Tudor Revival Architecture: Characteristics & History

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

The Tudor Revival was a very popular style of architecture in the United States, and can be found across the nation to this day. In this lesson, we'll explore this revivalist movement and discover how to identify Tudor Revival structures in your neighborhood.

The Tudor Revival

The Tudors were once a powerful family of kings, queens, and lords who dominated England. Their lives were full of wealth, intrigue, drama, love, war, and betrayal. So, yeah, that sounds like something worth emulating. While we may be advised to steer clear of some of the Tudor lifestyle choices, this was a formative era in English history and many people have found delight in reviving the architectural styles of Tudor England. The Tudor Revival is a 20th century movement in architecture based on 16th century English tastes, adapted of course to modern comforts. It may have the rough feel of a country cottage, but it is a style fit for suburban royalty.

An exemplary Tudor Revival house

Influences and History

As with any revivalist style, we need to start by understanding the history surrounding the Tudor Revival. The Tudors themselves came into power in the 15th century, following the War of the Roses, and remained in power until the early 17th century. The height of their dominance, however, was between roughly 1500 and 1560 and this is the era that the Tudor Revival style attempts to mimic.

While the Tudors themselves were very powerful, English society itself was growing in this time as Britain transitioned out of its medieval period and into the early-modern era. So, what about this are we trying to capture in revivalist architecture? While there are some who emulated the lavishness of Tudor castles (look for suburban homes with parapets), most Tudor Revival buildings are based on houses of the emerging middle and lower-upper class. The cottage, in particular, was a major source of inspiration for the Tudor Revival, which itself first became very fashionable around the 1920s and was mostly used for private residences in both the United States and Europe.

Characteristics of Tudor Revival Architecture

So, how do we identify the Tudor Revival in architecture? Let's start at the top of the building. Tudor Revival structures tend to be covered by steeply pitched roofs, often with heavy shingles. In the interest of imitating Tudor-era cottages, some will also attempt to create the appearance of a thatched roof. Chimneys are common to find on Tudor Revival houses and are often decorated with stonework to make them stand out.

This section of a Tudor Revival house may stand out for another reason as well. IF the roof contains odd angles, shapes, or asymmetrical placements of gables, eaves, and other features, that may be because the house is built on an asymmetrical floor plan. Tudor-era cottages were built upon over time, with each generation adding or taking away from the family home. As a result, the floor plans were often uneven. Tudor Revival homes are generally designed and built all at once, but the asymmetrical layout helps capture the feel of a family cottage that's been amended over time.

Note the somewhat irregular layout of this Tudor Revival house

As we move down from the roof, we come to the exterior walls of the home. This is where the Tudor Revival style is really defined. Many buildings will be composed of patterned brick or stone on the lower floor, but nearly all Tudor Revival structures will at some point transition to half-timbering. Half-timbering was a Tudor-era construction method in which a timber frame for the house would be constructed, but then the spaces between timbers were filled in with plaster or brick instead of more wood. The result was that the timber frame was left exposed, visible, and thus became part of the decorative elements of the building.

Tudor Revival house with prominent half-timbering

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