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What is a Southern Style House?

Jessica Ellis
Updated May 16, 2024
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A southern style house refers to architecture and design popularized in the southern states of the United States of America. Dating back to the 17th century, southern house design takes its influence from many different design eras and other styles. Certain features are typical of a Southern style house, even though architectural design may vary widely between examples.

The most common and defining aspect of a southern style house is a wide wrap-around porch, called a veranda, that runs along the exterior of the house. Typically covered by an overhang and framed by a fence or low wall, the veranda provides an outdoor space with one or several seating and gathering areas. The presence of the veranda reflects the hot and humid southern climate; in the days before air conditioning, the covered porch provided shade and a place to sit in the evening as temperatures cooled.

Most historic examples of southern style architectural date from the mid-17th to mid-19th centuries, and reflect the aristocracy of the wealthy class of Southern states prior to the American Civil War. Actual design style may include a blend of popular architecture, such as Tudor half-timbered sections, colonial design, Greek columned entrances, and brick exteriors. Houses are often multiple stories in height, and many feature the trademark veranda on all levels.

Windows in a southern style house are often narrow and multi-paned, taking after French design. Many feature exterior shutters that allowed the heat and sun to be partially blocked from the house in order to keep the interior cool. The shutters, another hallmark of this design style, are typically made from carved wood and painted in a contrasting color to the exterior of the house.

The focus of interior design in a southern style house is frequently comfort and hospitality. Many Southerners pride themselves on their entertaining, so these houses feature large rooms or gathering spaces that can hold a large party. Large kitchens, bar areas, and plush furnishings add to the welcoming environment of a southern style house. Country touches are appropriate to this type of design, as an homage to the rural South. Plaid, florals, and other homespun fabrics make nice accents in an otherwise sophisticated design scheme.

Interior colors traditionally run toward cooler palettes, to help reduce the plentiful heat and humidity. Blue, cream, dove gray, soft rose, and sage green are all excellent choices for a southern style house. In cooler climates, bring warmth into the house using a traditional English-inspired palette of warm colors, such as forest green, gold, and deep maroon.

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Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for HomeQuestionsAnswered. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.

Discussion Comments

By Oceana — On Oct 01, 2012

I like the southern colonial house style. I've seen several really old homes around here that have tall columns and at least two stories, and they are basically mansions that have been remodeled so that they don't fall apart.

Even though they have tall columns along the front, they still feature big verandas. Some have balconies that wrap around the top story, and all have big windows protruding from the roof.

One of these houses is open to the public for tours. The floors do creak a bit when you walk around inside the house, but the architecture is stunning.

By kylee07drg — On Sep 30, 2012

I grew up along the Gulf coast of Alabama, where most southern style house plans included hurricane shutters. People who lived there knew to expect at least one hurricane per year, and the shutters helped protect their windows from the extreme force of the winds and debris.

Most of the people I knew had hurricane shutters permanently installed around their windows. These could be rolled down as needed and rolled up for the rest of the year. Since they weren't particularly attractive, this was a good feature.

By wavy58 — On Sep 29, 2012

@seag47 – Aren't verandas awesome? I spent most of my summers as a kid playing on the veranda with my cousins, and it was a welcome alternative to staying indoors. The sun was just too hot for us to play in the treeless front yard, and the covered porch was perfect for us.

My friend's grandfather used to own this house, and he said that back in the days before air-conditioning, he and his family would wrap themselves up in wet sheets on hot nights and sleep out on the veranda to keep cool. The humidity can be deadly around here, so I see why they did this.

By seag47 — On Sep 28, 2012

Southern style houses abound in Mississippi, where I live. My grandmother's house fits this description perfectly.

It has this huge porch that I used to run around when I was little. There is a big porch swing, and I even remember roller skating there.

The colors inside the house are soft, and there is a lot of floral wallpaper. It looks very homey.

Since she always had a lot of people over on Sundays, she kept the place tidy and decorated it with things that she made. Blankets and pillows that she crafted are tossed on the large sofas, and they are very comforting.

Jessica Ellis

Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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