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  • Writer's pictureMeredith Adhate

Home Styles – which is which?

There are a number of different home styles which you’ve likely heard of, especially if you are looking for a house – colonials, ranches, capes – but are you familiar with the differences between them? Here’s a quick guide to help you learn some of the characteristics of the most common styles of homes (especially in CT). (Please note there are other, less-common styles I do not cover such as bungalows, a-frames, half duplexes, etc).


Colonials are fairly common in CT and the Northeast in general. They are primarily defined as having 2, generally equally-sized stories with a defined family room, living room, dining room, and kitchen downstairs and usually with the bedrooms upstairs. They tend to have 3-4 bedrooms and 2/2.5/3 bathrooms.

Cape Cod

Even though Edna Mode said, “NO CAPES!” She thankfully didn’t mean houses!

Cape Cods are also very common but you might not recognize them as quickly just from the outside. Cape Cods are kind of a “1.5” story house where the upstairs is smaller than downstairs and usually consists of 2 bedrooms often (not always) with those two dormered windows up top. Downstairs is similar to a Colonial, though it may have just a family room or living room and not both. If you’re someone who sets out looking for a Colonial, you may want to look at Capes as well.


Dipping your veggies in this type of Ranch may prove difficult.

Don’t like stairs? Ranches are for you! Ranches kind of stand out from the bunch as only being one story. Ranches can vary widely in size and shape – they can look like the one in this photo and can be “L” shaped or “U” shaped. They can be 800 square feet or 3000 square feet. Layouts can vary a lot but basically everything is on one floor. Some have basements and others don’t. Generally if you don’t see a second story, it’s a ranch.

Raised Ranch

To go up..or down?

A raised ranch is easier to spot from the inside than the outside. On the outside, you can see in the photo, the basement windows are at hip level and the door is sort of between the bottom and top stories. Inside, the giveaway for a raised ranch is that you come in right between the two levels on a platform and have to immediately go up or down the stairs such as like this:

The layout is a bit different than other homes – the top floor contains almost all the living spaces including the living room, dining room, kitchen AND the bedrooms. Downstairs can be considered the basement OR the lower level depending if it’s finished or not. In some cases, there may be a large, finished room, laundry, a bathroom, and a utilities room (and possibly a garage). The draw for Raised Ranch style homes is that the basement square footage is NOT included in your home’s square footage which can positively affect the taxes on your home (i.e. your house may show up in town records as only 1200 square feet, but there’s an extra 600 square feet of finished space in the lower level).

Split Level

People sometimes confuse Raised Ranches with Split Levels. The main difference is Raised Ranches have an up and a down while Split Levels can have up to 4 separate levels of living space. If you look at this photo, the door is on the main floor, though slightly above the base of the garage door. There’s also a second story, but only over the garage. Generally with a split level you enter on the main floor and have a living room, kitchen, and dining room. From there you can either go upstairs a half flight (about 6 stairs, where you’ll usually find bedrooms) OR you can go downstairs (another half flight) where you may find another living room or finished space and possibly a bathroom. In some houses, there may be another half level up or down. What rooms are on each floor can vary by house. You may like a split level if you don’t want your bedrooms on the same level as your kitchen or living room, but don’t want to climb down a full flight of stairs to get there.


Contemporary is incredibly broad. Basically, it’s any uniquely-styled home that doesn’t fit the mold of one of the more traditional, common styles. It can have basically any layout, be of any size, and have any number of rooms. In Connecticut, you don’t tend to see whole neighborhoods of these but rather a one-off house among other styles.

What should I get?

Home styles are strictly personal opinion. There are many factors to consider when choosing the style of home that’s right for you – do you want one or two stories, are you okay with stairs, do you want to be close to the kitchen? Ask yourself those questions but also tour different styles of properties to get a feel for what will work best for you and/or with whomever you may be buying a home. And always ask questions if you’re not sure the difference!

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