Will a colonial revival look out of place in the pacific nw?

olivesmomNovember 13, 2012

I'm finding myself drawn to simple colonial revival style homes. I lived for a while in bucks co, pa and I just love the old farmhouses that dot the landscape. Unfortunately I'm now stuck in western wa, but I would love the exterior of our house to resemble an old, colonial style farmhouse. Definitely simple, maybe more saltbox style. I also like the look where additional rooms were added on, like the master wing clad in a different material and a garage that looks more like an old barn.

In some of the nearby costal areas (bainbridge island for example) I've seen simple colonial revival style homes, usually with shingle exteriors, and they fit right in. In Seattle too, I've seen colonial revival styles that look appropriate. I'm just wondering how one will look on a heavily wooded lot, like this.

I know we can build whatever we want, but I'd like our home to look appropriate. Most new builds around here are basic, generic looking new American (I think that's the right term) homes with a few "craftsman" touches. While not awful, I find them boring and I think they tend to look dated fairly quickly. I'd like something more classic looking. Something more interesting.

I like exterior of this home, which isbuilt at a resort community not too far away. It is little more rustic than we might do, and while not a colonial revival, I think it evokes that feeling to some extent.

The history of the area we will be building in is that of an old mining town from the early 1900's. Few, if any, of the original structures exist. But simple, cottages with plain wood siding were typical.

So do you think a somewhat rustic, cabin inspired colonial revival will work? Any suggestions on stock floorplans that are colonial revival exteriors with more modern interiors?

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Colonial Revival is a distinct style that mimics Georgian (British) style, and employs a great deal of decoration and machine-made fabrications. It is certainly not "cabin style"!

Colonial Revival differs significantly from U.S. Colonial Style architecture from the Revolutionary War period, which was much simpler and more iconic.

Which are you interested in? Your written description seems to be referencing Colonial Style, but you repeatedly use the term "Colonial Revival". Just curious!

Good luck on your project.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 4:54PM
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I guess I mean just colonial then. I do not want anything fussy or overly ornamental.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 5:23PM
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I am on Bainbridge. DH and I spend so much time just driving around looking at houses... I have fallen in love so many times. However, I LOVE the cabin look and have not spent much time looking at the style you are talking about. However, I think on a wooded lot you could make a lot of things work. Do you have visible neighbors on your lot?

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 5:53PM
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Saltbox would not be a good idea in a place with as much rain as that. Colonial Revival with the accent on Revival would be fine. It doesn't have to be a giant white box. There are many other types of "influenced" Colonial homes that would look perfectly at home in the setting you describe.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 6:01PM
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Why wouldn't a saltbox work in the original poster's climate?

I've seen some really beautifully simplistic saltboxes in very wooded, rural areas and they are gorgeous.

or you can do a farm house that leans to Georgian in style.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 8:50PM
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We haven't purchased our lot yet, but I doubt there will be any visible neighbors. The lots we are looking at are 5+ acres and wooded.

I'm curious as well as to why a saltbox wouldn't work here. I wouldn't do actual wood siding, some sort of hair product I suppose, but I don't see why the style wouldn't work vs some of the other colonial styles.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 9:16PM
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That should be *hardi*, not *hair*, lol. Darn auto correct.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 9:18PM
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RE: saltbox.. What I read online says it is a good design for diverting snow and rain. With that said, I can't say I recall ever seeing that type of design in the Pac NW.

OP: I am not a design professional of any sort. However, I live in E. WA, and have grown up in W. OR and WA. Colonial homes are in the minority, overall. There are certain geographies that have more of that style, but you obviously know the random, wooded drive in WA doesn't typically end at a Colonial. :) I would be curious what a local realtor would say about Colonials and how appealing they are to buyers. I think they are lovely, but they do stand out when I see them around the countryside because they aren't the typical design. (Afterall, this area wasn't settled until much later than the East coast...)

If you like old farmhouses, can you build something like the old PAC NW farmhouses? 1860-1900 time frame..

