November 8


Understanding the American Foursquare house style: How to achieve its iconic look

American Foursquare house style – what it is and how to get the look

If you’ve ever found yourself wandering through the suburbs of America, chances are you’ve come across a classic American Foursquare house. This architectural style has been popular since the late 19th century, and can still be found in many neighborhoods across the country today.

American Foursquare houses are generally characterized by their square or cubic shape, with four rooms on each floor. They often feature a wide front porch, perfect for enjoying a warm summer evening. These houses were typically built with brick or wood, and their design was influenced by the classical styles of the time.

One of the most common variations of the American Foursquare is the Prairie style, popularized by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. This style features low, horizontal lines and wide eaves, giving the house a more modern and open feel. Prairie-style American Foursquares also often include built-in furniture and other modern conveniences, like a central vacuum system or a laundry chute.

Another defining feature of American Foursquare houses is the grand staircase, usually located near the front entrance. These stairs were designed to make a statement, with heavy, solid wood newel posts and balusters. The stair railings themselves often featured intricate carvings or designs, adding even more character to the house.

While many American Foursquares have maintained their original design and features, there are also those that have been updated and modernized over the years. Some homeowners have chosen to add on to their houses, creating larger living spaces and more storage. Others have renovated the interior, updating the kitchen and bathrooms to bring them into the 21st century.

So, if you’re looking to recreate the charm and character of an American Foursquare house, there are plenty of options available to you. Whether you prefer the classic, traditional look or a more modern interpretation, the American Foursquare style can be adapted to fit your tastes and needs. Just remember to include the square shape, the front porch, and the grand staircase, and you’ll be well on your way to creating the perfect American Foursquare home.

What is an American Foursquare

The American Foursquare is a style of house that was popular in the early 20th century. It is characterized by its square shape and simple, boxy design. The name “Foursquare” comes from the floor plan of these houses, which typically consists of four main rooms on the first floor and four bedrooms on the second floor.

One of the distinguishing features of the American Foursquare style is the presence of a porch, usually located on the front of the house. This porch often has stairs leading up to it and serves as a welcoming entryway to the home. The porch is a common feature on American Foursquare houses and adds to their overall charm and character.

While the design of the American Foursquare may seem simple and unassuming, it was actually quite modern for its time. The houses were often constructed using new building techniques and materials, such as brick and wood, which gave them a more solid and durable structure. The architectural details of these houses were often understated, with classical elements like columns and cornices kept to a minimum.

Inside the American Foursquare, there is often a central stair that leads from the ground floor to the second floor. This stair is typically a focal point of the house and can be quite grand, with a newel post and balustrade. The rooms in an American Foursquare are generally larger and more open than those found in older houses, and often have built-in features like bookcases or storage.

American Foursquare House

One of the most common variations of the American Foursquare is the Prairie style, which was popularized by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Prairie Foursquares often have low-pitched roofs with deep overhangs, and may include additional design elements like horizontal lines and window banding. Another variation is the Charlotte Foursquare, which features a side-facing front porch, giving the house a more modern and contemporary look.

American Foursquares can be found in both urban and suburban areas, and were particularly popular in the Midwest and Northeast. Their simple and practical design made them an attractive option for many homeowners at the time, and their sturdy construction has allowed many of them to stand the test of time.

If you are lucky enough to own an American Foursquare, embrace its classic charm and character. Enhance its beauty by preserving its original features and adding your own personal touch. Whether you choose to restore the original woodwork or update the kitchen, your American Foursquare will always be a beloved piece of architectural history.

In what period were Foursquare houses constructed

In what period were Foursquare houses constructed

The American Foursquare house style emerged in the late 19th century and remained popular through the first half of the 20th century. This architectural style, also known as the “Prairie Box” or “American Basic Four Square,” was named for its distinct square shape and four rooms on each floor.

Most Foursquare houses were built between 1890 and 1930, during a time when urban sprawl was on the rise and suburban neighborhoods were being developed. These houses were particularly common in the suburbs of American cities, where they offered an affordable and practical housing option for middle-class families.

One of the defining features of Foursquare houses is their front and side porches, which were designed to provide outdoor living space and enhance the overall character of the house. These porches often featured wood railings and columns, adding a touch of classical or modern architectural elements to the simple cubic shape of the house.

The main entrance of a Foursquare house is typically located on the front porch, leading to a central stair hall. The central stair hall, or newel stair, is a prominent feature of Foursquare houses. It is usually made of wood and leads to the second floor, where the bedrooms and bathrooms are located.

One unique characteristic of Foursquare houses is their efficient use of space. The four rooms on each floor are generally arranged in a simple and straightforward manner, with a living room, dining room, and kitchen on the first floor, and bedrooms on the second floor. Built-in cabinets and bookshelves were common, further optimizing the use of space in these houses.

While Foursquare houses were often made with wood siding, there are also variations of this style that feature brick or other materials. The heavy and solid look of Foursquares, whether made of wood or brick, gives them a substantial and enduring presence.

