Why isn't "New Englander" a recognized architectural style?
June 7, 2006 9:27 AM   Subscribe

Why isn't "New Englander" a recognized architectural style? Is it only called by this name in New England, and if so, what is it "really" called?

We live in a 1912 New Englander, and this style of home is quite popular in our town as well as many other places in NH. I've been doing some research online and cannot for the life of me find ANY reference to New Englanders as an architectural style. I am trying to figure out what decor/lighting/fixtures/colors would be appropriate to the style and era of the house itself. But unless I can locate more info on New Englanders (or whatever they're actually called)...

A couple of examples in case you have never heard of a New Englander style house:
Example #1
Example #2
posted by suchatreat to Home & Garden (24 answers total)
 
One more good example.
posted by suchatreat at 9:28 AM on June 7, 2006


Isn't that considered "Cape Cod" style?
posted by meta87 at 9:32 AM on June 7, 2006


Never heard it called a NewEnglander, and I live in Boston. Usually it is referred to as Colonial Revival.
posted by Gungho at 9:37 AM on June 7, 2006


Those three examples are quite different from each other. "New Englander" sounds like a Realtor's catchall if the style doesn't really fit anything else. It is not a recognized architectural style I've ever heard of living in New England for 30 years. From this page: "While we're learning all these house type terms, we might as well learn one that doesn't really exist: "New Englander." It seems to be applied to any type of older home around the region that doesn't fit a specific style. Could be a farmhouse, could be an in-town house, could be big, or not so big."
posted by beagle at 9:39 AM on June 7, 2006


Yeah, these houses call out "This Old House" to me, which usually means Colonial Revival.
posted by tew at 9:44 AM on June 7, 2006


meta87, those are definitely not capes.

beagle, I have lived in NH all of my 29 years, and homes are commonly referred to as "New Englanders." Maybe it's a New Hampshire thing...

BTW, the first example most closely resembles our house minus the glassed-in porch (we have a regular front porch with columns), so I'd be most interested to hear what style one would classify that home.
posted by suchatreat at 9:46 AM on June 7, 2006


suchatreat-- the third house linked is too a cape, or it's at least commonly referred to that way, because the second floor isn't a true second floor, but more of an attic. If you turned it 90 degrees and put a dormer on it, it'd still be a cape.

As to the others, I'd call them "colonials."
posted by Kwantsar at 9:57 AM on June 7, 2006


Does your house have four rooms on each floor (or 4 and a half)? Because it might be a four-square, then.
posted by Kwantsar at 9:59 AM on June 7, 2006


meta87 and Kwanstar, my apologies. Kwanstar's point about turning it and adding dormers made me see the light!
posted by suchatreat at 9:59 AM on June 7, 2006


No, they aren't capes. I'm anothe NE native who's never heard of "New Englander" as a house style. I suspect it is a New Hampshire realtor thing.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:03 AM on June 7, 2006


suchatreat posted 'what is it "really" called'

FWIW: there's no "really" about it. These labels are mostly made and used by realtors.
There isn't any accepted authority on architectural styles, people still get into arguments on whether some church is late-Romanic or Gothic, etc.
posted by signal at 10:09 AM on June 7, 2006


No way that third example is a Cape. The attempt at a pediment and frieze , by the turned in trim is typical of a Greek Revival. A cape has a much steeper roof pitch.
posted by Gungho at 10:23 AM on June 7, 2006


I don't think the third one is a cape. A Cape looks like this -- a window on either side of the front door. They're like central entrance Colonials, but smaller.

The CapeLinks web site has a good explanation of a Cape Cod style house.

Otherwise I'd call the others some version of Colonials. I've lived in Masschusetts my whole life and never heard a house called a New Englander. I looked it up and thought this quote was interesting from a Portland Press Herald article:

While we're learning all these house type terms, we might as well learn one that doesn't really exist: "New Englander."It seems to be applied to any type of older home around the region that doesn't fit a specific style. Could be a farmhouse, could be an in-town house, could be big, or not so big.

"I think that's the worst possible term, because I've been in New England my whole life and come from a construction family and I still don't know what that is," Trodella said.
posted by jdl at 10:23 AM on June 7, 2006


There isn't any accepted authority on architectural styles

American House Styles: A Concise Guide, on page 28 of which are drawings of "Colonial houses" — one of these is a New England saltbox, which looks sort of like your photos; another drawing is a Cape Cod, which looks a little like the third photo.

Most houses are a blend of many styles. Ours is "gothic revival", though I've got to bend my brain to see that.
posted by jdroth at 10:26 AM on June 7, 2006


Also, from this article:
While we're learning all these house type terms, we might as well learn one that doesn't really exist: "New Englander." It seems to be applied to any type of older home around the region that doesn't fit a specific style. Could be a farmhouse, could be an in-town house, could be big, or not so big.

