The Southern Style Home: Warm, Comfortable, Timeless… And Perfect for Today’s Living
When some think of a “Southern” home, the first images that come to mind are the plantation style mansions from Gone with the Wind, The Help, and movies in between where Southern or plantation homes took center stage. Yet true Southern homes are so much more than just those stately facades. A Southern style home captures the spirit of Southern living in its elegance combined with comfort, warm interior design and floor plans, attractive exteriors, and keenly designed landscapes that embrace the surroundings.
Exploring beyond the plantation exterior, we find Southern style houses that exude this timeless appeal and old-fashioned grace. A relative once said, “It’s like visiting an old friend when you step into the home – it’s warm, inviting, cozy, and comfortable.”
Top: This beautiful Southern style home has front and rear covered porches, 4 spacious bedrooms, 3.5 baths, walk-in closets, and ample living and entertaining space. The kitchen is fully equipped with an oversized island, walk-in pantry, adjoining mudroom, and friend's entry (Plan #206-1151) . Bottom: This 3-bedroom, 2-bath home has a covered porch with 10-inch columns, a living/dining room with a fireplace, a primary bathroom with a whirlpool tub, and walk-in closets (Plan #153-1404).
Distinctive Features of a Southern Style House
Although there are different architectural designs associated with Southern house plans, some features are typical of the style.
> Usually 1.5 pr two-story structures
> Perhaps the most defining characteristic is the wide wrap-around porch – the veranda – that surrounds the home
> Large front porches
> Balconies that offer a lot of shade
> Hipped or gabled roofs
> Central entrances in the front and rear
> Pillars and columns
> Symmetrical windows framing the front door
> Tall ceilings
> Intricate decoration above the front door
> Grand staircase
The verandas, porches, and balconies provide much-needed shelter from the sun and sweltering heat in the Southern states. While the exterior exudes formality – with the brick columns and ornate details of the entrances, the interior design is basically of comfort, hospitality, and warmth.
Types of Modern Era Southern Homes
Whatever design form the Southern plantation has evolved into in the 21st century remains true to the original concepts of making the home comfortable, cozy, and inviting. In these modern times, the Southern style home has added the practical, functional, and efficient to its design - from furnishings to exterior accents, paint colors, and landscapes.
Modified Plantation Type
Today’s plantation style homes are built on a more modest scale than their Antebellum predecessors. However, they still have spacious terraces, covered front porches, tall, stately columns, and symmetrical windows.
To make the homes more informal to fit the modern era, porches are adorned with wicker furnishings such as chairs, tables, and rocking chairs. Again, comfort and ease are key to both the exterior and interior designs.
The appealing front porches are an invitation to explore Southern style homes. Top: This 2-story home in the traditional Southern plan with a balcony, columns, and dormers has 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, a mudroom with half bath at the garage entry, and a fireplace in the Great Room (Plan #153-1624). Bottom: This luxurious 5-bedroom, 5-bath Southern plantation design has covered wrap-around porches with boxed columns, a game room, a kitchen island, and a butlers pantry. The bedrooms are on both floors. The observatory can be reached by elevator or a spiral staircase (Plan #153-1187).
Georgian home designs have a palatial look. Features may include a paneled front door at the center capped with a decorative crown, raised basements, paired chimneys, flattened columns on each side of the door, hipped or gabled roofs, often with dormers to light attic spaces. Many Georgian homes may include small window panes in each window sash; and dentil molding – wooden trim with tooth-like blocks – along the eaves.
Georgian house plans usually have a large central corridor from the entry. Stairs are placed in the entry with a room on either side of the foyer. Some other features are wood or linoleum flooring, cherry, oak, or maple cabinets.
Top: The Mansion House at Mount Vernon with the two porticos on each side is the classic Georgian design. The main house in the center is flanked by secondary detached wings (photo credit: Mount Vernon by David Samuel licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0). Center: Facing the Potomac River eastward, the home shows off its full-width covered rear porch with 8 massive 2-story columns (photo credit: Mount Vernon Estate by Martin Falbisoner licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0). Bottom: The exterior of the Georgian style home follows the symmetry found in Mount Vernon’s design. The two-story home has 4 bedrooms, 2.5-baths, a formal living room, a spacious family room, fireplace, kitchen island with dinette, and screened back porch. The master suite has an optional fireplace (Plan #146-2292).