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 9:24PM
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A traditional Saltbox would have short eave overhangs, close rakes and no cover over the front door which is not ideal for a heavy rainfall climate.

The Colonial Revival style has almost nothing in common with a Saltbox or any other simple Colonial house form.

Here is a link that might be useful: colonial revival house

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 9:48PM
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Right, I think I meant colonial inspired, not colonial revival. I mistakenly thought building a colonial home today = colonial revival. But now I understand that a colonial revival is a specific style different from just colonial.

I see what you mean about the overhangs, or lack thereof on a saltbox. Maybe then just a simple colonial box with a small porch at the front door. Sort of like the photo I posted.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 10:39PM
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Your hair comment made me laugh out loud. I say just build with hair!

I think what you are going for would be totally charming out in the woods with no other houses to compare to. I would much rather see that then a huge thing with 7 gables on the front like I see so often.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2012 at 11:12PM
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Here's a bunch of disjointed thoughts ...

Do you have any links or photos of what you are thinking about? Maybe we can help you pin down the house style. What kinds of things apppeal to you about colonial homes? The height, the symmetry, porches, the trim?

People often say "Who cares about the area or what other's think. Build what you want". But, a house is not like a couch or a paint color. If you have dreamed of a colonial house and can't imagine building anything different, I would say go for it.

Keep in mind that if you build a very distinct style that is significantly different from the area norm that you do limit your resale appeal.

Do you like traditional decorating and furniture too? If the interior of your house has a very traditional layout and finishes, contemporary or transitional decorating might not work.

Have you considered a cape? They have a traditional look but are not as distinctive as colonials.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 9:07AM
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Here's one house I find myself drawn to at the moment. I would make some changes to exterior, have it look a little more northwest/craftsman/rustic/cabin. I would skip the dentil trim at the roofline and maybe do a different sort of siding (board and batten maybe?).

Here are some homes which have the rustic cabin look I like, perhaps use some of their elements (siding, color choices, etc) with the colonial home posted above.

Here's the floorplan For the colonial home.

I'd make some changes to the floor plan as well, but overall keep it very similar. This floorplan is very different from what I was previously considering. I was leaning towards a greatroom concept, with the kitchen/dining/living all along the back of the house and completely open to one another. However, I currently live in an open floorplan and I am tired of it. A more closed of kitchen appeals to me now.

I would keep the trim work simple and do a sort of transitional take on the craftsman look. Maybe board and batten paneling in the foyer, dining and study. Simple door trim, baseboards and window casing.

Most of our current furniture is transitional/ rustic, not particularly formal or anything. We would need mostly new stuff though.

Will it work?

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 5:11PM
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These are definitely around... And, other than being very vertical for such a large lot, I think they would be fine to build.

(We have one similar to your first inspiration pic above just down the street. And many of the cottage plans use some of the rustic and squareness of the other images (they are smaller abodes, of course)).

And, certainly as you get up into Skagit county, and the country around highway 2 and 22, you see farmhouse style.

You have a lot of options, imo.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 1:18AM
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Olivesmom, you do have many choices, but you may be best served by some further study as to what you really prefer. The three photos are very, very different architectural styles, and have quite different interior spaces. For example:

--The Williamsburg Colonial: a handsome example of the Colonial Style with upgraded details and materials. Colonials tend to be simple rectangles, 3- or 5-bays wide, with a simple gable roof whose ridgeline parallels the front elevation. Decoration and self-styled carpenter details are minimal. Interiors are seldom deeper than two modest rooms--they were Colonials after all! Growth and expansion typically took place off one or both ends, and/or a perpendicular wing off the rear elevation (sometimes 2-stories);

--Second example: This may be called a "cabin" style, but it's really just a builder's approach to a woodsy vernacular from the region. The many gables parallel to the front and the heavy fascias, plus the natural stain colors, characterize this as a house in the tradition of areas where there are lots of woods (and lots of carpenters)! The direction of the roof suggests the house is much deeper than it is wide.

