Common Architectural Styles in the DMV – A Guide for Real Estate Agents
Amber McCulloch
July 21, 2022 — Read in 5 mins · 998 words

Real estate is a matchmaking business – introducing our buyer clients to homes that have the features, finishes, look and feel that appeal to them the most. And we are working to help our seller clients put their home’s best foot forward by highlighting their standout features and unique personality. Making a successful match in both cases inevitably comes down to architecture and your knowledge of it. Having a good grasp of the common residential architecture styles in your area is essential so that you can accurately market a home’s features in your listings and gain actionable insights into the mind of your buyer. 

Some buyers are looking for specific architectural styles or features—being able to “talk the talk” will demonstrate your expertise and better serve your clients. Knowing the unique architectural features of a home will help you decide what to highlight in your listing photos, descriptions, and ads. The style of the home will also impact staging decisions and how you advise clients looking to remodel or make home improvements. 

Since knowledge of architecture is such a key tool in our agent toolbox, we’ve created a quick guide to the most common home styles in the D.C. area and where you’re likely to find them.

Typical architectural styles in the D.C. area

Victorian homes in Washington, D.C.
Victorian style homes in Washington, D.C.

Victorian – Columbia Heights, Georgetown, Dupont Circle
Perhaps the most recognizable architectural style, Victorian architectural style can be found in town/row houses and single-family settings in D.C.’s historic district. They are usually tall with multiple stories and are characterized by their ornamentation and steep or curved roof peaks. Quirky details abound! Look for turrets, towers, dormers, arched windows, and ornate trim details such as finials or carved decoration. They will often have a whimsical, bright paint color and sash or bay windows to add dimension to the front façade. The door is often located off-center and porches are very common. Interiors are full of nooks and small, intimate rooms. Carriage houses and stained glass are also highly-prized features. 

Federal – Capitol Hill, Burleith
You’ll find Federal-style row houses and single-family homes peppered throughout Capitol Hill and Burleith. Homes are usually two stories with two or three bedrooms. Federal architecture is defined by its clean lines, simple symmetrical façade and low stoops, and they can have varying levels of ornamentation. Look for additions such as swags, garlands, chimneys, and elliptical windows. Often, you’ll find arched Palladian windows and semicircular fanlights above the front door with sidelights to the side. 

Red Brick Beaux-Arts Style Row House Home in Washington D.C.

Beaux-Arts – Kalorama
Beaux-Arts is a French term meaning “beautiful arts.” They are typically grand and formal buildings. Union Station, the Library of Congress, and the Mayflower Hotel are prime examples of Beaux-Arts design, as well as many embassies and private mansions in the Kalorama neighborhood. Look for arched balconies, columns, grand staircases, and interior features such as marble, granite, and carved wood. Windows and doors are often ornamented with intricate ironwork. Basically, if it looks like it would be at home in The Great Gatsby, it’s probably Beaux-Arts.

Tudor Revival – Northwest of the city, Petworth, Mount Pleasant
Some Tudor designs are straight out of a storybook or Shakespearean England. They have a distinctive European flair with steeply pitched roofs and gables. You’ll recognize them by their dark wood, decorative half-timbering on bay windows and upper floors, while the lower foundation is commonly brick or stonework. Rounded doorways are one of the charming features that buyers love, as well as the stone chimneys.  

Colonial red brick home.

Colonial – Bethesda, Fairfax, Alexandria
Colonial style homes are one of the more common architectural styles – particularly in the D.C. suburbs. There are many variations, since settlers came from all over the world, but most colonial homes have a square or rectangular layout, with 2 to 2.5 stories, and bedrooms placed mainly on the second floor. They are defined by their symmetry, with a centered front door, large or double chimneys, and decorative shutters framing all of the windows. Roofs are also steeply gabled. 

Craftsman – Kensington, Maryland Suburbs
Craftsman style rose to prominence in the early 20th century, inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement. It is characterized by its low, broad rectangular footprint and its lack of unnecessary decoration or elaborate ornamentation. This style makes use of natural materials like timber, stone, and brick and glorifies hand-crafted details. Outside, look for wide, generous porches with square columns and low-pitched gabled roofs. Inside, you’ll find gleaming wood finishes, built-in cabinetry, and shelves. Light fixtures will typically be in metals such as copper and bronze. 

Bungalow style house.

Bungalow – Del Ray, Takoma Park, Northwest DC Neighborhoods
A return to simplicity after the decadence of the Victorian era contributed to the popularity of the bungalow style home across the U.S. Most D.C.-area bungalows have simple, rectangular layouts with one to one and a half stories. They are characterized by low-pitched roofs with overhangs or porches that offer shade. 

Contemporary – Glover Park, Adams Morgan, Rock Creek Park, Virginia Suburbs
Contemporary home designs are also very common throughout D.C. and the nearby suburbs. They are easily recognizable by their clean lines, open floor plans, and prominent use of metal, glass, and concrete.  You’ll find little ornamentation, lots of light, and lots of angles. Many contemporary homes also have an emphasis on green, sustainable design. 

Use this guide as a starting point and work to expand your knowledge about the most common and desired architectural details and design in your service area. Using the lingo in your listing descriptions and highlighting the special architectural features in your property photos will help you attract the type of buyers who value those unique design elements. It’s another way to set yourself apart from the competition and offer value-added services to your clients! 

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