The Story Behind National Style Homes

By: Richard Soto

National-style homes are common across the nation, but not always easy to identify. That's because they tend to mix several pre-Victorian era building styles, as well as Native American building traditions. The result is a surprisingly simple and elegant architectural form that's great for building attractive, affordable homes, and has just enough ornamental appeal to work on high-end custom homes.

To understand the look of a National home, it's important to go back to the style's roots. This is perhaps the building method most closely tied with Native American building styles, which date back centuries, and were loosely adopted by settlers throughout the 19th century. When Victorian architecture became popular across the nation in the early 20th century, the National style was chosen by builders who wanted to preserve the best aspects of Native building in modern homes. For this reason, National homes tend to have a narrow profile, with steep angled roofing similar to teepee and lean-to construction, and often including four or more high gables. Other Victorian-era homes, by contrast, have less gabling, and a wider, more squared profile.

National-style homes come in a wide variety of subsets. Most common are the "hall-and-parlor family" and "I-house" styles, both of which have narrow floor plans that are generally two rooms across and one room deep, with two floors. National homes with floor plans that are deeper than one room are referred to as "massed" homes - these often have a large gable on the side of the building, as well as a shed-roofed porch. Whichever type of floor plan is used, a National home typically features rectangular shaped rooms and a pyramid-shaped roof.

National homes also typically feature large front verandas reminiscent of French Creole and Dutch Revival styles. However, porches in this style are different in that they are higher from the ground than French Creole verandas, and more centered on the house than those used in the Dutch Revival style.

While National homes are quite attractive, they have been criticized in geographic regions for its vulnerability to storms and high winds. The high pitched roofs on these homes, in particular, are known for "catching wind like a sail," and easily being torn off houses in hurricanes.

Where practical however, National homes have always made a good choice for builders looking to combine afford ability and easy of use with a stylish design.

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