Pfueller Davidson and Catherine C. Lavoie. If you found a better reference, please let me know because I am genuinely curious for my own research.

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