Things to Know About Cape Cod Home

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Cape Cod houses have been around for centuries, but they continue to enchant us. This type of house, which is now synonymous with beach style and weekends, comes from very modest beginnings but still remains popular. This popularity led us to a question. What exactly makes a Cape Cod-style home so unique?

We have described the answer below. Keep reading to learn more about the long history of this picturesque architectural style, what distinguishes the different types of Cape Cod houses, and some defining features of the style as a whole. By the end of this article, you should be able to consider yourself a Cape Cod expert.

History of the Cape Cod home

Believe it or not, this style of the house dates back to the time of the first Puritan settlers. This is because they brought the idea of an English cottage to America and then adapted it to the harsh winter climate of New England. The symmetrical design, arranged around a large open living space – or “hall” as it was once called – is in the English tradition. However, the steep roofs were intended to minimize the weight of the snow that settled on the roof. The characteristic low ceilings were intended to save heat and the pretty shutters were placed to block the harsh winter winds.

The term “Cape Cod house” was not given to these cottages until the 1800s. The Rev. Timothy Dwight IV, President of Yale University, named them after a visit to Cape Cod. His observations of his visit were published posthumously in “Voyages to New England and New York” (1821-22). That said, the modern Cape Cod you see today was popularized during a period of colonial revival in the 1920s and 1930s. Royal Boston architect Barry Willis has reintroduced Cape Town as a contemporary living option. He kept the same basic elements but adapted the decor to modern life. His work experienced another boom after the Second World War when the simplistic layout of the Cape made it a good choice to house returning soldiers.

Variations on the Cape Cod home


With an entrance door on one side of the house and two multi-paned glass windows on the other, this house was the starting house of its time. Settlers often continued to add additions to it as their families grew until it finally turned into a three-quarter cape. This type of house is sometimes also called a single Cape.

Three-Quarter Cape

This house has the front door on one side of the house with two multi-walled windows on one side and a multi-walled window on the other. It was the most popular cape style in the 18th and early 19th centuries.

Full Cape

Also known as the double cape, this style is common today, but was rare among the colonists. It was reserved for the richest of them. The complete cape has a central entrance door and two symmetrically positioned multi-paned windows on each side. It also has a particularly steep roof and a huge fireplace.

Defining the characteristics of a Cape Cod

Although Cape Cod homes come in a variety of styles, there are a few defining features that bring them all together. Here is a general overview of what you can expect from this type of property:


  • Symmetrical appearance with a centered front
  • Steep roofs with side facades and an overhang
  • Shingle cladding
  • Skylight with facade
  • Double windows with shutters
  • Central fireplaces
  • Simple exterior decoration


  • 1 or 1.5 floors
  • Low ceilings
  • Symmetrical layout with a central hall
  • Large open living space
  • Dormer rooms or under facades
  • Clean lines, few aesthetic details

Have you fallen in love with the Cape Cod-style home? Have you ever dreamed of owning one of your own? Tell us all about it in the comments below.

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