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Guide to Tudor Architectural Style

A Tudor-style home

If you’re a fan of children’s fairytales and romantic movies, you have most likely seen a Tudor house.

This style of architecture first originated during the 15th and 16th centuries. Still, when most homeowners refer to this style, they are talking about the style that was popular during the United States in more modern times. It was because, during the 19th and 20th century, the country had beautiful examples of this nod to the medieval English architecture, as well as the details that make the cottages and early century mansions.

History of Tudor Architectural Style

Tudor architecture dates back to Medieval England, and this style grew during the 15th and 16th centuries. As the 16th century came to an end and Medieval England progressed, this style receded for a few hundred years.

From the 1890s to 1940s, some American homes were built on a style based on a blend between late Medieval and early Renaissance styles. The houses with these distinguishing characteristics are what we call “Tudor” today. Tudor houses made up the most significant portion of homes that were built during the 1920s and 1930s. Architects trained in Europe who were influenced by the Old World styles brought the asymmetrical and eclectic Tudor-style homes to America before the 19th century ended. This style was built for wealthy homeowners, as the house was built with solid masonry and elaborate, decorative stone and brickwork. This style was sometimes called the “Stockbroker Tudor” because financially successful owners usually made their wealth during the booming 1920s stock market.

You don’t have to be an architecture design expert to be able to spot a Tudor home. Its distinct look makes it easily recognizable among other more symmetrical and lighter colonial neighbors. Tudor-style homes come in different sizes, while the smaller ones have a quaint storybook appearance to it. It has a charming, Old-World feel that appealed to many Americans. It can feel as much like an English manor on the inside as it looks on the outside.

During the early 1900s, the brick and stone homes became more affordable to build, thanks to innovation in masonry veneer techniques. Because of this, the intricacies of Tudor-style homes were quite expensive for the average home builder. Around World War II, this style fell out of popularity, and it’s also a part due to the resurgence of patriotism that encouraged an appreciation for a more American style. Also, the country focused on new and affordable housing developments that can be built quickly. During the popularity of the Colonial Revival period from 1910 to 1940, the Tudor style comprised about 25 percent of the suburban houses built.

Types of Tudor Style Homes

Old English Tudor

An Old English style house

The original Tudor style started in England during the late 15th century until the early 16th century. This became popular during the reign of British monarchs who came from the House of Tudor. The elite of the time built their impressive stone or brick manor homes replete with many casement windows and ornate chimney stacks. Meanwhile, the commoners formed a more modest architectural style framed entirely with timber with woven sticks known as a wattle in between the timbers. The spaces around the wattle were filled with a daub, which is a mixture of sand, clay, and dung. After drying, the wall will be painted white using limewash and protected with tar. This method is called the half-timbering technique.

The Old English Tudor architecture often has tall, multi-paned windows, towering spires, slender columns, and stone chimneys that stretch far above the roof. This is a grand style, but harvesting the timbers required to build the frame was time-consuming and difficult. Because of this, the original Tudor architecture was already beginning to fade in England by the mid-16th century.

American Tudor Revival

While the original Tudor style was forgotten mainly for three centuries, it reappeared in America during the early 1900s. However, the American version used the same wood-framing methods used to build other homes of the era, so there’s no need to rely on heavy timbers. The American Tudor style mixed some Old World design techniques with modern house building methods.

This Tudor style uses strips of boards that are combined with masonry or stucco on the exterior to mimic the half-timbering effect.

Tudor Revival or Tudorbethan

A Tudorbethan style home

During the mid-1800s, the Tudor Revival style (also known as Tudorbethan) became a popular style for those looking for English house designs. It mimics the country cottage vibe of the medieval homes by using half-timbering and steep roofs. The half-timbering usually comes with the popular herringbone brick filler. The dormer windows add a classic look, and the tall narrow windows and doors, plus the oriel windows, are always associated with this style.

By the way, the term “Tudorbethan” is modeled on the coinage of the word “Jacobethan” style, which was used to describe the mixed revival style from 1835 to 1885.

Characteristics of Tudor-Style Homes

Tudor is considered as the last form of medieval architecture, and the Victorian era follows it. The influence of the Tudor style was carried throughout subsequent methods that were developed later on.

Tudor Arch

One of the most prominent architectural features of the Tudor style is the Tudor arch. This type of arch is formed by joining a cluster of four centered domes. Tudor homes often have an arch at the top that is bordered by a contrasting stone that stands out against the brick walls.

Cross gable roof

The roof on Tudor homes is prominent for their steep gables that are often punctuated with small dormers and clad with slate. The main gable is often paired with one or two cross gables (sometimes side gables) to create an attractive shape. The gable ends are commonly adorned with verge boards, and their decoration ranges from simple to highly carved. Many fans of the Tudor style love seeing the rooflines on each side elevation.

Casement windows

Casement windows are a constant in Tudor-style homes and are usually grouped in rows of three or more framed in either metal or wood. Typically, the windows are divided into six or eight rectangular panes and arranged in a diamond pattern and are symmetrically placed in the main gable.

Decorative half-timbering

Tudor architecture is incomplete without its statement half-timbering. It creates a balance of black or brown to a white exterior. Back then, during the glory days of the Old English Tudor, half-timbering was a need so that builders can create multiple stories in a home as they lack the tools to use stone. What they did was to build wooden frames and fill them with stucco. Nowadays, that method of building was outdated, so it’s usually used decoratively, using false timbering and stone brims.

Mixed-use of building materials

There are several easily identifiable features of the Tudor style, and it’s the combined use of these building materials: stucco, stone, timber, bricks, and wood – with emphasis on the stucco wall. The first floor of a Tudor home is usually built with stone and bricks, while timber and stuccos are used with upper floors.

Detailed entrance

The entrance of a Tudor home usually features an assembly of different architectural elements arranged asymmetrically. These features are installed for decorative purposes, but some do use it to reinforce safety. To protect the home, a thick masonry wall is built to allow the door to be recessed or to project a bay window or small roof over the door.

Large chimneys

The chimney was an essential part of Tudor architecture because, in the 16th century, it was a necessity to keep the house warm. These chimneys are often made with brick or stucco, and the bottom is decorated with chimney pots.

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