House Styles of New England

What is a Garrison Colonial House Style?

garrisonGarrison Colonials are a distinctive sub-category of the colonial house style, found throughout Metrowest but not very typical for other parts of the country.

The origins of the garrison home can be traced back to England, where this style of house was called a “two-story English overhang” – because the second story overhangs the first.

This style is distinguished by a second story overhanging the long side of the house and below that overhang there are often a set of four decorative carvings such as pineapples or acorns.

Like other colonials, they are very symmetrical, and depending on the creativity of the builder often have the lower level faced with stone or brick while the upper story is always faced with clapboards.

Unlike other colonial styles, they almost always have a single chimney at one end of the house and the windows on the second story are usually smaller than those on the first.

This style of house has been built from colonial times through the 1970’s but are not often built today.

Garrisons are usually very well built, great houses for the mid-range buyers and are often purchased as “mover-upper” homes by second time house buyers as their families outgrow their first homes.


For some great examples of Garrison Colonial Style Homes click on the above Pinterest link
What is the Difference Between a Raised Ranch and a Split Level Style Home?

What is the Difference Between a Raised Ranch and a Split Level Style Home?

When showing homes to first-time home buyers we often end up in Splits and Raised-Ranches as they tend to be smaller in square footage and in the lower price points for their town/marketplace.

Whichever house style we enter first, the buyers often ask me “what’s the difference between this one and the other one”. So I figured that there are lots of folks who are asking the same question and why not share my answer with you all.


Raised Ranch House Style

Raised Raraised ranch style homench style houses were built in the Boston area from the mid-40’s to the 70’s and are occasionally still built today as individual custom homes.

They are typically built in this area on lots with high water tables, lots with stone ledge very close to the surface, or lots on a hillside.

Imagine building a single story ranch style home with a full basement and instead of sticking it in the ground up to the top of the foundation,  you set it on a flat spot carved into the ground anywhere from one to four feet deep.This gives you two stories of living space mostly above grade with full-height windows in the basement to give you air flow and sunlight.

Because of the foundation location, you enter the front door directly at the same grade as the driveway on the basement level and have to go upstairs to the main living level (see sketch).raised ranch schematic

You will enter on the level with a family room, utility/mechanical room, laundry/bath, possibly a bedroom, and if there is one, the garage. There will be a full set of stairs to the side of the front door that takes you up to the main living level where you will find the kitchen, dining room, living room, bedrooms and one or two full baths or a bath and a half.

In many towns they are found along rural roads or what were rural roads at the time in clusters of several homes that were built at the same time.

As these homes are anywhere from forty to seventy years old, their heating/cooling systems, wiring, plumbing, windows, doors, and other systems have probably been replaced or updated. If they haven’t been, they are easy to do and a great way for first time buyers to generate some sweat-equity.

When available, they sell well due to their economical carrying costs, generally low prices, and great use of space. So if you’re looking for all those things, a raised ranch might just be your perfect home.

Split-Level House Style

split-level style houseSplit-Level houses are a variation on the raised ranch style and are also called Splits, Split-Foyer and Bi-Level houses. Splits are built with the foundation sunken deeper than Raised Ranches, usually four to six feet into the ground, and the driveway is excavated level with the bottom of the foundation. Unlike a raised ranch which has full-height windows, the lower level tends to have short windows.

In Splits, you always have to go up a half-flight or more via exterior stairs or a sloping walkway from the driveway level and enter the door to a landing or a small foyer.The doorway is often recessed and sometimes the main level of the house is cantilevered out over the basement level, creating a natural indentation and very clear way-finding to the front door.

Once inside you immediately have to make a decision to go up a half-flight of stairs or down a half-flight of stairs, hence the name split-level (see sketch).split-level house scematic

As with a Raised Ranch, upstairs you will find the kitchen, formal dining and living rooms and the bedrooms/baths. In many of these homes the owners have opened up the original walls between the kitchen and dining/living rooms giving them a wonderful flow and nicely supporting the behaviors of today’s lifestyles.

Also like the Raised Ranch, downstairs you will often find a family room, utility room, possibly some miscellaneous finished space, and the garage (which is usually located under the bedrooms).

Splits were designed to be inexpensive homes giving two stories of living space while minimizing foundation and roof costs.

While most of them have full-height basement levels, there are many that have basement levels that were shortened to cut building costs. So if you’re tall you might want to find one with forced hot water heating systems that don’t require big duct work.

In Metrowest developers built them mostly in large developments (by New England Standards) that have evolved into wonderful family neighborhoods of thirty to forty similar homes. Depending on the original price point, they can have a variety of finishes and architectural details on their fronts, such as faux stone, brick, awnings, and bay/bow windows. They will hardly ever have front porches, and are often fitted with screened-porches or raised decks off the back of the dining rooms with stairs down to grade.

Splits don’t tend to handle additions well, so many folks buy them as starter homes and then sell/move when they find they have outgrown them.  Because of this and the fact that so many of these homes were built, they are almost always available for sale in all local marketplaces.


Whether it’s a Split or a Raised Ranch they be a very practical layout, they sell well due to their economical carrying costs, they have generally lower asking prices, and they make great use of all available space. So if that’s what you’re looking for, one of these just might be your perfect home.

What is a Log House Style?

What is a Log House Style?

Log homes are very rare in the Metrowest Boston area.

Contrary to what TV reenactments lead us to think, there was not enough time for the early settlers to build log homes before the harsh weather of winter settled in, so they lived in wigwams, crude huts and pits covered with boards.


The log homes of today, with what are called “saddle-notches” and layers of whole logs laid horizontally & chinked with “wattle”, were brought to the east coast by way of the Chesapeake bay settlements of Germans and Scandinavians in the mid 1600’s.

Because the first-growth forests in New England tended to be huge and irregular, unlike the young, identically sized, straight-as-an-arrow Lodge pole pines and Douglas firs of the south and west, our early builders tended toward board and batten construction for permanent dwellings and log homes were only built as temporary dwellings on the frontier, crumbling over time.

Modern log homes can be extremely well-built and create a wonderful, rustic sense of place within and around them.

When a log home in the Metrowest area goes up for sale, and this is not often, it has historically generated good return for the seller but taken a very long time to sell.

pinterest-sqFor some great examples of Log Style Homes click on the above Pinterest link
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