Home Styles Then and Now

Every house has a style and, just like fashion, styles change—sometimes dramatically. 

But as much as things change, there are always constants. Certain “historic” home styles are just as popular today as they were decades ago, making buying and restoring heritage homes more coveted. 

“Over the decades, architectural styles for North American homes have changed quite drastically,” says Romana King, real estate expert. “Add in technology, updated or changing building codes and new ways to construct a house, and the choice of housing styles becomes mind-boggling.” 


Before the 1920s, King says most homes were built as either bungalows—a house type that originated in India—or Craftsman, a style made popular by Gustav Stickley in his magazine, The Craftsman

To Stickley, Craftsman homes were the essence of simplicity. He championed the Arts and Crafts movement in North America and prized the simplicity, utility and “honesty in construction” of Craftsman homes and furniture inspired by the style.


By the 1920s, European styles were in vogue. Colonial or Colonial Reform were the descriptions given to the European architectural style that dominated home design. “This style encompasses a lot of sub-styles, but almost all include elaborate entrances and cornices,” explains King.

Around this time, gothic elements were being reintroduced, which influenced the highly-decorative trappings.  


The 1930s were still influenced by European styles, but builders started to adapt to the North American climate and add a touch of unique North American character. Slate roofs became popular, along with glass doorknobs, tin roofs, coved ceilings and arched doorways. The style was inspired by the evolution of Art Deco into Streamline, when lines became long and horizontal and sleek curves dominated the style.


King says the 1940s saw an assemblage of Modernist styles, which included the movement toward minimalist design featuring an emphasis on vertical heights, open floor plans and fewer walls.


The 1950s was the decade we first started to see the contemporary home. Builders expanded out from bungalows and parking and curb appeal became a priority with side drives, double-wide driveways, enclosed carports and the surrounding landscape being incorporated into home design


By the 1960s, what was on the inside counted more than the outside. We boosted floor plans to add more space, with the average home coming in at around 1,500 square feet. As we moved into the 1970s, Mid-Century Modern encompassed a wide range of styles, from the updated ranch to multi-storey homes with three-car garages. 


A big change began to take place in the 1970s. “This is the decade when homes began to expand up, not just out. Bi-level, split-level and other multi-level homes were all the rage and the average home was about 1,600 square feet,” explains King. 

The future of homes and their changing footprint

John Brown, Dean of the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape at the University of Calgary, says many new homes today are designed to look like some of the popular styles of the past.

“You can have a house that looks like a farmhouse or something that is more classical, and it could have just been built. Design is basically driven by individual preference more than anything else,” he says.

Brown says what's been changing the most since the 1940s is the size of homes.

“Back in the day, a typical 900-square-foot bungalow would have a family of four to six people in it with one bathroom, three bedrooms, a small kitchen and an unfinished basement,” says Brown.

By the 1980s, 1990s and beyond, two-storey homes began to define the residential landscape in Canada. “Now, typical family sizes have gone down and house sizes have gone up,” Brown says. “Our footprint over the years has increased—in some cases, it's the size of the home and others it housing density—but I think some people have realized we could start scaling back. Many people have already started,” he says, alluding to the resurrection of bungalows and the Tiny House movement.

In terms of styles, Tomasz Sztuk, an architect in Calgary, says people are more generally more accepting of new contemporary homes and trends, but there are also many existing bungalows that are being transformed.

article credit:  www.realtor.ca

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