Capes Across America

Cape Cod houses are available across America in diverse variations to match differing climates and norms. This is because the Cape is, in its spirit, the one house style that conjures for us dreams of beachfront vacations, flower gardens, white picket fences and a simpler, more relaxed lifestyle.

Historically, the Cape Cod house started as a modest and efficient layout in response to Colonial America’s harsh climate. By keeping the layout an easy, one-story -rectangular box with a steeply pitched gable roof at the top, the Cape Cod house used an economy of materials to achieve a maximum of interior space.

As Americans enlarged Westward they took that all-American style with them, and currently there are examples of Capes all across the nation. Originally a modest house, the Cape enlarged to keep up with wealthier and larger families. The accession of roof dormers, both doghouse and shed kinds, easily additional headroom and usable distance to the second floor. When needed, a space or two would be inserted into the sides or backs of these houses. These developments would, in the best examples, be smaller than the initial principal portion of the house in order to maintain the scale and charm of a Cape.

This is an 18th century, Mid-Atlantic variant of the Cape Cod style home in Colonial Williamsburg. The simple rectangular shape of the main degree and steeply pitched roof gable that starts at the first floor ceiling are attributes of the style. So are the three doghouse dormers that include ceiling light and height into the second-floor rooms.

Unlike the New England variant with its central chimney and fireplace, this Cape has the chimney and fireplace placed at the side, a true reply to the milder Tidewater climate.

Savoie Nolan Architects

In New England, Cape Cod houses were often built quite small, only two or three bedrooms downstairs and two bedrooms upstairs. These houses would then be enlarged to the back and sides with small and massive developments to accommodate the operator’s needs. Growing over time in this way infused these houses with a sense of background, with roofs and walls and flooring telling the narrative of the inhabitants.

Savoie Nolan Architects

Here, the back of the exact same house shows the explosion of additions and changes this house has gotten. It’s like the house grew organically over the years to accommodate some pressing need of its inhabitants. Perhaps a fresh screened porch to enjoy winter. Perhaps a brand new kitchen and family room wing to accommodate a more contemporary lifestyle. And a shed dormer to make additional bedrooms upstairs.

All evidence that a Cape Cod style house is flexible, with the ability to accept and accommodate changes with time.

Frank Shirley Architects

The interior of these houses was typically a group of small, cozy and comfortable rooms. Dormers, window seats, under-roof storage, and vaulted ceilings all contribute to a Cape Cod home’s charm.

David Vandervort Architects

Cape Cod houses continue to be built, a testament to our love of the style. But while in the past the interiors were often small and dim, contemporary interpretations include open floor plans, soaring ceilings and extensive window and door locations.

In response to the hot and humid weather, the variant of the Cape Cod style for the Southeastern part of the country includes a huge porch to shade the interiors from the sun, and massive windows to capture cooling breezes.

This variant also has lifting the house a few feet above the floor to prevent the often wet environment while providing an chance for a grander entrance. And often the chimneys were put at the faces of the house to keep heat from the interior.

Milieu Design

A Cape Cod in the Upper Midwest shares the shape and details of its Colonial-era tradition but is often constructed of Chicago common brick, an inexpensive and mass-produced building material of the early- to mid-20th century.

James Hill Architect, AIA

A Bay Area Cape Cod house with doghouse dormers and side wings has much in common with the Capes of New England. Whether built all at one time or not, the Cape seems to have grown organically over time to match each operator’s needs.

Mahoney Architects & Interiors

The other Bay Area Cape with brick walkwayfront porch and dormers set into, not at the top of, the roof. It’s a mixing of the Capes located from north to south along the Eastern Seaboard.

David Vandervort Architects

This home in the Pacific Northwest is a contemporary update of the Cape Cod style. Each of the characteristics of the Cape Cod house are here while the material palette, such as the metallic roof, has been upgraded. It’s evidence that the Cape could be adapted to today’s engineering and building methods.

More: Browse guides to home styles and designs

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