"I think that's the worst possible term, because I've been in New England my whole life and come from a construction family and I still don't know what that is," Trodella said.
Google image searches on New England Saltbox and Cape Cod house.
posted by jdroth at 10:30 AM on June 7, 2006


IANAA. Colonial is the catch-all that I've heard where I grew up [Massachusetts] to describe these types of houses. I think of Cape as being pretty specific, same with saltbox and, to a lesser extent, farmhouse. Colonial seems to me, an non-specialist, to mean house with clapboard siding, shutters, casement windows, somewhat motley assortment of architectural features (since they are generally older they're often added on to a lot between when they were built and now) and traditional-looking paint and roof/entryways. I had never heard of New Englander until you mentioned it here. I live in Vermont now, but have never lived in, or looked at real estate in, New Hampshire.
posted by jessamyn at 10:33 AM on June 7, 2006


New Englander indeed sounds like yet another realtor bullshit term. They'll also call anything with a second story a Cape Cod, even though a cape has other very definite rcharacteristics.

Your first link looks like a farmhouse to me, or an intown house designed to look like a farmhouse. It also looks almost but not quite craftsman-ish, which isn't surprising given when it was built. The second a colonial or Greek revival or maaaaaaaybe a federal (but I don't think so; federals were older than that). The third looks like a shotgun house to me or a little mill house.

Actual architectural style has little in common with the bullshit terms realtors throw around. And lots of houses have no particular style.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:07 AM on June 7, 2006


None of those three are salt-box colonials either. The defining characteristic of a saltbox is the asymmetric roof line. All the OP's examples have symmetric roofs of one sort or another.

I really think the term in question is regional realtor jargon, like "garden apartment" - which apparently means very different things in MA and NJ.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:38 AM on June 7, 2006


Well, no matter what it is called how DO you decorate it?? I would be interested in what your house looks like, and where it is located?? What town, country, the city, etc?
From the photos you provided it looks like one of those houses I grew up near.

I have a very old home but i think it was poor mans home so I try to stick with that (but I mean I don't want to live in something that looks like Sturbridge Village).

I imagine it would be utilitarian and simple. I tried to look up the style from that era (1910)-- but I found mostly fancy smancy house.

I think looking around at antique books to find utilitarian items. People were still (for the most part) using Ice boxes. Although Dadaism and cubism were of this era I don't see these old New England houses like this.

I guess I picture Norman Rockwell kind of home.. and he did start the Saturday Evening Post covers about that time. My vote is start looking in Sat Evening Post about that 1905 (if they go back that far) because even tho it was built 1910's I picture the house being pretty traditional.
posted by beccaj at 12:00 PM on June 7, 2006


Good answers already, but if you want to talk to urban planners about this, try surfing on over to Cyburbia.org, probably the Design, Space and Place forum would be the best place to ask.
posted by Doohickie at 1:05 PM on June 7, 2006


You might find this page enlightening.
posted by coriolisdave at 3:47 PM on June 7, 2006


Specifically, this section:
While we're learning all these house type terms, we might as well learn one that doesn't really exist: "New Englander."It seems to be applied to any type of older home around the region that doesn't fit a specific style. Could be a farmhouse, could be an in-town house, could be big, or not so big.
posted by coriolisdave at 3:52 PM on June 7, 2006


I am a New England native, and I have a degree in Historic Preservation. The 1st and 3rd houses have some Colonial Revival elements, but are altered so much as to make any stylistic classification relatively meaningless. I don't say that in a bad way -- frankly I'm not a big fan of "labelling" styles at all. The second house looks like a side-hall plan Federal/Greek Revival, with some alterations (I bet the main door was once where the picture window is). Real estate agents love labels for houses, because it gives them a little cache and importance, preservationists and architectural historians tend not to, as they just limit discussion and analysis.

For the record, one of the defining characteristics of a "Cape Cod" house is that it is oriented with its eaves facing the street. To say that #3 is a "Cape turned 90 degrees" is missing the point of what makes a Cape a Cape.

As far as your house, it sounds like it is late Colonial Revival or maybe Queen Anne, based solely on the date and the links you provided. You may want to look towards those styles for design/decor ideas.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:08 PM on June 7, 2006


I'm anothe NE native who's never heard of "New Englander" as a house style. I suspect it is a New Hampshire realtor thing.

(Disclaimer: I occupy the same house as the poster) I grew up in Rhode Island and the term was commonly used there. The one characteristic I've heard of for a "New Englander" style is that the entire house is on one side of the stairs. I have no idea if that's accurate or not (or a fairly common feature in a number of styles), but there you go.
posted by yerfatma at 3:51 AM on June 8, 2006


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