Today, Foursquare houses can still be found throughout the United States, especially in older neighborhoods and historic districts. Many homeowners appreciate the unique character and architectural charm of Foursquares, and renovating these houses to their original beauty has become popular in recent years.

Where are Foursquare houses found in the US

Where are Foursquare houses found in the US

Foursquare houses, also known as American Foursquares, can be found in various areas throughout the United States. While they are most commonly associated with the Midwest, particularly in cities like Chicago and St. Louis, Foursquare houses can also be found in other regions of the country.


In the Midwest, Foursquare houses are often located in older neighborhoods and suburbs. They were popularized during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and their architectural style often reflects the classical character of the time. Many Foursquare houses in this region feature brick or wood exteriors, with a front porch and a cubic shape.

East Coast

On the East Coast, Foursquare houses can be found in cities and towns such as Philadelphia, Boston, and New York. While they may have variations in design and style compared to their Midwestern counterparts, they still retain the basic Foursquare layout with their four rooms per floor and central stair.

Southern States

In the southern states, Foursquare houses are less common but are still present in some areas. For example, in Charlotte, North Carolina, there are a few Foursquare houses scattered throughout the city.

West Coast

On the West Coast, Foursquare houses are not as prevalent as in the Midwest or East Coast, but they can still be found in cities like Portland and Los Angeles. These houses often have a more modern twist to their design, with variations that reflect the architectural trends of the region.

Other Locations

Foursquare houses can also be found in other parts of the country, though they may be less common. It is not uncommon to come across Foursquare houses in suburban areas or small towns throughout the United States.

Overall, Foursquare houses can be found in a variety of locations across the United States. Whether in the heartland of the Midwest, on the historic East Coast, or even in other regions, these houses are known for their classic design, spacious rooms, and iconic front porch.

What materials were they built in and are there regional variations

American Foursquare houses, also known as “Foursquares,” were built in a variety of materials depending on their location and the time period in which they were constructed. These houses were popular in the early 20th century, particularly between 1890 and 1930.

In the American Midwest, where the style originated, the most common materials used for Foursquares were brick and wood. These houses were typically designed with a symmetrical square shape, hence the name “Foursquare.” The exterior walls were often made of brick, while the interior walls were constructed using wood.

In other parts of the country, such as the suburbs of New York and the prairie regions of the Midwest, different materials like stucco and stone were also used. Regional variations in materials can be seen in Foursquares found in places like Charlotte, where brick and heavy wood often dominate.

The interior of Foursquare houses generally featured a layout with four main rooms on the ground floor, hence the “fourth square” in the name. These rooms typically included a living room, dining room, kitchen, and a smaller room that could be used as a bedroom or office.

Another common feature of Foursquare houses were the front and side porches. These porches provided a space for relaxation and socialization and added to the overall character of the house. The porches were often supported with sturdy brick or wood columns.

One of the standout architectural features of Foursquare houses is the central staircase. These staircases were often built with heavy wood and were designed with classical newel posts and balusters. The stairs would typically lead from the ground floor to the upper levels of the house, including the bedrooms and bathrooms.

In modern Foursquare house designs, variations in materials can still be found. Some homeowners may choose to use more contemporary materials like metal or concrete for a sleek and minimalist look. However, many homeowners still prefer to maintain the traditional charm of the Foursquare style by using wood and other classic materials.

Overall, the materials used to construct Foursquare houses varied depending on factors such as location, resources available, and personal preference. Whether your Foursquare looks like a brick cube in the Midwest or a wood-clad beauty in the suburbs, the character and charm of this architectural style remain.

Why are Foursquare houses so popular today

Foursquare houses, also known as American Foursquares, are a popular architectural style that originated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These houses are characterized by their cubic shape and simple, symmetrical design. But what makes Foursquare houses so popular today?

Historical significance

One of the reasons for the enduring popularity of Foursquare houses is their rich historical significance. These houses were originally built as a response to the growing need for affordable housing in the expanding suburbs of America. They were designed to maximize living space within a compact footprint, making them an ideal choice for families at the time.

Classic charm

Foursquare houses exude a certain timeless charm that resonates with many homeowners today. With their front porches, brick or wood exteriors, and simplistic yet elegant design, these houses have a classic appeal that never goes out of style. Whether you live in a bustling city or a quiet suburban neighborhood, a Foursquare house can add a touch of character and charm to your surroundings.

Practicality and functionality

Practicality and functionality

Foursquare houses are known for their practicality and functionality. The layout of these houses typically includes four rooms on each floor, arranged around a central stair hall. This makes for efficient use of space and allows for easy flow between rooms. The compact design also lends itself well to modern living, making the most of every square foot of space.

Variations and versatility

While Foursquares have a distinct architectural style, they also offer a range of variations that cater to different tastes and preferences. From Prairie-style Foursquares with their low-pitched roofs and horizontal lines, to those with more classical or even modern influences, there is a Foursquare house to suit every architectural taste.

