Cape Cod Houses: History and Characteristics Of This Charming, Simple Home

Even if you have never lived on Cape Cod, you are likely familiar with the architecture. This historic home design is charming, simple, and distinctly “New England” – even in faraway places. For example, it’s not uncommon to visit a charming Cape Cod cottage located in the landlocked Midwest. But this home style can often fall under the “I’ll-know-it-when-I-see-it” category of architecture. What is it that makes a Cape Cod home?

Cape Cod Home

Cape Cod houses are typically one- or two-story height, rectangular-shaped, and feature symmetrical windows to either side of the central entrance. Cape Cods are distinguished by their gabled roofs with dorm Windows. These windows are made up of two sections that slope downwards and meet at the roof ridge.

What makes a house Cape Cod-style?

It is often very simple and symmetrical, with shuttered windows flanking the front door and a chimney accenting its roof. The roofline is perhaps the most distinctive feature of a Cape Cod home. The roofline is often an unusual feature of this style of home. It is usually a steep gabled roof that slopes down towards the first story.

This is one of the most common roof styles due to its simple and unadorned design and their practical, weather-friendly pitch. You can adjust the pitch or angle of the sections to suit climates with a lot of rain and snow. Many modern Cape Cods have an detached or attached garage, a front walkway and a back patio or porch.

The exterior symmetry of the house is maintained inside with a “center hallway” design that is similar to Colonial styles but with a smaller footprint. The only way to the second floor was via a steep staircase. Later Cape Cod homes solved the problem of little upstairs light by cutting into rooflines to create dormer Windows.

These are some of the most important features of a Cape Cod traditional house.


  • Design for single-story or double-story homes
  • Rectangular shape
  • Symmetrical Windows
  • Front door central
  • Gabled roof
  • Dorm windows
  • Neutral color
  • Modern siding or wood shingles


  • First floor kitchen, living room and bedroom
  • First-floor bathroom
  • There are two large bedrooms on the second floor, one on each side of the house. They are separated by the staircase.

Cape Cod-Style Homes: The History

This historic style was first used in the late 17th century. However, it has seen a resurgence in popularity numerous times. Although Cape Cods were first discovered in Massachusetts, they became more common throughout New England in 1740. They had reached the upper part of New York by the 1830s. Their popularity extended west to Ohio and Michigan. The Cape Cods are still found throughout the United States. In fact, the full Cape style has seen a revival in the 20th century.

Traditional Cape Cod houses will have wooden shingles that are weathered to the traditional grey-blue color. However, a Cape Cod house can be any color or have any type of siding today (which is great news for those who want to get rid of the hassle of maintaining wood shingles). Due to their simple, practical architecture, many traditional Cape Cods will have exposed wood ceiling beams.

These homes, in true New England style, were built to allow the warmth from the kitchen into the rest of their home due to the region’s harsh winters. The original Capes’ simple design meant that the family room and kitchen were centrally located in the home. This was a result of an open floor plan.

What are the Different Types Of Cape Cod Homes?

Cape Cod houses can be divided into four categories: half-Cape (quarter-Cape), three-quarters (three-quarters) or full Cape. Although it may seem strange to use the taxonomy for a house in Cape Cod, it simply refers to where doors and windows are placed.

Modern times have seen many quarter- and half-Cape styles disappear. A full Cape is the best option for those looking to buy a Cape Cod home.

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