Cape Cod Homes: Great Remodeling Design Ideas

Updated on April 10, 2019

There is nothing more Americana and more beautiful than a Cape-Cod-style home. I love the charm and character. The style first began on the shores of New England on the rugged, stony shores of the Atlantic Ocean. Its lure may be a subliminal yearning for the water.

This was the first area to be settled by Americans and it was the port of call from Europe in homes that dotted the pristine waterfronts. To me, the Cape Cod is the ultimate in frugality and conservatism with a slight amount embellishment with the shutters and wide clapboards or wide shingles.

The architectural standards for a Cape Cod home:

  • A steep roof and either 1 or 1/2 stories in height (for me, I define a Cape Cod as always having 1 1/2 stories and making the best use of the attic, but technically this not true).
  • Symmetrical in appearance, with the door in the center and dormer for utilitarian purposes of light, added space, and ventilation.
  • Limited roof overhang (protruding eaves from the roof).
  • Dormers.

Magazine photo of a classic stone Cape Cod designed in 1928, built in 1929.
Magazine photo of a classic stone Cape Cod designed in 1928, built in 1929. | Source
Exquisite stone example with covered front porch, wood shutters, and windows with mullions.
Exquisite stone example with covered front porch, wood shutters, and windows with mullions. | Source

Frugality aside, the Cape Cod is an architectural delight.

Unlike many other styles of homes, the Cape Cod does not have a large roof overhang—remember my feeling the focus was upon utilitarian and frugality—that is a fundamental quality of the style for me.

When we throw the frugality out the window, we end up with "mega-mansions." Interesting, this is a common choice among the very wealthy from the eastern shores of the United States to resort communities in the heart of the Midwest. Geneva Lake in southern Wisconsin showcases a number of these amazing estates and architectural delights.

Cape Cods Need Shutters

While not a requirement, a Cape Cod without shutters often looks very bare. The exception is the first photo below—very rare to have all the charm without the shutters—but yet it works and it works well.

Divided Light Window Panes—Mullion

The architectural term for the divided light window pane is "mullion." A mullion is a structural element which divides the glass within the windows. While again not a stated element, it is a common element that adds a tremendous amount of charm.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Three Dormer WindowsYellow Siding and a Red Entrance Door 1 1/2 Stories
Three Dormer Windows
Three Dormer Windows
Yellow Siding and a Red Entrance Door 1 1/2 Stories
Yellow Siding and a Red Entrance Door 1 1/2 Stories
Three Dormer Windows
Three Dormer Windows

My Favorite Aspects of a Cape-Cod-Style Home

Efficient Use of Space

Growing up poor, I still need efficiency. The Cape Cod, I feel is the ultimate in the efficient use of space. Having living space in the attic makes sense (assuming you have great insulation—mind your insulation and your check book will mind you!).

Limited Footprint

The landscape is always charming because the home does not impose upon the yard. The yard frames the home. This limited footprint helps with space for garages and much-loved gardens and swimming pools.

Charm in the Details

The definition of the style is simplicity in adornment, yet just a small amount of detail makes the Cape Cod just shout personality! The divided window panes are a must. A picket fence and adjoining garden compliment this architecture exceptionally well.

With White Picket Fence
With White Picket Fence | Source
Click thumbnail to view full-size
With three dormers, front porch, and attached garage.
With three dormers, front porch, and attached garage.
With three dormers, front porch, and attached garage. | Source
Cape Cod Architectural Rendering with Two Dormer Windows
Cape Cod Architectural Rendering with Two Dormer Windows | Source

The History of the Cape

The original foothold of the style was a section of the United States on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. The "Cape Cod" as a location is a sandy peninsula which archaeologists say formed during the Ice Age. Yes, the cape does jut out into the Atlantic like a crooked arm. What fascinates the geologists is the fact that it was formed by glaciers relatively recently. The location is a very popular vacation spot.

With brick steps and bay window, two dormer windows, and an American flag.
With brick steps and bay window, two dormer windows, and an American flag. | Source

Asymetrical Cape Cod Breaks the Rules

The photo above showcases how charming the style can be even when it breaks the rule of a center entrance. The bay window, I feel, adds to the charm. The dormers are adorned with the divided window panes, breaking the other rule of "little adornment," and the roofing material has also been upgraded along with the brick pathway.

Breaking the rules and juxtaposing this classical and frugal home style with some of the best architectural adornments (wood roof, brick sidewalks, and bay windows) is an electrifying combination that still remains true to frugality—the square footage is still efficient, with the attic space being fully usable, and the footprint of home remains considerate of the environment.

