The Sales Directory of Antique and Historic Properties
Historic Style Guide


1840 - 1885

A unique revival style of architecture of the Victorian period that is distinguished by characteristics such as a low profile or flat roof, wide bracketed eaves large windows and usually a large porch.

In New England the Italianate style house is usually of wood, although brick and stone examples can be found. Three types are most frequently seen: the traditional two story, five bay centered entrance house with a gabled roof parallel to the street to which a veranda has been added across the front; the nearly square two story three bay house with very wide eves supported on brackets and with a flat roof; and the villa form composed of several interlocking blocks grouped around an off-center square tower.

 A large Italianate home in Grafton, Massachusetts
The variety of Italianate interpretations is great, but this is perhaps the most frequently seen in New England; it is the center-hall plan common in Georgian and Federal houses but on a slightly larger scale. This example is embellished with quoins at the corners, returns at the eaves and large bay windows. It stands in Grafton, MA.

All these variations will have the wide bracketed eaves, low pitched roofs, large windows, sometimes set in pairs with ornamental caps, and long one story porches with sawn decorative fretwork on the front. Bay windows are common as are two panel entrance doors.

The Octagon House Italianate style built in Gardner, Massachusetts
The octagon house, the invention of Orson S. Fowler in the 1850s, is an American house form not frequently seen. Fowler was not concerned with matters of style, but the octagon’s popularity during the height of the Italianate period means that most octagon forms are also Italianate in style. The interest in octagons, touted for their economy and sunlit rooms, was over by the 1870s. Awkward-shaped rooms were hard to furnish. This example is in Gardner, MA.


Although these houses are wood frame, they are not built with heavy posts and beams as most buildings were before the Civil War. Lighter “balloon framing: is used, allowing much more complex floor plans and roof patterns for this and all the subsequent domestic styles.

An example of Italianate architecture
This is a plain version of the cubical three-bay Italianate with a subordinate wing. Because the entrance is off-center, the floor plan resembles that of the three-bay Greek Revival house. The plainness of the wide cornice and broad overhang, contrasted with the delicate porch, make an arresting design.

Ornamentation is drawn from Classical sources generally, but not consistently. Quoins are often seen at the corners of exterior walls, but Romanesque and other styles are also used. Exterior colors may vary from white to pastels to earth tones. Trim is not usually picked out with separate colors.


A three story brick Italianate style home

a stately Italianate style with typical low pitch roof and doubled heavy bracketing

The style is relatively common, and, with Gothic Revival, initiated the interest – for those who could afford it – in living outside of cities on carefully landscaped estates.