The first farmhouses were “do-it-yourself” creations by those who tilled the land. Born out of necessity and hard work, they were simple, comforting, and full of the warmth of family life. The farmhouse style evolved with the times as Americans became more prosperous and adventurous.
The farmhouse design maintained its characteristic simple, vertical lines, gabled roofs, fireplaces, and wide covered porches that wrap around the entire house or extend to the front door through all the changes. The large kitchens remain the center of all social and family activities. Most of the innovations are personal touches and decorating accents that match the lifestyles of homeowners.
Chic, homey or quaint – the farmhouse reminds everyone of the safety, security, comfort, and spirit of family life.
From the wide wraparound porch, visitors enter the Great Room with its fireplace. The semi-open floor plan gracefully leads to the dining area, kitchen with island, and breakfast area. Popular with today's Southern homes, the primary suite is on the main level. It includes his-and-hers walk-in closets and a spa-l;ike bath. There are four bedrooms in all, plus a bonus room above the home for future expansion (Plan #153-1940).
One of the most popular home designs, country house plans are comfortable, cozy, attractive, and informal; they can also be rustic and elegant. Country homes can be single-level or two-story structures. Distinctive features are exposed beams, rough finishes on the walls, fireplaces for warmth, and windows with small panes. These house plans are prevalent in region-specific areas like Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina.
Add wide covered porches, dormers, gabled roofs, and big kitchens, fireplaces to complete their charm and appeal.
This charming Southern styled country home boasts upscale features: a covered lanai, covered front, rear porches, a Great Room with built-in cabinets, and a gas fireplace. The kitchen has an island with an eating bar and a room for family and friends to gather. The guest bedroom has a full bath and walk-in closet. The master suite has a raised ceiling and separate walk-in closets (Plan 141-1073).
The low country cottage is very popular in coastal areas of the South like South Carolina and Florida. Described as “white siding covered cottages that often hover on the edge of the marsh,” the homes are elevated on piers to avoid flooding. The two-story homes feature plenty of windows to allow the sea breeze in on hot, humid days, wide-covered porches to provide shade and attic dormers.
The inviting wrap-around porch of this Low Country home plan welcomes guests to the 2-story, 3-bedroom, 2-bath home with wood siding. Plenty of windows provide abundant light: inside are a dining/living space, kitchen with a nook/breakfast area, family room, fireplace, and loft. Floor plans are shown for this home (Plan 153-1899).
While relatively new on the scene, the barndominium or "barndo" has its roots in the rustic homes and barn style structures found across the South. These homes place a high emphasis on being practical, comfortable, and relatively affordable. Gone are the intricate design elements found in plantation or Georgian mansions. Much like a barn itself, these homes typically have an open floor plan. They also often have a workshop, extra storage, or an oversized garage.
This Southern-inspired barndominium with 2000 square feet of living space enjoys an open floor plan along with four bedrooms and two full baths (Plan #141-1331).
Charm and Ease Define the Southern House Style
The Southern or “plantation” style originated in the Southern states in the Antebellum period – before the Civil War – when times were genteel and relaxed. This incredible era in the South highlighted the wealth of Southern plantation owners. Their stately homes were large and made for entertaining and presented a look at old-fashioned Southern graciousness and hospitality.
Influenced by European styles and designs from different eras, Southern homes are historically two-story structures, sometimes adorned with dormers. They are spacious, formal, grand, and airy, with evenly spaced windows, pillars, brick columns, and balconies that create elegant lines and symmetrical balance.
Perhaps the most famous Southern plantation is the fictional “Tara” from Gone with the Wind, an exterior façade constructed on the lot of RKO Studios. Imagine Scarlett O’Hara sashaying down a grand staircase into a ballroom for a formal event.
Why The Southern Style is Still Popular Today
Unlike most architectural styles that went through up and down cycles, the Southern house plan never lost its appeal. The Southern house plan offers something for every taste, from the formal and grand to the simple and attractive farmhouses and country homes. Perhaps, the most overwhelming attraction is the comfort, warmth, and grace that recalled a distant but glorious age in American history.
Who can resist a home where you can kick off your shoes and live the ultimate Southern experience? You can capture the spirit of the South and satisfy your inner Scarlett or Skeeter, whether you choose a plantation, Georgian, country, or farmhouse design.
Get ready to open the doors to an old friend!