Mega Cape Cods

I dream of Cape Cod homes but I never dream of the mega ones. If your dreams are large, here are a couple that are more mansion than Cape Cod.

I imagine this grandness is beyond the imagination of any of the original builders and designers of the style. The fundamentals of the dormer roof and the full use of the attic are still present, only the scale is massive (one room is the size of one whole original house?) and the added arched and round windows and the numerous columns, not to mention the massive porches and high end roofing materials, make the following example beyond my dreams.

With a wrap around front porch.
With a wrap around front porch. | Source
With an extensive porch.
With an extensive porch. | Source

Elaborate Cape-Cod-Style Home

Elaborate Cape-Cod-Style Home
Elaborate Cape-Cod-Style Home | Source

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


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    • CelebrateUSA profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken Kline 

      5 years ago from Chicago, Illinois

      Hi Tallin,

      I now live in a cape cod but must people don't know it - we have no windows for the upper story in the front of our home. I think the cape cod makes allot of practical sense but also can lend itself to a style that is heart warming. I love Cape Cods but I love Americana and to me the Cape Cod style is quintessential Americana.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      A plseniagly rational answer. Good to hear from you.

    • CelebrateUSA profile imageAUTHOR

      Ken Kline 

      7 years ago from Chicago, Illinois

      Hi Wayne,

      Thank you very much for sharing. You are absolutely correct - the construction is key - the 2 x 6 is an item that home owners should consider when building or remodeling. I really hadn't thought of it - but now that you mention it - this is an important foundation piece for home improvements.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      We live in a simplex modular cape which is 2x6 construction and is a tight quiet home. If we had to do it over again, definitely a modular.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Even I love Cape cods.Lovely hub!!

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 

      9 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      Plantation Shutters,

      Cape Cods are a natural for plantation shutters. The architecture works very well.

      Thank you so much for stopping by.

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 

      9 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin


      I love your website. I am frustrated with the websites for homes that don't allow you to flip through the photos without opening another window. Kudos to making the reader king not the captive of website with opening a new window.

      Maybe that is what I love about Cape Cod for architecture, it is almost always unique. The ranches have overall become standardize as well as the two-stories.

      Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      plantation shutters Sydney  

      9 years ago

      Cape Cod style home this are of the home style that i really want. Design looks very natural. Nice hub.

      plantation shutters Sydney

    • profile image

      Cape Cod Home Improvement 

      9 years ago

      I think I recognise a few of the houses pictured here.

      These photos show a pretty good sample of the Cape Cod style architecture. I have seen many articles that do not depict actual Cape Cod, Cape Cod's (if that makes sense). Nice job!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I live on Cape Cod and its variety, not just in architecture, is one of the things I most love about it. Overall, the area has done a very good job maintaining a unique environment with very few "cookie cutter" subdivisions.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      the house that my writing partner and I just moved into looks like a cape cod home. It was built in 1922. Of course, we being reporters have investigated it completely! The owner was shocked that we knew so much. lol. But it is so quaint and a bit of a bonnie and clyde style with the garage in between the mother in law suite.(my writing studio). The yard is to die for. I will send pics when I get settled. My partner has a house on cape code and he said that this house is very much like them. Loved the hub.

    • twogroce profile image


      9 years ago

      Very pretty, I love to look at different homes inside and out. I get such good ideas of how I would like our home to look.

    • H P Roychoudhury profile image

      H P Roychoudhury 

      9 years ago from Guwahati, India

      Cape Cod is mostly natural and so lovely.

    • breakfastpop profile image


      9 years ago

      I don't live in one, but I agree, they are lovely.

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 

      9 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin


      Laundry on the first floor is a priority in life - I speak from a person whose knees love and need exercise but hate stairs and stairs with the weight of the laundry basket - argh!

      I love the practicality of the ranch too but the architecture can be charming. You are probably underestimating the charm of your home.


      Oh, you are right - the George sign is missing! You are a delight! Thank you!

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      9 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I like the houses you show, but my house is classified as cape cod and it is, in my opinion, neither charming or efficient. I would rather have a ranch. My wife likes it and we bought it because it had a laundry on the first floor.

    • lmmartin profile image


      9 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Very interesting, and a wealth of architectural knowledge here. I agree with you -- very Americana, almost a stereotype. All that is required is a sign "George Washington slept here." Good article -- rated up. Lynda


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