The Cape Cod Cottage- America’s Fairytale Home

With its white picket fences, window boxes and dormers, the Cape Cod cottage is undeniably one of the most charming and recognized house styles in America. Originating from the 17th century when the pilgrims started building homes resembling traditional English cottages, Cape Cod style houses stood the test of time due to their elegant simplicity and practicality.


My dream home

Cape Cod 4

Frances Schultz’s Bee Cottage (via)

Even though they are quite similar, there are two different types of Cape Cod homes to admire: the original or Colonial Cape Cod house (built between 1690 and 1890) and the Revival Cape, a 20th century adaptation of the Colonial version.


Using materials they had readily available, the first colonists adapted the typical ‘Hall and Parlor’ English cottage to the harsh climate of the North Atlantic coast and within a few generations, a new style of house was born. The term Cape Cod was coined by Timothy Dwight, the president of Yale University, in 1800 during his travels to the Cape to describe the modest and practical homes he saw built in the area. Based on the position of the front door, the original Capes can be distinguished as:
Half Cape (Single)  front door on the side with two multi-paned glass windows on the other side.

Cape Cod 5

1/2 Cape Cod

Three Quarter Cape- front door with one multi-paned window on one side and two on the other.

Cape Cod 6

3/4 Cape Cod

Full (Double) Cape with a central front door and two multi-paned windows placed symmetrically on either side.


Full  (Double) Cape Cod

The half and three quarters Capes are typical for Colonial times, while the later with its symmetrical layout is popular among the Revivals. One and a half story high (with an unfinished loft), timber framed and rectangular, the Cape Cod was built primarily for shelter, with little or no exterior ornamentation. With every single detail designed in the spirit of efficiency, here are some key design elements that define most Colonial Capes.

Characteristics of Colonial Cape Cod Houses

  • Unpainted cedar shingle/ clapboard siding (ages better in proximity of salty air, otherwise needs sealing)

Cape Cod 11

Shingle Siding (via)

Cape Cod 7

Clapboard Siding (via)

  • Colorful front doors
  •  Multi-paned windows (smaller pieces of glass were cheaper/ easier to bring from Europe) that go all the way to the roof line, facing South in order to maximize sun and daylight exposure
  •  Wooden shutters (protection against the elements and attackers)

Cape Cod 12

Revival Cape w/ dormers, colorful front door, portico, shutters multi-paned windows (via)

  • Large central chimney. The rooms of an original Cape Cod were radially placed around a large central chimney. Such a floor plan was both economical and efficient in equally heating all the rooms of the house.


 Colonial Cape Cod Floor Plan

  • Hardwood floors and wainscotingWainscoting was used not just for its aesthetic value but also to keep moisture away and help trap the heat inside.

Cape Cod 13


The Cape Cod style house regained its popularity back in the 1930s, when architects like Royal Barry Wills brought refinement to  Colonial Capes and started building high-end replicas throughout the United States. While retaining its original charm and the cozy floor plans, the Revival Cape Cod had all the conveniences of modern living. The addition of dormers to the upper story for ventilation and sunlight increased the square footage of the home, while central heating and the use of new materials have made shutters and chimneys mostly decorative (in some Revival Capes you’ll see the chimney moved to one side of the house). Several new architectural details can be found in Revival Cape Cods such as porches (especially in the warm climate areas), columns, pilasters, porticos, garage and sunroom additions…

Cape Cod 2

Revival Cape with ample second story, dormers, portico

Cape Cod 16

Revival Cape with chimney moved to one side and a sun porch addition

Cape Cod 17

Revival Cape with dormers and a portico

Aside from their homey character, Cape Cods represent an environmentally friendly choice in a society increasingly concerned with the effects our life styles have on our planet’s limited resources. At a time when, architecturally, bigger is no longer the better, here we have a house that is both picturesque and immensely practical. With a convenient layout that is comfortable without being wasteful, homeowners throughout the country looking to downsize are finding the good old Cape a smart and stylish choice.

Cape Cod 19

HGTV 2015 Dream Home



LET’S KEEP IN TOUCH!     Instagram // Pinterest // Facebook // Twitter



  1. February 2, 2016 / 8:56 am

    Dear Design Cafe, how lovely of you to include my little Bee Cottage in your charming and informative blog. I am so happy to find you! If you will email me privately with your address I would be honored to send you a book! Brava, and many thanks, Frances Schultz

      February 2, 2016 / 2:13 pm

      Dear Ms. Schultz, thank you so much for your kind words. I have been admiring your delightful East Hampton cottage since I first saw it in HB, years ago and your comment on my tiny little blog means more than you can imagine! And the funny thing is that I had just prepared a blog post for today about Bee. Many, many thanks, Eva Contreras

  2. February 2, 2016 / 2:34 pm

    Bună seara , Evita! Succes cu noul blog! Mi-a făcut plăcere să citesc despre aceste case tradiționale sau nu:)

      February 2, 2016 / 7:15 pm

      Iti multumesc, draga Alina! Ma bucur ca ti-a placut