Tudor, Federal, Bungalows: Taking Stock of DC’s Architectural Styles

by UrbanTurf Staff

We first published this article in January 2012, but thought our readers might appreciate a refresher on some of the most common architectural styles in the District.

Since we spend so much time highlighting properties across DC, UrbanTurf wanted to define a few of the most popular architectural styles found in the city’s housing stock. Here is our amateur guide to the DC residential architectural world.

Tudor, Federal, Bungalows: Taking Stock of DC's Architectural Styles: Figure 1
Federal-style row house in Capitol Hill


Flat and lacking ornamentation, these boxy properties started going up in the early 1800s, offering Washingtonians modest but comfortable homes close to the new capital city. Inspired by ancient Greek and Roman architecture (somewhat morbidly, the homes became popular after the unearthing of Pompeii), Federal-style row houses can be distinguished from their Victorian counterparts by low stoops and modest scale. The homes are usually two stories tall with two or three bedrooms.

Tudor, Federal, Bungalows: Taking Stock of DC's Architectural Styles: Figure 2
Classic Dupont Victorians


Spot an imposing brick home with a turret in Columbia Heights or Dupont Circle? It’s probably a Victorian. After Washingtonians amassed a bit of wealth, they started building homes in the ornamental Victorian style in the late 19th century. The homes pop out in all directions in comparison to Federal-style row houses; bay windows add dimension in the front, roofs peak and curvature can be spotted from time to time. Some of these homes come with carriage houses and have as many as five bedrooms.

Tudor, Federal, Bungalows: Taking Stock of DC's Architectural Styles: Figure 3
Mount Pleasant Tudor


In the early 1900s, Tudor revival-style homes started popping up in DC. Walk around Mount Pleasant and you can find blocks of pointy roofed, European-looking homes with a vaguely “Hans Christian Andersen” feel; these are Tudors. They are often identifiable by decorative exposed dark wood that outlines windows and doors (which they call ‘half-timbering’), asymmetrical facades, and a medieval playfulness (if that’s possible).

Tudor, Federal, Bungalows: Taking Stock of DC's Architectural Styles: Figure 4
Beaux Arts home in Kalorama

Beaux Arts

At the same time that Tudors emerged, Beaux Arts architecture was becoming popular again in the U.S. Many of the more tony houses built between 1890 and the 1920’s in DC are in this style, and have a jazzy, flapper-esque, Gilded-age feel. As the French name indicates, this style was popular with architects who studied in France, and the homes are ornate, with marble, granite, carved wood and intricate ironwork showing up and ornaments clustered around windows and doors. Many grand homes in Kalorama were designed in the Beaux Arts style.

Tudor, Federal, Bungalows: Taking Stock of DC's Architectural Styles: Figure 5
Bungalow in AU Park


Identifiable by their low-pitched roofs with significant overhang, bungalows started appearing in the 20th century. Bungalows get their name from the cottages found in the Indian state of Bengal (bungalow is British-speak for “house full of Bengalis”). Usually one or one and a half stories tall, with verandas all around under the shade of a hanging roof, bungalows are a popular property type in Takoma Park, Del Ray and some NW DC neighborhoods. While row houses and Victorians are skinny and tall, bungalows are low and rambling, with most of the living happening on the ground floor.

Tudor, Federal, Bungalows: Taking Stock of DC's Architectural Styles: Figure 6
Arts and Crafts home in Kensington

Craftsman/Arts and Crafts

Sometimes overlapping with bungalows, Arts and Crafts is used to identify a simple design aesthetic that became popular in the early 20th century. Also called Craftsman, this style permeated down to furniture and is identifiable by facades and interiors that look less ornamented than previous styles. Materials are highlighted, design is secondary. The homes are often full of built-in cabinetry and shelving. As the name indicates, Arts and Crafts homes were part of a movement that sought to elevate the craftsman and downplay machinery.

Tudor, Federal, Bungalows: Taking Stock of DC's Architectural Styles: Figure 7
Chevy Chase colonial


A common suburban style, these colonial homes can be found all throughout Bethesda, Alexandria, and other DC suburbs. A typical colonial has a symmetrical facade, with a front door in the center and windows with decorative shutters on either side and above. Our modern colonials are inspired by the homes of early American settlers. On the interior, colonials strive for an economical use of space, with sensibly divided floors and not too many nooks. These houses also emerged in the early 20th century, and were thought to be statelier than bungalows or cottages.

Tudor, Federal, Bungalows: Taking Stock of DC's Architectural Styles: Figure 8
Contemporary home in NW DC


Most contemporary architecture is window-filled, clean-lined and open. As Craftsman homes highlighted the materials, contemporary designs often highlight the purpose, in a form-follows-function kind of way. Ornamentation is limited. Many contemporary designs lean heavily on crisp lines and angles inside and out, sometimes appearing cold. UrbanTurf often finds contemporary listings tucked away near Rock Creek Park.

See other articles related to: dclofts, dc architecture

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/dcs_housing_stock_some_common_architectural_styles/4979


  1. kate said at 10:23 pm on Wednesday January 25, 2012:
    So cool to have this design rundown all in one place. I will actually know what I am looking at now!
  1. Greg said at 10:30 pm on Wednesday January 25, 2012:
    so what style is this picture? federal? http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6007/6206156860_76550c6834_m.jpg
  1. Shilpi Paul said at 10:40 pm on Wednesday January 25, 2012:
    Hi Greg, Those are "Petworth-style" row houses, which became popular in Columbia Heights and Petworth at around the time cars emerged. More info can be found here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/52308384/Columbia-Heights-Style-Guide-for-Row-Houses Shilpi
  1. bedubya said at 1:11 am on Thursday January 26, 2012:
    You left out Wardmans. Pervasive in Petworth and other neighborhoods (is that what you mean by Petworth style? Didn't know that was actually an architectural style - i think Wardman is the more commonly used term.)
  1. Richard Layman said at 3:14 pm on Thursday January 26, 2012:
    It's not "Petworth" style. It's called "Washington Row" or Wardman, because the style was pushed by the DC builder Harry Wardman. The house sense of style inside is very much Craftsman like. Plus, what this entry calls "Federal" is arguably Italianate. Anyway, I wouldn't put too much stock in this typology. Instead, people ought to refer to (available at the Washingtoniana Collection at the MLK Library) the sections on architectural styles of houses in _Anacostia Conserved_ and _LeDroit Park Conserved_ published by DC in the late 1970s. It doesn't list all the styles. Other good resources include Rehab Rochester, for a broader set of styles, or books such as "What Style is It" - http://web.archive.org/web/20110422055225/http://landmarksociety.org/section.html?id=1&uid=1 And this for the Capitol Hill Historic District: http://www.chrs.org/documents/Guidelines/04_CHRS_BldgStyles.pdf etc.
  1. Ghosts of DC said at 4:43 am on Tuesday January 31, 2012:
    I love the Mt. Pleasant Tudor homes ... kind of has the feel of a gingerbread home.
  1. ajricc00 said at 8:05 pm on Tuesday October 15, 2013:
    More background on the Wardmans from a previous UT post: http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/whats_in_a_wardman/5419
  1. jco71 said at 2:56 pm on Wednesday October 16, 2013:
    Great summary - really enjoyed it.

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