Dutch Colonial Architecture Guide

What is Dutch Colonial Architecture?

Dutch colonial architecture is a classic home style of the Northeast United States. One of the earliest home styles in the country, originating in the 1600s, versions of this architecture still exist today. Let’s explore where it came from, how it evolved, and what it’s defining features are.

Dutch Colonial architecture was influenced by the climate and available resources in the regions where it was practiced. For example, in the Dutch East Indies, houses were designed to accommodate the tropical climate, with features such as high ceilings, large windows for ventilation, and expansive verandas or colonnades.

What is a Dutch Colonial House?

A Dutch Colonial house refers to a specific architectural style of residential homes that originated during the colonial period in areas influenced by Dutch colonization, particularly in North America. It is characterized by distinct design elements and features that set it apart from other architectural styles.

Key features of a Dutch Colonial house include:

  • Gambrel Roof: The most recognizable feature of a Dutch Colonial house is its gambrel roof. A gambrel roof has two slopes on each side, with the lower slope being steeper than the upper one. This design allows for increased interior space on the upper level, creating more usable living area.
  • Symmetry: Dutch Colonial houses typically exhibit a symmetrical design, with a centered front entrance and an equal number of windows on either side. The symmetrical arrangement contributes to the balanced and formal appearance of the house.
  • Dormer Windows: The gambrel roof often incorporates dormer windows, which are windows that project vertically from the roof. Dormer windows provide additional light and ventilation to the upper floor while adding visual interest to the overall design.
  • Brick or Stone Construction: Dutch Colonial houses commonly feature brick or stone construction for the exterior walls. This durable material provides strength and stability to the structure, contributing to the longevity of the house.
  • Front Porch: Many Dutch Colonial houses include a front porch or stoop, extending across the front of the house. This covered area serves as an outdoor space for relaxation and socializing and adds to the charm of the house.
  • Central Chimney: The chimney is often positioned in the center of the house, rising above the roofline. It serves as the focal point of the structure and accommodates the fireplaces and heating systems of the house.
A Dutch Colonial House Nazmiyal

The Dutch Colonial House

Dutch Colonial houses were prevalent in the Dutch colonial settlements of the Hudson River Valley, New York, and other parts of early America. Today, they remain iconic and sought-after architectural styles, often admired for their historical significance and unique charm.

What does Dutch Colonial mean?

Dutch Colonial refers to the architectural style and historical period associated with the Dutch colonization and influence in various parts of the world, particularly during the 17th and 18th centuries. It primarily refers to the architectural style used in the construction of buildings and structures in areas that were colonized or settled by the Dutch, such as the Dutch East Indies (present-day Indonesia), Suriname, parts of the Caribbean, and certain regions in North America.

The term “Dutch Colonial” can also be used to describe the period of Dutch colonial rule, which lasted from the 17th to the mid-20th century, depending on the specific region. During this time, the Dutch established colonies, trading posts, and settlements in various parts of the world, leaving a lasting impact on architecture, culture, and history.

What is the Dutch Colonial Style?

The Dutch Colonial style combines elements of Dutch building traditions with local influences and materials. It typically features a symmetrical design, steep roofs with flared eaves, gambrel roofs (roofs with two slopes on each side), and often includes dormer windows. The exteriors are commonly constructed with brick or stone, while wooden materials are also used for certain elements.

History of Dutch Colonial Houses

Although these homes are called Dutch colonial, the style actually originated in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. The name originates from the fact that these states were inhabited by Dutch settlers when the style was born in the mid 1700s. Although the style was prominent throughout America‘s northeast for hundreds of years, they were not called “Dutch Colonial” homes until the 1920’s.

Dutch Colonial Stone Architecture Nazmiyal

Old Dutch colonial houses, like this one built in the 1600s, were made of stone.

While the style did fade out of popularity for a few decades, the late 19th century brought newfound popularity for this style of home. Homes built in this century and beyond are technically called “Dutch Colonial Revival” architecture, although colloquially the term “Dutch Colonial” is acceptable as well.

As the style modernized and evolved, so did the world around it. While what was once New Amsterdam used to be filled with this style of home, in modern day New York City they are nonexistent. The homes were lost in fires or disasters over the years and were replaced by high rising apartment buildings to make use of horizontal space in an ever growing city.

Dutch Colonial Architecture New Amsterdam Nazmiyal

Dutch colonial architecture depicted in an illustration of 17th century New Amsterdam.

Characteristics of Dutch Colonial Houses

The most defining characteristic of an original Dutch colonial house is a gambrel roof. Gambrel roofs are symmetrical and slope on each side. These roofs were so commonly used in Dutch style houses that the popular name for them in the 18th century became “Dutch Roofs”. Dutch Colonial homes are broad, and the roofs have long eaves that extend over the sides of the buildings. These features make the buildings look barn-like. Originally, the home was just one room, although this has changed as the style evolved over time. Usually both sides of the exterior had a porch. Materials included stone or brick for the house and doors and window shutters made of wood. Finally, these houses usually have a chimney on either one or both ends.

Gambrel Roof Dutch Colonial House Nazmiyal

A gambrel roof.

Modern interpretations of Dutch colonial houses have different features. More materials are included, such as shingles or clapboard. Modern Dutch colonial buildings still have a chimney, but it will sometimes be seen in the middle of the gambrel roof. Sometimes columns are seen on the porches or at the entry. While original homes were usually only one and a half stories, more modern homes are two stories.

Dutch Colonial Architecture Porch Nazmiyal

A Dutch colonial porch with columns.

The front doors are also synonymous with this architecture style. A “Dutch door” came from the front door of this style of home. The door was split horizontally so that just the top half could be opened to let in fresh air.

Historic Dutch colonial architecture has been around forever and isn’t going away any time soon. These classically beautiful homes not only evolve with the world around them, but become more modern and adaptable as the years go on. The perfect home to decorate, they are classic and gorgeous.

Explore some European rugs and textiles for a Dutch colonial house, as well as some Dutch Corneille rugs from the Nazmiyal Collection:

Antique European Embroidery Nazmiyal

Antique European Embroidery

Rare Square Size Antique Lion Motif Ukrainian Rug Nazmiyal

Rare Square Size Antique Lion Motif Ukrainian Rug

Vintage Scandinavian Tapestry Rug by Corneille Nazmiyal

Vintage Scandinavian Tapestry Rug by Corneille

Square Vintage Scandinavian Surrealist Tapestry Rug by Corneille Nazmiyal

Square Vintage Scandinavian Surrealist Tapestry Rug by Corneille

Mid Century Vintage Round Corneille Rug Nazmiyal

Mid Century Vintage Round Corneille Rug

This architecture blog was published by Nazmiyal Antique Rugs.

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