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Hardware Styles

American architectural history goes back a long time; however, most of the design influences when it came to building homes over the different centuries and eras were mostly European ones. Purely American architecture is considered to be a modern concept, with its founders being renowned architects and visionaries such as Frank Lloyd Wright.

Despite this fact, there is undoubtedly a national drive towards conservation and preservation of whatever history we have in the United States, and most of our history is reflected in the homes we live in or those we see around us. Many cities have "historic neighborhoods" and these areas are considered a gem, a treasure to be taken care of and cherished for posterity. Today, the cost of living in a historic neighborhood is a considerable one. However, everyone can bring a little history in their homes, no matter where they live and what kind of home they live in.

So how about bringing a little Victorian flair to your condo or apartment? Or a sophisticated Cape Cod style to your town home? Been thinking about a Colonial look to grace the exterior or interior of your new construction home?

Below is a breakdown of different architectural styles that have made it to our shores and onto the land throughout the centuries.

Colonial Architecture

The Colonial era spanned the early seventeenth century to the early/mid nineteenth century and it encompassed English, Dutch, French, and Spanish influences in architecture. This was the architectural style favored by the early settlers. It was a simple, non-elaborate style which in the modern age is often referred to as "folk" style. Some examples of Colonial architecture are the Cape Cod, Saltbox and Georgian styles. One of the most common features of the Colonial-Georgian style is the columns flanking the front door and the geometric style and positioning of the windows on the front of the house.

Colonial Hardware

Most hardware at the time was made of forged—hand hammered and fired—cast iron. These products were relatively simple in design. The use of brass and bronze or any other material was uncommon. Here are some examples of the Colonial look:

Georgian Cape Cod
Photo © 2005 Jackie Craven Photo © 2005 Jupiterimages Corporation

Early Republic/Federal Age Architecture

The Federal Age spanned the late eighteenth century to the mid-nineteenth century. It was originally called the “Adam” style (a name derived from the designs of the British architect, Robert Adam and a style reminiscent of ancient Pompeian designs) and eventually evolved into the Greek Revival (which is also often regarded as a product of the Victorian age) or National Style—due to the popularity of Greek architectural influences during this era—and then to a variation of this style which is known as the Antebellum—most popular in the South during the Civil War era. Most plantation homes in the South, in fact, sported an Antebellum design. An important time in American history, the Federal Age saw the birth of the U.S Constitution and this architectural style survived in popularity through almost two decades of the Civil War. Federal Age homes tend to be imposing and elaborate with a symmetric, rectangular design, and are usually built from brick. One may also find that these types of houses are usually surrounded by wrought iron fences.

Early Republic/Federal Age Hardware

Brass hardware was more commonly used than iron during this era, and the designs started to become more decorative. Here are some examples of the Federal Age look:

Adam Greek Revival
Photo © 2000 Photo © 2005 Jackie Craven

Victorian Era Architecture

The Victorian era spanned the years just prior to the mid-19th century all the way to the early twentieth century, basically the time during England’s Queen Victoria’s reign. This was also a very exciting time because of the occurrence of the Industrial Revolution. The concept of mass production was introduced and business flourished. The Victorian age is regarded as a time when creativity abounded and both architectural and hardware designs became much more elaborate and original. There is nothing minimalist or plain about Victorian age architecture and design.

There are several styles or variations of the Victorian design in homes. The Gothic Revival, for example, is perhaps the most romantic of all the Victorian era designs, and is often referred to as a “fairy tale” or medieval design (featuring gothic style pointed gables, arched windows, and intricately carved finials, vergeboards and bargeboards, which are transformed into artisan designs reminiscent of the most delicate lace. Many churches used to be built in this style. These types of homes were originally made of stone, and then, due to the high cost of building a stone house, the design was mirrored with the use of wood, which came to be called the “Carpenter Gothic” style. The Italianate style, on the other hand, is a style reminiscent of the Tuscan villas in Italy. In this type of home, wood would be creatively used and made to resemble the look of stone or marble. As in the Gothic style, the interior of an Italianate home would also be lavish, exotic and ornate. The Stick/Eastlake asymmetrical design also featured the use of wood in extremely creative ways. Other styles which take from these different designs and apply them in new ways are the Folk Victorian, High Victorian Gothic, Renaissance Revival, the classic Shingle, Mansard/French Second Empire and Queen Anne (Revival and Eastlake) styles. The latter is regarded as the most ornate and elaborate of all the Victorian era architectural designs.

Victorian Era Hardware

The designs of this time are creative, experimental and bold. Metalworking was used expansively and replaced the more expensive forging as a manufacturing method. The Industrial Revolution brought about the introduction of new tools and technologies and hardware was, for the first time, produced in a factory setting not in a blacksmith’s workshop. This era also saw the introduction of central hear and electricity in homes. Here are some examples of the Victorian age look:

Renaissance Revival Gothic Revival/Stone
Photo © Ben Newton Photo Courtesy WalkingGeek/Flickr
Gothic/Wood Italianate
Photo © 2005 Jupiterimages Corporation Photo © 2005 Jupiterimages Corporation
Second Empire Stick
Photo © 2005 Jupiterimages Corporation Photo © 2005 Jupiterimages Corporation
Queen Anne Eastlake
Photo © 2005 Jackie Craven Photo ©
Photo © 2005 Jackie Craven

The Arts & Crafts age grew parallel to the Victorian era architectural movement, all the way past World War I. This movement wanted to oppose the growing industrialization and mass production that came to pass in the Victorian era. The Craftsman style home, built with the use of natural materials native to its location and shunning mass “mass produced”, “industrialized” or “bold” materials in favor of a more subtle and streamlined design, is perhaps the most well-known product of the Arts & Crafts movement. The single level Craftsman Bungalow, a natural progression from the one and a half story Craftsman, is considered as the precursor to the ranch home as we know it today. Some other designs of this movement include the Beaux Arts, Colonial Revival, Mission, Tudor Revival, Spanish Revival and Prairie styles. The early twentieth century also saw the revival of neo-classicism in architectural design.

Arts & Crafts Hardware

Arts & Crafts hardware is very simple, minimalist and focuses on functionality rather than design. Here are some examples of the Arts & Crafts look:

Beaux Arts Tudor Revival
Colonial Revival Spanish Mission
Craftsman Bungalow

Modern Architecture

The birth and growth of Modernism spans the early to mid-twentieth century, and saw the start and end of two world wars, as well as the chic glamour of the 1950s. Renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright is considered by many to be the father of Modernism in the U.S. This design veers from the traditional, and favors abstract structural designs, geometric forms (such as the preference for flat roofs rather than gables) and the use of heretofore unexplored materials—such as concrete, steel and glass—in home construction. Furniture design also experienced a complete change in the same direction. Some examples of Modernism are the Art Deco, International, Streamline Moderne, Post-war Modern, Spanish Revival, and Postmodern Eclectic designs.

Modern Hardware

The sky is the limit in the Modernism style. Chrome and nickel plating became popular during this era, which saw the use and experimentation with different, durable materials, such as stainless steel and aluminum (still used to this day). Mass production and standardization are now the norm, but designs are still creative and new styles are constantly being introduced to the market even today. Here are some examples of hardware in the Modernism style:

Art Deco International
Streamline Moderne Post-War Modern
Postmodern Eclectic