--Third example: Again, this is a sort of "hansel and grettel" carpenter's or builder-style house (certainly not Colonial in any fashion) with a most odd "tobacco-shed drying roof", common in southern tobacco growing regions. The partial end gables were used to allow air to enter and circulate in the building's interior to help dry and season the hanging tobacco leaves. Such a roof on a house of this size, and in a western forested setting, is ill-proportioned for this structure and historically a bit ludicrous, IMO. The rest of the exterior has various moutain/western region detailing, ie, porch roofs and supporting columns, etc.

I think your search for your "perfect house" might be aided by a good guide book, such as A Field Guide to American Houses, by Virginia and Lee McAlester. It's a well written and illustrated small paperback book that's excellent in describing the various styles of houses.

Good luck with your project!

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 10:05AM
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Thanks for you advice! I will definitely check into those suggested books.

I do think I want a colonial, but would like to add some northwest cabin-like elements. Maybe in the form of cedar shakes, board and batten and maybe local stone.

While I like certain aspects of the cabin homes I posted, they are not what I want. I do though, need the exterior of the colonial home to resemble them somewhat in order to make a colonial appeal to my husband. He has lived in western Washington his entire life and lacks an appreciation of anything "old" as he sees it. If I showed him that Williamsburg colonial he would immediately object. But I do know he likes those cabin homes (the exterior of them anyway) we've seen them in person.

I recognize that the first cabin home I posted is not a colonial, but to a casual observer it shares some similarities in terms of its boxiness. With different exterior materials and a few other changes I think I could sell it to my husband.

How do you think that Williamsburg colonial would look with different siding and/ or other nw cabin materials?

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 1:08PM
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I think the Williamsburg Colonial would look great in naturally stained horizontal lap siding, or even natural shingle siding. Painted/stained vertical board and batten siding is not "natural" for Colonials (I think), but it would visually be fine with the simple retangular forms of the Colonial and/or "cabin" approach to a home.

Using local stone for either an exposed continuous "wainscot/foundation" or even one or more walls, such as the two end walls of a gable house structure would be very much in keeping with Colonial architecture. My own house uses field stone from the basement and pond excavation on the front elevation and along the lower level walls. I've included a photo of it--a small 3-bay house (4 levels), with a Colonial barn and pond to the right rear.

Colonials really come in a variety of iterations, based on region of the U.S. and of the cultures who settled in various areas of the U.S. bringing with them their living experience and construction knowledge. For example, regional Colonial architectural characteristics differ from New England, Middle-Atlantic and Tidewater or Southern, due to the different climatic conditions and availability of materials.

If that's not enough, cultural differences also contributed to Colonial architecture, for example, with Dutch Colonial, French Colonial and even Spanish Colonial--each quite different from the other.

Later in history, these Colonial types helped influence further development of the style as Georgian, Adam, and finally Classical Revival, often credited to the late 1700s-1800s. Colonial Revival houses are generally thought to be a style of the 180s-1950s.

If one enjoys architectural history, as a record of how and why people lived the way they did, a study of Colonial architecture can be interesting.

Yours is an interesting journey. Good luck!

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 2:14PM
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You're 'stuck' in western Washington? I can imagine worse places to be stuck in :)

If you're not used to a heavily wooded lot, my advice would be to open up a clearing in the trees. You'll need the light, the possible garden space...and most important...protection from wildfires.

You might want to check into what's recommended for fire safety, concerning trees and brush around your home...and roof materials, etc.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 8:40PM
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Have you looked at the houses in Colonial Williamsburg? The Peyton Randolph House is an example of a real colonial but in a dark red siding, giving it a more rustic look. Also, some of the cape cods might look nice in a wooded rural setting. Finally, take a look at the greek revival style found in New England and upstate new york. May be a more transitional style that you like/fits with your area.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 1:24AM
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