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Is This Only A Philadelphia Area Quirk?

Posted by chijim (My Page) on
Sun, Jul 13, 14 at 14:15

On House Hunters the other night, they showed a couple looking for a hse in the Philly area.
The establishing roll had them walking by and driving past some older duplexes whose exteriors had 2 very different personalities split down the middle-- as in a 180 night and day big way style difference.

Since duplexes aren't really big in the Chicago area--if we do have them it's probably covered by a HOA not allowing such individuality...is this a quirk/eccentricity of the area?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Is This Only A Philadelphia Area Quirk?

Are you talking about Twins? Duplexes are one house, with two apartments in the same house (first and second floor).
If you're talking about Twins, then yes, people often will have differing fronts. Not always, but often.


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RE: Is This Only A Philadelphia Area Quirk?

Very common in Philadelphia, but not unique, I would say Brooklyn/Queens and Baltimore, older cities with rows and twins have a similar situation.


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RE: Is This Only A Philadelphia Area Quirk?

definitely prevalent in cities in the northeast... can't say that i remember noticing so much in other areas of the country one way or the other...


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RE: Is This Only A Philadelphia Area Quirk?

It's done in Scotland. Two story duplexes completely different from each other. I think it's a messy and odd look, but maybe I'm just not used to it?


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RE: Is This Only A Philadelphia Area Quirk?

Are you talking about Twins? Duplexes are one house, with two apartments in the same house (first and second floor).
If you're talking about Twins, then yes, people often will have differing fronts. Not always, but often.
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I didn't know they were called twins, learn something everyday..

Here, a hse w/upper and lower units is for the most part called a 2-flat, a duplex here would be a single house with side by side units sharing a common wall & roof.

Yes, these were stand alone houses/units w/two entrances on each end vertically split down then the middle into 2 different colors/styles which I believe had a unified look when originally built.

I get a row or townhse having their own personality as they are individual dwellings, but some show were just OTT in their individual difference but not in a Painted Lady kind of way.,

This post was edited by chijim on Sun, Jul 13, 14 at 15:03


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RE: Is This Only A Philadelphia Area Quirk?

In the parts of New England I am familiar with, they are mostly called two-family houses. Can be split horizontally or vertically. Three family houses with one unit on each floor are "three deckers" in the Boston area.

The exteriors are usually treated in the same way--same paint, same trim. This could be because traditionally, the entire building is owned by one person, and the second half is rented out.

My brother recently bought half of a two-family; I think it would be one of shadylady's Twins. Both sides are the same, and the two owners have no intention of changing that.

Row houses in Boston often have differing facades, as each was designed and built separately by different owners.


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RE: Is This Only A Philadelphia Area Quirk?

In the PNW, they are called duplexes or triplexes or fourplexes, etc., regardless if they are side x side or upper/lower. Have never heard the term twin regarding homes. And I don't recall ever seeing two units decorated differently...but I also don't know of units that are owned by two families. All the duplexes I've ever known of were owned by one person, often living in one, renting the other, or renting both.

I think here they might be called townhomes, or condos, but the exteriors are commonly owned and always look the same (I think there are some new configurations of shared units in Seattle, that have different units painted different colors, but it's all planned out by the builder).


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RE: Is This Only A Philadelphia Area Quirk?

Here is what Chijim is talking about, at various price points from about $500K to 25K. Sometimes one half will be so altered that it will be a completely different style:

These all started out with completely unified if not exactly identical facades.

 photo twinmixed_zpsa3df43a3.jpg

 photo twinmixed3_zps2f11df4b.jpg

 photo twinmixed2_zps7f12cc53.jpg

Sometimes one half disappears entirely:
 photo twinhalf_zps6d85a36d.jpg


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RE: Is This Only A Philadelphia Area Quirk?

palimpsest, LOL - I wish the ones I saw looked that good.

I saw one where one side was painted yelo and the other side blu, one side had black awnings, other side didn't, one porch was age appropriate in wood, the other side cement w/metal railings - even w/all that you could tell it was a single house whose exterior came off as schizophrenic-like .
The other area of brick twins, they painted the clay roofing tiles above the window bump out--painting the clay tiles was a new one in itself for me.... but then each did in its own color like red and green. Down the street, orange and purple, and so on...


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RE: Is This Only A Philadelphia Area Quirk?

Twins is a new term for me too. Always heard them called duplex or semi attached houses. Have seen them painted different colors and slightly altered in New Jersey and in California. My mil lived in Trenton in a semi, they share a common wall with the house next door. They were painted different colors and some had wooden porch rails and some metal. Not as jarring as what you are describing Chijim.


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RE: Is This Only A Philadelphia Area Quirk?

Upper Plains area - twinhomes are common because they can cut down on heating with the shared wall. Especially see them for retired people who are downsizing. Almost always have the same exterior; very rare to see different colors unless it is a (relatively) older building or a rental building or in an area where people don't always have the income to update the exterior at the same time that their neighbor is planning to update (painting, staining, etc.).


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RE: Is This Only A Philadelphia Area Quirk?

I have lived in the Northeast for all of my life, including NY and New England. I had never seen houses like this in 2 different styles or colors until moving to the Philadelphia area 7 years ago. I had never heard them called twins, either. Always semi attached, duplex, or two family.


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RE: Is This Only A Philadelphia Area Quirk?

In Eastern Canada, they are semi-detached. In Western Canada, they're called duplexes. Duplexes in the east are up-down.

Toronto has a lot of awful, split personality semis.

In Calgary, the duplexes are either cheap homes from the 80s, in which case both sides are equally run down; or they are brand new, so not yet showing the signs of split ownership.


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RE: Is This Only A Philadelphia Area Quirk?

I see twins painted differently from each other all the time here in Philadelphia and the 'burbs. The twins that are different architecturally from each I have seen in Chestnut Hill, Mount Airy and West Philadelphia, close to University City. Hey, just 'cause your neighbor likes it one way, doesn't mean you have to like it! That's the Philadelphia way.

I've always called twins twins and houses with living units stacked one on top of the other duplexes or triplexes. I guess when it gets up to four you call it an apartment building.

The again, I lived on the first floor of a house that had been converted into apartments, so there were three stacked apartments, but the entire house was a twin. Now that I think about it, there were some architectural differences in the two houses. I would say that I lived on the first floor of an old house. Got the message across.


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RE: Is This Only A Philadelphia Area Quirk?

We lived in one in St. Paul, Mn and called it a side by side duplex. The building next door was another side by side. In our cases, both sides were painted almost identically, but all 4 of our doors were different colors.

Re the lower heating expense with the common wall....not so much if one side of the building is vacant in a Minnesota winter.

Chi jim, there are some homes like these in the near west suburbs.

This post was edited by jmc01 on Sun, Jul 13, 14 at 21:15


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RE: Is This Only A Philadelphia Area Quirk?

My last house was a duplex/twin/semi-detached in NJ. My neighbor & I re-did our front porches and had the house painted and we treated it as one house. Had we not been in agreement, it could have ended up with two different colors and details.


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RE: Is This Only A Philadelphia Area Quirk?

What a pretty house(s). Nice that you and your neighbor could cooperate. The difference in the window treatments still kind of marks it as "attached but separate".


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