Warmth and character

One of the defining characteristics of Foursquare houses is the use of wood throughout the interior and exterior. From the heavy wood newel posts on the grand staircases to the built-in bookcases and cabinetry, these houses exude warmth and character. This combination of craftsmanship and natural materials creates a cozy and inviting atmosphere that many homeowners appreciate.

So, whether you are drawn to the historical significance, classic charm, practicality, versatility, or the warmth and character of Foursquare houses, it’s easy to see why they remain popular today. Their enduring appeal and ability to adapt to modern living make them a desirable choice for homeowners in both urban and suburban settings.

How can Foursquares be modernized without losing their character and charm

While American Foursquare houses are known for their classic charm and architectural character, there are ways to modernize them without losing their original appeal. By incorporating contemporary design elements and updating certain features, you can create a harmonious blend of old and new.

1. Open up the floor plan

One common characteristic of Foursquares is their compartmentalized rooms. To modernize the layout, consider opening up some of the walls to create a more open and flowing space. This can be done by removing non-load-bearing walls between the living, dining, and kitchen areas.

2. Add modern amenities

While Foursquares were built in a time when modern amenities like central heating and air conditioning were not common, you can integrate these features into the house without compromising its character. Install a modern HVAC system that is discreet and blends well with the existing architecture.

You can also update the kitchen and bathrooms with new appliances, fixtures, and finishes. Just be sure to choose designs that complement the overall style of the house.

3. Redesign the porch

Foursquares typically have large porches, which can be redesigned to create a more modern and functional outdoor space. Consider adding seating areas, outdoor kitchens, or fire pits to make the porch an inviting extension of the living space.

4. Update the staircase

Many Foursquares have a grand staircase as a focal point in the entryway. To maintain the character of the house while adding a modern touch, update the railing and balusters. Choose contemporary materials such as glass or metal to give the staircase a fresh look.

5. Incorporate modern materials

While Foursquares are often characterized by their brick or wood exteriors, there is room to incorporate modern materials into the design. Consider adding accents like metal siding or concrete elements to create a unique blend of old and new.

6. Embrace energy efficiency

Another way to modernize a Foursquare is by improving its energy efficiency. Install energy-efficient windows, insulation, and appliances to reduce energy consumption and lower utility bills. This not only benefits the environment but also adds value to the house.

7. Pay attention to details

When modernizing a Foursquare, it’s essential to pay attention to the details that make it unique. Preserve original architectural features like built-in cabinetry, crown molding, or decorative trim. These details contribute significantly to the overall character and charm of the house.

Ultimately, modernizing a Foursquare requires finding a balance between preserving its original character and incorporating contemporary elements. By carefully considering the design choices and consulting with professionals, you can create a modernized Foursquare that still captures the charm of its architectural heritage.

What to look for in an American Foursquare home

When searching for an American Foursquare home, there are several key features to keep an eye out for. These homes are known for their unique architectural style and charm, and by identifying these elements, you can ensure that you find an authentic Foursquare house.

1. Cubic shape

One of the defining characteristics of an American Foursquare home is its cubic shape. These houses are typically two-and-a-half stories high, with a boxy design that is more vertical than horizontal. The overall shape gives them a distinct look and makes them stand out among other architectural styles.

2. Four rooms per floor

The name “Foursquare” comes from the layout of these houses. Each floor is typically divided into four equal-sized rooms, hence the name. This practical layout allows for efficient use of space and provides a balanced distribution of rooms throughout the house.

3. Wide front porch

American Foursquare houses often feature a wide front porch that spans the entire width of the house. This porch serves as a gathering space for residents and adds to the overall charm and appeal of the house. It’s a great spot to relax and enjoy the outdoors, and it also adds to the curb appeal of the home.

4. Brick or wood exterior

American Foursquares can be found with either a brick or wood exterior. Brick exteriors are more common in urban areas, while wood exteriors are often found in suburban neighborhoods. Both options add to the character and timeless appeal of the house.

5. Solid, heavy construction

Foursquare houses were designed to be sturdy and durable. They were built to withstand harsh weather conditions and to stand the test of time. The construction materials used were typically of high quality, resulting in a solid and heavy structure that exudes a sense of permanence.

6. Built-in features

American Foursquare houses often include built-in features, such as bookcases, cabinets, or benches. These built-ins not only add to the functionality of the house but also contribute to its architectural charm. They provide additional storage and create a seamless flow throughout the rooms.

7. Classical architectural details

When examining an American Foursquare home, pay attention to any classical architectural details it may have. These details can include decorative moldings, cornices, or columns. These elements add a touch of elegance and sophistication to the overall design.

8. Prominent staircase

The staircase in an American Foursquare home is typically a focal point in the front hall. It is often made of wood and may feature a newel post, adding to the overall grandeur of the entrance. The staircase serves as a beautiful architectural feature and adds to the overall character of the house.

By keeping these key features in mind, you can confidently search for an American Foursquare home and appreciate its unique charm and architectural style.


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