Senior Editor

Susan Bady has been writing about the housing industry for 30 years. She is senior editor of Professional Builder and Custom Builder magazines, and produces the Design Innovation e-newsletter.  Bady has also written for such consumer magazines as Cabin Life and Better Homes and Gardens’ Home Plan Ideas. You can reach her at sbady@sgcmail.com

Isn’t it eclectic?

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December 19, 2013

I’ve come to the conclusion that American residential architecture, like America itself, is a melting pot. I would even argue that the true American house style is eclectic. Certainly there are many eclectic American neighborhoods.  

Eclectic means “made up of parts from many sources.” Look at the new homes being built today and you’ll see stylistic elements borrowed from the classics — Greek Revival, Colonial, Cape Cod, Craftsman, Mediterranean, Georgian, etc. Then there’s contemporary, a term that I think is misused quite a bit. Often a home is described as “contemporary, but with traditional/warm touches” such as wood and natural stone. The e-word applies there, too.

The architecture of a new home is generally rooted in one or more of the classic styles, but there are always variations. The window configuration might be different. Maybe the porch columns are round or square or flared at the bottom. The garage might be front- loaded instead of at the side or rear. The roof pitch might be higher or lower. The exteriors may change depending on climate, price point and regional preference.

Perhaps eclectic is the wrong word for what I’m seeing in the new American home. “Reinterpreted” might be a better term. After all, it’s typically American to take something that’s time-honored and tinker with it to make it our own.

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