What Is a Cape Cod-Style House?

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Seaside Cape-Cod style home on Martha's Vineyard (Photo: @marn123424 via Twenty20)
If you appreciate a minimalist design with tons of character, a Cape Cod-style house (also called simply “a Cape”) could be right up your alley. You don’t need to live in Massachusetts to find one of these remarkable historic homes, either, as the style has sprung up in almost every neighborhood across the nation.

Where Cape Cod-style homes started out

When New England was settled in the 17th century, a home featuring a simplistic design made of local materials was a common theme. At the time, the rudimentary style was intended for the sole purpose of withstanding the extreme weather in Cape Cod.
The style was brought to the area from Puritan carpenters who came from England, but it’s been embraced for generations as an attractive, subdued house design, especially as it regained popularity in the 1930s through the 50s.

Features that define a Cape Cod-style house

Like all home models, there are many variations of the design. Still, several features fit the definition of a Cape Cod-style house. They include:
  • A traditional square or rectangle structure
  • A single-storey or one-and-a-half storey home, often with the upper half-storey left unfinished
  • An modest exterior finish, either with wood siding or stone
  • A front door centered on the home, flanked symmetrically with windows
  • Windowed dormers on a steep-pitched roof
  • Shutters on each side of the windows
  • A chimney centered on the roof
Ornate yards with a traditional rose garden are also common with Capes. And you can’t forget about the white picket fence!

Is a Cape Cod-style house a good idea?

Because of their modest appearance, you might be lulled into thinking that Cape Cod-style homes are a low-cost option. The opposite is usually true. Older heritage buildings command some of the highest prices, as is the case in Martha’s Vineyard. And for modern homes that mimic the style, it’s expensive to recreate it. Luckily, the norm for this type of home is 1,000 to 2,000 square feet, so the smaller size does keep the price from climbing too high.
Although newer homes do better, Capes traditionally perform poorly in terms of heat retention, as insulation was not very efficient in the past. But, they keep cool due to numerous windows and an open design. Still, the cottage-like design has a magnetic attraction for many Americans. What’s more important than buying a house that is efficient and modern is a house you love? One you can make your home.

Ready to find your new home?

Whether you’re looking for a home in Massachusetts or anywhere else in the nation, a Cape Cod-style dwelling may be right for you. Before you jump into your purchase, do your due diligence with a home inspection and compare home insurance quotes between a few different styles.