What Are Some Distinct Design Characteristics of American Farmhouses?


Quick Answer

Some distinct design characteristics of American farmhouses include exterior clapboard siding, wide porches and simple gabled roof structures. These houses are typically built around basic shapes such as rectangular boxes that make framing and expansion easier. Interior features include monochrome color palettes, often keyed to white, and arts-and-crafts style furnishings and architectural details.

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Full Answer

The architecture of the Midwestern farmhouse developed out of the 17th-century styles in the Northeast — boxy houses of one to two stories with dominant fireplaces, loft attics, thick walls and small windows — which were designed to keep a family warm through harsh winters.

While modern Midwestern farmhouses are typically larger in scale, they still display elements of original farmhouses. For instance, they're constructed using the most basic angles (45 degrees for the pitch of roofs and gables, 90 degrees for walls) to making framing and assembly easy. Most also feature large central fireplaces and are oriented to take advantage of natural heating and cooling. However, these farmhouses feature many large windows and second stories to offer to wide views of open land. These houses are built of simple, often repurposed materials. Midwestern farmhouses tend to illustrate vernacular design — architectural details that are unique to specific regions — for both their interior and exterior decoration.

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