Chicago is home to several unique architectural styles. This is something you will see when you travel around Chicago’s suburbs as nearly every type of architectural style is present in this area.
The history of Chicago area architecture starts with the great fire of 1871, which destroyed most of the city. In the aftermath of the fire, immigrants from various parts of the world came to the area and incorporated their native styles into the rebuilding, creating an architectural melting pot.
Chicago’s most popular architectural styles include:
The Victorian architectural style refers to a construction design dating to the time of Queen Victoria. Victorian homes are some of the oldest in the area as they became prominent from 1837 to the early 20th century. These houses were first built in Chicago in the 1880s and encompass famous Victorian subsets such as Colonial, Gothic revival, Second Empire, and Greek Revival.
Many Chicago suburbs feature homes in the Victorian style. These homes share many recognizable features with Queen Anne homes, including turrets and dormers, bay windows, elaborate ornamentation, decorative woodwork, and gabled roofs. You can spot plenty of Victorian-era homes in suburbs like Oak Park, River Forest, Riverside, Hinsdale, Downers Grove, Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, La Grange, and Lombard.
The Cape Cod architectural style originated in the United States, first appearing in the 1690s. At the time of their emergence, Cape Cods were predominantly found in New England and parts of New York. The technique borrows heavily from houses in the United Kingdom.
Chicago has its own version of cape cod-style that looks similar to the typical ranch home. Other distinguishing features include free-flowing rooms and extensive bedrooms of more than 500 feet. You can witness this style in several Chicago suburbs, such as Franklin Park, Brookfield, Downers Grove, Elmhurst, and Lombard.
One of the most famous architectural styles in Chicago is the bungalow. Bungalows appear humble from a distance, but a closer inspection reveals ambitious details. Investors were the first people to introduce the popular style to Chicago when constructing houses to cater to the growing middle class in the early 20th century. Because of the many homes built by the investors, the bungalow has become an iconic representation of Chicago residential areas.
The bungalow belt surrounds the city of Chicago and its hallmark includes things such as adaptable housing, high-quality finishing, hipped roofs, and attractive exteriors. Cicero, Brookfield, and Berwyn are suburbs well known for their bungalow homes.
Chicago was the fastest growing city in the United States in the first 30 years of the 20th century. More than one million people moved to Chicago between 1910 and 1930 and their children entered the middle class a few decades later. Investors realized that the children of these immigrants were moving up the economic ladder, and it was time to create new neighborhoods. That is how the American dream became closely tied with bungalows in the city of Chicago and surrounding areas.
The craftsman architectural style first appeared in England during the English Arts and Crafts movement. This was a movement that encouraged people to integrate natural elements into their architectural designs. Famous proponents of this style include William Morris and John Ruskin.
Craftsman became a trendsetting architectural style in the United States in the early 20th century when craftsman homes became fashionable. Although it initially was famous in California, it eventually reached Illinois, where it can be seen today in the Beverly-Morgan Park area.
The Beverly-Morgan Park in Chicago is famous for its many craftsman houses. Its owners moved to this place in the late 19th and early 20th century because the craftsman style architecture attracted them. The craftsman style combines broad porches and outdoor features that are integrated with the home’s natural surroundings.
Did you know that the Tudor style is misnamed? The Tudor style actually became dominant before the onset of Tudor England by architects in the British Isles who designed Tudor houses in the early 16th century. The style remained dominant in England for several decades until it was exported to the United States in the 19th century.
Most of the first Tudor houses in America first appeared in New England and other east coast areas, but it wasn’t until the 1920s that Tudor style houses appeared in Chicago. Today, several neighborhoods such as Forest Glen, Hyde Park, and Beverly host many Tudor homes.
You can easily identify the Tudor style by the steep roofs that most have and the blending of several materials. A single house can feature brick, leaded glass, and wood.
When the houses were initially constructed, the builders used to embed intricate patterns into the walls. Other designers promoted tall, narrow windows with several tiny window panes. But perhaps the most distinguishable feature of Tudor house is the rounded windows and front doors.
