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What’s Your Favorite Portland Architectural Home Style?

Portland, Oregon, is home to many incredible homes and neighborhoods. You have plenty of options as you hone in on your favorite Portland architectural home style. In fact, there are so many architectural styles to choose from that we had to write two blogs to cover them!

You may already have a style of home in mind, or you may be open to all sorts of choices. Either way, Julia Monaghan Real Estate is here to help. With nearly a decade of exploring and learning about Portland Metro neighborhoods, we love helping clients find their dream homes. Reach out today to get started.

What Makes a Portland Home?

What is the definitive Portland architectural home style? There isn’t just one, but let’s start with the type of house with Portland in its name and move on from there.

Portland Foursquare 

Also called simply the foursquare, the Portland foursquare is in almost every neighborhood in the city. Foursquare home construction saw its heyday in the early 20th century. This style was common between 1900, when many US economies were booming, and 1930 when construction essentially ended due to The Great Depression.

The Portland foursquare is an iconic house in many neighborhoods.

Built like two squares stacked on top of each other, the foursquare makes the most of its space. Each floor traditionally has four rooms. The bottom level houses common areas such as the kitchen and dining room. The bedrooms are almost always on the second floor.

This style of architecture also includes plenty of windows. Since they arrived on the scene long before air conditioning, adequate ventilation, especially upstairs, was crucial.

Portland foursquares almost always have a hipped roof rather than a gable roof. This pyramid-style roof was the traditional way of topping foursquare homes. The roof surface slopes away from the center on all four sides. Most foursquares also include at least one dormer window in the attic.

What most people tend to notice first about foursquares are their wide front porches. These grand elements often span the entire front of the house. They present a welcoming and open entrance that fits right in with Portland’s friendly way of life.

Many neighborhoods throughout the Portland Metro area include foursquare homes. The Buckman and Brooklyn areas, in particular, have many of these houses that offer the perfect palette for many different aesthetics inside the home. 

Cape Cod

Cape Cod homes are a popular style in Portland, OR.

You can probably guess that this style originated in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Colonialists in this area of the country needed simple construction that worked well in extreme weather conditions. The Cape Cod design fits the bill.

A practical design, easy upkeep, and sturdiness are the hallmarks of all Cape Cod-style homes. They can be one or two stories and have a highly symmetrical appearance. These houses have steep gable roofs to avoid too much snow accumulation and almost always have a central chimney.

Large fireplaces and low ceilings allowed colonialists to keep their houses warm during bitter New England winters. And they remain efficient for homeowners today.

Traditional Cape Cods can be fantastic starter homes since they aren’t very large. Newer revival versions of this Portland architectural style can be a bit more ornate and make use of attic space, too. 


Ranch houses are the bread and butter of the suburbs. Walk through any of Portland’s outlying neighborhoods, such as Happy Valley, West Linn, or Oregon City, and you will see all types of ranch homes.

Ranch style homes are common and sought after in many Portland Metro suburbs.

Traditional ranches are single-level homes with a bigger footprint than you find in the city. Some neighborhoods also have split-level ranch homes or ranches with basements. 

Sliding doors that access an outdoor patio are the calling card of ranch houses. There is often an open floorplan inside with this additional living space outside.

In the Portland real estate market, ranch homes are extremely popular. They are perfect for first-time buyers, families, and those who want to age in place safely. Because of their low profile, ranch houses generally make maintenance easier and less expensive than for other home styles.

Ranch homes typically include:

  • One-level living
  • Low-pitched roof
  • Rectangular or L-shaped floorplan
  • Large windows
  • Outdoor patio or deck
  • Attached garage


Many different types of homes can fall under the title colonial. The first American colonists modeled their traditional colonials after their homes in England. 

But colonists from other countries such as Spain, France, and Germany had their versions of a colonial home. This means there are many choices for homebuyers. Portland architectural home styles often include American and Dutch Colonials. The Irvington neighborhood is a great place to find these houses.

The Colonial is a favorite Portland architectural home style for sure!

Colonials have two or three stories and highly symmetrical exterior designs. So you will find a centered front door with equal numbers of windows to the left and right, top and bottom. Most often, the windows are multi-paned and have shutters in a contrasting color to the house.

Decorative entrances are another feature of colonial homes. And they often have pillars to add to the grand feel. Inside, you’ll likely find a large, central fireplace and chimney.


Many people confuse modern and contemporary architectural styles, which is understandable. In regular conversation, those two words can be interchangeable. 

In architecture, however, modern refers to homes built in a specific period, roughly the 1920s to 1950s, with clear hallmarks in their design. Although the two styles are different, contemporary homes draw a lot from their modern predecessors.

But contemporary architecture can also encompass more varied designs and structures. Other home styles often developed as the opposite of the previous type (think Victorian vs. Craftsman). Contemporary houses, however, evolve to incorporate the best of past designs.

Contemporary home design evolves with each generation.

Due to this, there is not one specific set of things that automatically makes something contemporary. This fluidity and evolution in design can make it challenging to pin down just what makes something contemporary. It will change based on the time it’s built.

In general, here are some typical elements of the current contemporary architectural style:

  • Built with sustainability and eco-friendliness in mind
  • Borrows and incorporates the best of previous styles
  • Includes glass and natural materials throughout
  • Relies on open floor plans
  • Innovative aesthetic, often using curved lines

Let’s Track Down Your Favorite Portland Architectural Style!

Julia Monaghan Real Estate is ready to help you in your hunt for the perfect home. From NE Portland to West Linn and Lake Oswego, we know all the neighborhoods

Reach out to our team today to connect with Julia and get started. Whether you need to buy or sell or both, she will make the process smooth and fun.

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