Cape Cod Home Architectural Style


There’s no other home style that has “home sweet home” written all over it as the Cape Cod remodeling services Minneapolis provides. The Pilgrims who emigrated from England to the New World colonies in the 17th century adapted a housing model from the motherland that featured a hall and parlor. Rectangular and symmetrical, these homes and buildings were designed with a primary concern in mind: protection from the extreme New England weather. Made of wood, the prevailing construction material of the region, they were small, usually 1,000 to 2,000 square feet. These “Cape Cod” homes — later so-named because so many of them lined the shores of Cape Cod Bay — were most prevalent in the colonial Northeast and Atlantic Canada, though the style later appeared as far away as the Midwest (from the 1920s to the 1950s).The basic shape of Cape Cod dwellings was borne of necessity. The centrally located fireplace — crucial for heat, cooking and light — permitted as many rooms as possible to be adjacent to it. A corresponding large chimney was in the middle of the roof. The low, broad frame usually allowed for 1 ½ stories, with an unfinished attic or loft in the upper half, and enough of a pitch to allow for sufficient headroom. There were end gables, but no dormers, and shuttered windows protected against the blustery coastal winds. Shingles were hewn from cedar trees — cedar shake remaining a feature of Cape Cod homes to this day — and the hardwood floors were made of pine and oak. Windows were brought in from England; because of the expense and to prevent breakage while being shipped overseas, the panes were small but adjoined each other to form large windows.

Located in an area of abundant wildlife, Cape Cod homes were designed to blend into their alternately beautiful and bleak (depending on the season) surroundings. Natural colors were the theme.

Conversely, the front door is prominent in modern Capes, brightly colored and featuring a detailed carving. Porches with screens may enclose the front entryway. Large dormers, which allow for more living space in the upper reaches of the home, are common. Double-hung and bay windows have arrived. And, of course, attached garages with accompanying driveways are everywhere. Trim is painted white, as are interior components including mantels, cabinets and doors. Wall colors still retain traditional ocean, beach and sunset hues. And no postwar World War II–era Cape kitchen would be complete without plastic-laminate (Formica, anyone?) countertops.

In the late Forties, the Levitt family of architects was contracted by the federal government to build prefab Cape Cods for the military on large tracts of land. This inexpensive housing, known as “Levittown” (one each in New York and Pennsylvania) was a Godsend to returning veterans and their families.

While the staying power of Capes spans several centuries, its popularity waxes and wanes according to the state of the economy. During the difficult Thirties, for example, the form experienced a revival as Americans sought the most affordable housing. But in the Fifties, the Cape Cod style began to be viewed as the “poor man’s home.” That bias notwithstanding, the architect Royal Barry Wills did much to make it respectable again by updating the traditional design to include modern amenities, while preserving the functionality and simplicity that were the hallmarks of the original Cape Cod architecture.

In the final analysis, there’s no other home style with quite the same cozy cottage feel as the Cape. It’s got “home sweet home” written all over it.

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