What is a Cape Cod-Style House? Reasons to Love the Quintessential Look

Fulfill your white picket fence dreams with this iconic American style.

cape cod style house
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Ah, the charm of a Cape Cod-style home. Originating in the 17th century, this style is an adaptation of the English cottage; a result of Puritans settling in New England and needing to contend with harsh winter climates. The result: a classic American look marked by simplicity, function, symmetry, and an undeniably coziness. While the traditional Cape Cod-style home has been around for centuries, the architecture has evolved over time with a gorgeous variety of modern adaptations that have a contemporary edge, yet remain completely timeless. “I love the Cape Code style because it is a precursor to modern architecture with a functional-driven design aesthetic and minimal ornamentation,” says Steve Kadlec, architect and founder of .

HISTORY

The term “Cape Cod style” only came to fruition in the 1800s, when the President of Yale University, Reverend Timothy Dwight IV, published a book—Travels in New England and New York (1821-22)—after paying a visit to the Cape. Since then, the style has morphed many times, including in the early 1900s during the Colonial Revival period. Along with the traditional exterior characteristics, the new interpretation featured modern elements including a more social-forward layout. Despite its deep-rooted history, the architectural style was always modern, especially in contemporary applications. "The aesthetic is both nostalgic and modern in its simple form," Kadlec says. Whether you're looking to stick to the classic appeal, or amp things up with a modern interpretation, the Cape Cod style is a timeless aesthetic that is equal parts beautiful and functional.

what is a cape cod style house
A modern interpretation of the Cape Cod-style home, designed by Steve Kadlec of Kadlec Architecture + Design
Tony Soluri

    CHARACTERISTICS

    “Cape Code-style homes are identified by their modest size, simple floor plan, symmetrical elevations, and minimal adornment,” Kadlec says. “The interior spaces tend to be warm and intimate.” Because of their low and broad architecture, the Cape Cod style is very energy efficient, due to its ability to hold in heat or cold air. Plus, the symmetrical, simple architecture makes it easy to add onto. The exterior features a steep roof with side gables and a minor overhang, and often includes shutters, which serve as protection from the strong New England winds. Cape Cod-style homes are traditionally one or one-and-a-half stories, though many modern versions are two to two-and-a-half stories. The exterior ornamentation is very simple, with shingled siding and centered chimneys. “The style feels modest, and the small-scale proportions of spaces are more intimate than typical oversized American homes,” Kadlec adds. That said, the modern Cape Cod-style home can vary greatly in size, from the traditional, one-and-a-half story house to more grand options. In the end, it comes down to proportion as opposed to the literal square footage.

    cape cod style house
    John GreimGetty Images

    VARIATIONS OF THE CAPE COD STYLE

    FULL CAPE: The full cape is the classic style, with a central door, and two windows symmetrically on each side.

    HALF CAPE: The half cape has its front door on one side, with two windows on the other. This is also called a single-Cape.

    THREE-QUARTER CAPE: The three-quarter Cape has two windows on one side of the door, and one window on the other side.

    SEE INSIDE A CAPE COD-STYLE HOME, DESIGNED BY :


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