What is a Dutch Colonial House?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

A Dutch colonial house is a type of home architecture common in America. Originally built by Dutch colonists in the 16th and 17th centuries, these picturesque homes retain a flavor of the style and method used in house building in the colonists' homelands. The Dutch colonial house regained popularity in the early 20th century, leading to a similar though modernized style known as Dutch colonial revivalism.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

The most characteristic feature of a Dutch colonial house is the distinct sloping roof. Properly called a gambrel, this roof style is a symmetrical design with a steep lower angle and a shallow upper angle near the joining point or top of the roof. Gambrel roofs are often seen on barns, leading many to refer to this style as a “barn style” house.

The gambrel roof makes a Dutch colonial house easy to distinguish from other popular colonial design styles. Unlike the blocky rectangular dwellings popular in French and British colonial styles, Dutch colonials have a more rounded, expansive silhouette. The curving eaves of the roof also made it convenient to build porches along the sides of the house, rather than the front-facing verandas more common in other styles.

Dutch colonials used different materials depending on the place of settlement. Brick and stone were commonly used in some areas, while wood siding or even shingling were used in areas where wood products were more widely accessible. Generally, materials were not mixed, so that a brick house would use only brick and not siding, and vice versa.

The interior of an original Dutch colonial house was often one large room with an extremely high ceiling. If a second story was built, it had limited use, due to the sloping eaves of the roof. Sleeping lofts and storage could be incorporated into a second story, while the main living, eating, and entertaining quarters occupied the main level. In Dutch colonial revival homes, the roof is generally built high enough to incorporate a fully usable second story, often with an attic taking up the available space under the top of the roof.

Other distinguishing features may help define a Dutch colonial house, but were not necessities. Some featured a characteristic double front door, known as a Dutch door. Chimneys were often placed at the short side of the house, sometimes with one chimney on each end. Windows on the short end were often round, while rectangular windows dominated the long sides of the house.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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Discussion Comments


You did not mention that the front door of a dutch colonial is in the center of the side of the house.

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