The Cape Cod Home and Interior
Many things likely come to mind when you think of Cape Cod. Old New England charm, warm and sunny beach days, and maybe fresh clam chowder. But did you know that not only is Cape Cod the name of an architectural style spearheaded in the area, but it is also a category of interior design? The Cape Cod home is airy, beachy, and on-trend. Read on to find out about where the style came from, and how you can even incorporate it into your own home, whether you live on Cape Cod or across the world.
What is the history of the “Cape Cod Home” style?
The Cape Cod home style is a traditional architectural design that originated in New England, particularly in the Cape Cod region of Massachusetts, United States. The style is characterized by a simple, symmetrical design, steep roof with side gables, a central chimney, and a relatively small size. The history of the Cape Cod home style can be traced back to the late 17th century.
The early Cape Cod homes were built by English settlers who arrived in the region during the 17th century. These settlers adapted the architectural styles from their homeland to suit the harsh New England climate. The design of the Cape Cod home was influenced by the half-timbered houses of England, with modifications to withstand the strong winds and heavy snowfall of the Cape Cod area.
The original Cape Cod homes were small, one or one-and-a-half-story houses with a rectangular or square footprint. They were typically constructed with a timber frame, covered in cedar shingles, and featured a thatched or wooden roof. The steep roof with side gables allowed snow to easily slide off, preventing excessive weight accumulation.
The interior layout of Cape Cod homes was often compact and efficient. The ground floor usually consisted of a central hall, with rooms on either side. The bedrooms were located on the upper level under the sloping roof. The central chimney provided heat for the entire house, with fireplaces in each room.
Over time, the Cape Cod style evolved and incorporated various influences. In the early 19th century, Federal-style details, such as decorative trim and formal entrances, were added to some Cape Cod homes. In the mid-20th century, the Cape Cod style gained popularity across the United States, as soldiers returning from World War II sought affordable and practical housing options. The Cape Cod design appealed to these veterans due to its simplicity, modest size, and charming aesthetics.
During the post-war housing boom, Cape Cod homes were constructed in suburban areas throughout the country. The style was further modified to accommodate modern amenities and larger living spaces. Some variations included dormer windows to increase usable space on the upper level, expanded wings or additions, and different siding materials like brick or vinyl.
Today, the Cape Cod home style remains a popular architectural choice, cherished for its timeless appeal and practicality. It has become an iconic symbol of traditional American residential architecture, and many new homes continue to be built in the Cape Cod style, preserving its heritage and enduring charm.
Architecture of the Cape Cod Home
Traditionally, in architecture, “Cape Cod” refers to a very specific style of house. Modest and geometric, it is a simple silhouette: one story, a steep gabled roof, and a chimney in the center. The roof is gabled to prevent heavy snow from settling and weighing down the roof in harsh New England winters. The front door is generally central as well, and windows tend to feature shutters. The materials are strong and durable to endure the stormy Cape Cod weather. The effects of the weather on shingles or clapboard over time would be what produced the iconic weathered-grey exterior look.
The architectural style has evolved over time from when the style first showed up in late 17th century New England. As the style grew to adapt to changing needs, a second story was added, and now you will often see dormer windows projecting from the roof of a modern Cape Cod home. In some cases you will also see more ornate molding around the door or windows, as well as other ornamentation on the structure, in contrast to the simplistic style of earlier Cape Cod homes.
The interiors of these homes, much like the exteriors, are also simplistic. They usually have rooms centered around one central hall or a large open concept living space. The bedrooms are often under the dormers we discussed earlier, or under the gabled roof so the ceiling would be slanted. Throughout the home, the lines are clean and geometric. In the more traditional style, there is minimal decoration and ornamental detailing, although this may not necessarily be the case in more modernized versions of the style.
Interior Design of Cape Cod Homes
In terms of interior basics, Cape Cod homes typically have natural wood floors. Since ceilings are often low, bright white paint colors on the walls and ceiling reflect light and make the space seem a little bigger than it actually is. Often, these bright white walls have wood paneling or shiplap that give them a rustic look. Cape Cod homes mix New England charm with a traditional beach house look, and use lots of pastel colors for the interiors. Think cornflower blue, light sage green, and subtle butter yellow. It’s important to stay light with these shades, to keep the space looking bigger and reflecting more natural light.
For furnishings, evoke the old New England vibe and consider built in bookshelves. This both maximizes the small space and gives a scholarly, Cape Cod feel. Make sure that if you use built in bookshelves, you use the same bright white paint color as the walls so that it all flows. In terms of lighting, go in layers. While the space should have lots of natural lighting from big windows, choose pendant lighting paired with wall sconces for when it gets dark at night.
When decorating, keep using those same bright whites and pastel colors. For fabrics, consider sheer curtains to let plenty of light in. In the living room, pick white linens for the sofa, and consider natural driftwood furniture like a coffee table. Since bedrooms are often under slanted ceilings or dormers, this is the perfect opportunity to get super cozy. Create a comfy, relaxing nook with plenty of soft pillows and textiles and space to read and relax.
The Cape Cod home is a quintessential American architectural and design style that isn’t going anywhere any time soon. No matter where you live in the world, use these tips to create your own New England style abode.
This architecture blog about Cape Cod homes was published by Nazmiyal Antique Rugs.