What Are New York-Style Houses Called? (10 Styles Explained)

In this article, we will discuss 10 styles of houses and building in New York City!

Each type of house is described with its unique architectural features, style, and the neighborhoods where they are commonly found in New York City.

Our list also provides a brief history of the emergence of each type of house and its significance in New York City architecture:

1. Brownstones:

If you’re ever in New York City, you might come across a unique type of townhome or rowhouse called a brownstone.

These houses are made of brick and have distinct features like windowsills, lintels, and front stoops made of stone.

To be considered a brownstone, the building must have at least two floors, although most have three or four stories.

Originally built for function rather than fashion, these stoops raise the parlor or entrance floor above the street level.

In addition to their practical purpose, the front stoops of brownstones served as a gathering spot for socializing and as a transition from the public street to the private home.

You can find brownstone houses in different neighborhoods throughout the city, including Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. They’re particularly common in areas like Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights, and the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

2. Row Houses:

If you’re interested in buying a house in New York City, you might come across row houses, also known as townhouses or brownstones.

These attached homes are built in rows or blocks and have a uniform style and design, with common walls and similar architectural features.

To identify a row house, look for a narrow, attached home that shares walls with neighboring houses, and has decorative trim, cornices, and front stoops.

Row houses can be made of various materials and can range in height from two to six stories. They can be found in many neighborhoods throughout New York City, including Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan. Popular neighborhoods for row houses include Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, and the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Originally built as affordable housing for middle and working-class families, row houses were designed with practicality and functionality in mind. Their design uniformity and proximity to neighboring homes make them a unique housing type in New York City.

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3. Pencil Houses:

“Pencil houses” is not a commonly used in New York City architecture, but the design is like a narrow townhouse common in other urban areas, such as Boston.

You can find a lot of “pencil house” designs and examples on Instagram and Pinterest. They are not native New York City-style houses but often found in urban areas.

The pencil model plan is specifically designed for properties with very narrow width limitations and is often used for townhomes that are built on small, urban lots. These houses are characterized by their long and narrow shape, which is similar to that of a pencil.

In terms of identifying these types of houses, they are typically recognized by their narrow width and long shape. They may also have a distinctive facade or architectural style that reflects the time period in which they were built.

These types of houses can be found in urban areas throughout the United States but are particularly common in older cities such as Boston and Philadelphia.

4. Victorian houses:

The Victorian era produced various architectural styles, but the Italianate and Queen Anne is the most famous.

Both styles revived earlier architecture but became exuberantly decorative without historical accuracy. In New York City, Victorian homes can be identified by their distinct architectural features.

Italianate homes, for example, are typically rectangular with low-sloping or flat roofs that extend beyond the exterior walls. They have tall, skinny windows with rounded tops and ornate trim, often featuring a square tower or cupola.

In contrast, Queen Anne homes are asymmetrical and have steeply pitched roofs, large wrap-around porches, and ornate trim with different wall textures painted in various accent colors.

Other notable Victorian styles include Stick, Shingle, Second Empire, and Folk:

  1. Italianate homes can be found mostly in the Bronx and Manhattan.
  2. Queen Anne homes can be found throughout the city.
  3. Stick-style homes are more commonly found in Brooklyn.
  4. Shingle-style homes can be found on Staten Island.
  5.  Second Empire homes can be found in various parts of the city, including Manhattan and Brooklyn.
  6.  Folk Victorian homes are commonly found in the outer boroughs, including Queens and the Bronx.

5. Tudor Houses:

Tudor houses originated in England and became popular in the United States during the 20th century.

You can recognize a Tudor house by its steeply pitched roof, tall chimneys, and decorative half-timbering. They also often have arched doorways and casement windows with multiple panes of glass.

If you’re in New York City, you can find Tudor houses in various neighborhoods, such as Queens and Staten Island. These charming homes are usually made of brick or stone and may have stucco or wood trim.

People love Tudor houses because they have a “storybook” appearance that combines medieval and Gothic architecture elements with whimsical details such as ornate chimneys and leaded glass windows.

6. Colonial Houses:

Colonial houses emerged during the Colonial era in America, which lasted from the early 1600s to the mid-1800s.

These houses are known for their simple yet elegant designs, symmetrical facades, and rectangular or square shapes.

One of the most noticeable features of Colonial houses is their central doorways, which are typically surrounded by evenly spaced windows on either side. Additionally, they often have steeply pitched roofs with dormer windows and a centrally placed chimney.

If you take a stroll around older neighborhoods in New York City, such as Greenwich Village and Brooklyn Heights, you will likely come across several Colonial houses.

Colonial houses are usually made of brick or wood and are commonly painted white or light to accentuate their sophistication and simplicity.

7. Art Deco Buildings:

Did you know that in the 1920s and 1930s, Art Deco houses were all the rage?

These houses have a unique style characterized by bold geometric shapes, sleek lines, and intricate decorative details like zigzags and sunburst motifs. They often have flat roofs and smooth stucco walls.

You can find Art Deco houses all over New York City, especially in neighborhoods that were built during the 1920s and 1930s, such as the Upper West Side, Midtown, and the Financial District.

What makes Art Deco houses stand out is their focus on modernity, glamour, and luxury, which was a big change from the more traditional styles that came before.

So if you’re ever in New York City, watch for these unique and stylish homes!

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8. Modernist Buildings:

Modernist buildings and houses use clean lines, geometric shapes, and minimal decoration, similar to Art Deco buildings.

Modernist buildings often feature large, uninterrupted expanses of glass and are designed to be functional rather than ornamental. Their sleek and minimalist appearance can identify them.

In New York City, modernist buildings are found in various neighborhoods, including Midtown, the Upper East Side, and the Financial District. Some famous examples of modernist architecture in New York City include the Seagram Building, Lever House, and the Guggenheim Museum.

What makes modernist buildings and houses different from other styles is their focus on functionality, simplicity, and the use of modern materials such as glass and steel.

9. High-rise Apartment Buildings:

High-rise apartments and houses are tall residential buildings with 10 or more floors. These buildings are usually made of steel and concrete and feature modern architecture, including glass facades and sleek lines.

High-rise apartment buildings offer more living space in a smaller footprint, which is especially important in crowded cities with premium space.

One way to identify high-rise apartment buildings in New York City is by their height, as they are typically much taller than surrounding buildings. They also tend to have large windows, balconies, or terraces and often have shared amenities such as gyms, pools, and rooftop decks.

High-rise apartment buildings are particularly concentrated in areas like Midtown Manhattan and the Financial District.

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10. Co-op Buildings:

Co-op buildings are a unique type of housing arrangement where residents own shares in a corporation that owns the entire building or development. Rather than owning their specific unit or apartment, they own shares in the corporation, which entitles them to occupy a particular unit.

They are typically found in high-density areas such as Manhattan and often have a board of directors that approves or denies potential buyers.

Co-ops may have more stringent buyer requirements, such as minimum income or net worth, and require a substantial down payment.

One key difference between co-op buildings and other types of housing is that residents have a greater say in the management of the building or development, as they are shareholders in the corporation. This can lead to a strong sense of community and more active resident involvement in the day-to-day management of the property.

Additionally, co-ops may have lower maintenance fees than traditional condominiums or apartments, as residents are responsible for the maintenance and repairs of their own units.


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