How to Decorate According to Your Home’s Architecture

Do you agree with the most popular styles in the US?

home exterior
Photography by Brittany Ambridge

We know the most popular home decor trends across the country, and even the most popular paint colors... but what about architectural styles? Enter: Trulia, which recently worked with Harris Poll to conduct a survey of over 2,000 Americans in order to determine the most common architectural styles across the nation, as well as the styles Americans prefer. And no, the two are not the same.

According to the survey, the three top styles favored by Americans are craftsman (43 percent), ranch (41 percent), and colonial (36 percent), with certain age groups pledging an affinity for certain styles over others. For example, millennials seem to prefer craftsman-style homes, while those aged 55 and over tend to favor ranch-style homes.

This is all well and good, but how easy is it to find these popular architectural styles, really? Despite the majority preference for craftsman-style homes, Trulia found that ranch homes are actually far more prevalent in the majority of the country. This is followed by colonial homes, which appear particularly common in the Northeast and Florida. Mid-century and Victorian are tied for third place, each taking the top spot in two states. And Cape Cod is the least popular architectural style of the top five, winning over only Wisconsin, dominantly.

Americans’ favorite style, craftsman, however, didn’t even make the top five list.

most popular architectural styles in US
Courtesy of Trulia

Knowing this, there are steps one can take to decorate one's home in a way that best emphasizes the architectural style, playing on dominant features and highlighting a house’s best assets. Trulia’s design panel of expert designers and organizers stepped in to provide tips on exactly how to do this for each style.

With colonial homes—which typically feature brick or wood exteriors, chimneys, and balanced window displays—this means emphasizing textured, natural materials (like rattan or sisal), and handcrafted elements. Becki Owens suggests giving those features a fresh, modern update with bold paint colors. Hannah Crowell is also an advocate of this type of balance, recommending modern light fixtures and furniture to contrast with the home’s more traditional architecture. “I find the juxtaposition between the two styles to be endlessly intriguing and interesting,” she says.

Ranch homes, the most popular architectural style in the US, tend to include an open floor plan and a modern, simple feel. According to Owens, decorators should highlight this. “The ranch looks best when you embrace its modern simplicity,” she says, recommending clean-lined furniture for a cohesive look, with pops of personality infused through an eclectic mix of metals. Jay Britto and Dave Charette suggest emphasizing the style’s open floor plan and natural light via neutral hues, which make a home feel more spacious. Meanwhile, Layne Brookshire wants decorators to pay homage to the ranch style’s roots, with Western-inspired accents like cowhide or leather ottomans, rugs, and pillows. Play up the rustic vibe with smaller wooden elements, like floating shelves or decorative trays, to complete the look.  

Inspired by 17th-century architecture, the Cape Cod style emulates symmetry and function. Brookshire suggests paying homage to the style’s East Coast origins through nautical accent pieces, but keeping the rest of the home relatively simple: light-hued bedding, neutral sofas and pillows, and white or off-white paint. For a “tried-and-true” neutral shade, Britto and Charette recommend Benjamin Moore’s Decorator White. And don’t forget the outside of your Cape Cod home—Owen encourages homeowners to focus on floral boxes or large planters to highlight the symmetrical exterior.

Victorian-style homes are instantly recognizable by their pitched roofs, bay windows, and full-front porches. Full of color and texture, this more romantic feel lends an old-school charm instantly—which decorators can do one of two things with. If you want to stick to the traditional with your Victorian home, Brookshire advises lace, ribbon, or embroidery for your linens and textiles, which pair well with mismatched antique furniture, and play up the classic elements. Dark espresso or high-gloss black baseboards mimic the darker wood elements popular in the Victorian era, explain Britto and Charette. Conversely, decorators can break tradition and counter the older architectural style with modern pieces. Owens suggests doing this with a contemporary wallpaper or bold accent wall.

Finally, there’s mid-century, which has proven to be a perennial favorite in terms of decor, despite being one of the lesser available architectural styles. The large glass windows and open spaces bring in natural light, while the geometric lines this particular style is known for create the perfect backdrop for more contemporary interiors. Choose your furniture carefully: Britto and Charette emphasize the importance of the right pieces, but caution against splurging for original furniture that is often more expensive. Instead, choose modern designers whose work pays homage to that particular time period. For an at-home approach to decorating, Brookshire says a mid-century look can be achieved by simply swapping out the legs of your existing furniture for something more tapered. And for Owens, emphasizing the bones of a mid-century home is all about the paint. “White always looks fresh, or consider a dramatic, dark tone paired with medium wood accents,” she says.

See more expert tips:
Experts Share Their Top Tips for Budget-Friendly Renovation
Expert Tips and Tricks on the Trendiest Trailing Plants
The 13 Biggest Design Mistakes You Make in Your 20s

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Published on February 28, 2018 - 10:00am EST

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