The foundation of Tudor houses usually rests on massive stones. On the other end, you will see well-decorated chimneys. Today, the Tudor style is very common throughout the Chicago metropolitan area, although other features are being implemented into the style.
Few people were surprised when Sears Roebuck & Co. decided to use the Foursquare architectural style for its Chicago building. After all, the Foursquare style has dominated buildings in Illinois since the 1930s. There was a time when the style was so famous that schools demolished their buildings to build new ones in the Foursquare style.
Foursquare style dictates that the house’s floor plan must have three square rooms and an entrance hall on the ground floor. The second floor usually contains four rooms without an entrance hall. It’s also common to find an American Foursquare home with a basement and a large front porch. Because the houses first appeared in the Midwest, materials such as stone and brick are the main building blocks of these houses in all regions of the country.
Several Chicago suburbs have embraced the Foursquare architectural style. Oak Park has entire neighborhoods comprised of mostly Foursquare homes. Homeowners are usually attracted to the Foursquare architectural style because of the large front porch, which can be an idyllic place to take your meals during summer days. An identifiable feature of Foursquare homes is the extensive windows that provide extra lighting. Most of the foursquare houses in Chicago are more than a century old and as a result, they have been renovated and expanded to incorporate other cultural styles.
Think Steve Martin’s house in Father of the Bride. An amazing feature of that movie was the many colonial-style houses it portrayed. For a famous Chicago-area Colonial house, look no further than the Home Alone house in Winnetka (also referred to as Georgian-style, a subset of Colonial).
Colonial style homes first appeared in Chicago in the early 1880s. However, they had been present in other parts of the United States for many decades. In 1876, the United States staged the first centennial exhibition as well as a world fair. Most of the experts at the world’s fair of 1876 promoted colonial-style designs. The result was an influx of colonial revival architecture in several cities across the United States.
Wealthy patrons were the first people to introduce colonial architecture in Chicago. These patrons preferred center chimneys, stairways, and open halls. Similar to Neoclassical architecture, Colonial homes often prioritize a symmetrical facade. This style was favored because it created a strong impression at the entrance. For instance, doors had iron hinges to keep wild animals and domestic animals away from the house. The interiors of Colonials feature marvelous fireplaces and staircases.
Are you a legitimate francophile? Perhaps you’re considering moving into a living space that embraces the French provincial design. Fortunately, there are many such houses across Chicago. Even if you fail to find one, the French style is easy to incorporate into any current design.
This style is inspired by houses in the French countryside. Generally, these houses have stucco exteriors and beautiful stone porches. Most of the houses in Chicago are built using stone from Fond du lac in Wisconsin.
There are many variants of the French provincial style in Chicago. For example, some common feature is slightly arched doors and steeply pitched roof lines. However, the most prominent feature of French style country homes is casement windows with shutters. In France, the windows open inwards, but the windows in Chicago open outwards.
Contemporary architecture emerged as a style throughout the late 20th century and is still considered to be an evolving style today. While it’s characteristics can be tricky to pin down because the style is experimental and unconventional, you usually recognize contemporary homes when you see them. A recognizable example is the iconic Chicago-area contemporary home featured in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Many contemporary architects are influenced in some way by the innovation of Frank Lloyd Wright, who designed Prairie homes and incorporated organic forms into his work. Contemporary designs generally take inspiration from minimalism, striking silhouettes, and free-form shapes and work with steel and glass building materials. Think the exact opposite of more ornate styles like Mediterranean and Spanish homes that use natural materials. Many of the earlier contemporary houses prioritized straight lines and linear forms, resulting in flat roofs, but curves have been integrated into more recent buildings. With so many variations out there, the only rule to this style is that there are no rules.
There are a lot of common threads between contemporary architecture and Mid-Century Modern, especially when it comes to the use of glass and steel building materials. Picture the elegant minimalism and clean lines that were popularized in the 1950s. Look for more on this style in an upcoming post.
Not everyone necessarily has a preference when it comes to selecting architectural styles, but most do. Fortunately, there’s a huge selection of house styles in the Chicago suburbs you can choose from. Do you have a favorite style? Scout can help you find your dream home.
If you are looking for a house in any Chicago suburb, reach out to us.