The Lone Star State’s Unique Geographical Terrain and History Influence Design and Structure
For most of us, Texas means rambling ranches, mission-style homes, and plantations. To others, it’s also the Alamo, John Wayne, the Dallas Cowboys, and those feuding Ewings of Southfork. And to anyone who was raised or spent significant time here, it is also the home of quaint towns, “rolling hills covered with oak and cedar… creeks and rivers.”
With its vast spread of land and terrain, it’s no surprise that Texas house styles/features depend heavily on the state’s natural landscape and unique geographical characteristics. Homes can range from the modern log cabin to the classic ranch, the traditional Southern plantation, Southwest adobe, Spanish-Mexican styles, mansions, and beachfront homes.
Top: A view of the legendary Southfork Ranch in Dallas, setting of one of the most popular primetime TV dramas (image credit: Southfork Front by sf46 / Plublic Domain). Bottom: The Alamo, a Spanish Mission and fortress in the 1700s, was the site of the Battle of the Alamo in 1836 (image credit: The Alamo by Daniel Schwen / CC BY-SA 4.0).
From the Hill Country to the Prairie-Lakes, the South Texas Plains, Big Bend and the Panhandle Plains, Texas house styles manifest centuries of rich historical traditions. There is not one defining characteristic among these house plans but an amalgam of the contributions of the Native Americans, Mexicans and Europeans, among them the Spanish, German, and Italian. Beginning from the adobe dwellings to the presidios and missions constructed by the Spanish explorers, Texas house designs are as diverse as the cultures and settlers who inspired them.
Hill Country Style
The Texas Hill Country, which includes Austin and Fredericksburg, borrows most of its architectural house styles from the Europeans, including the Germans. The early German immigrants were farmers and ranchers who used materials they located in their surroundings – cypress, cedar, brick, limestone, and sandstone – to build their homes; keep them warm in the winter months, and cool in the summer heat. A visit to the city of Fredericksburg shows some traces of the German influence, especially in the existing Sunday Houses in the historic area of town.
Top: This one-story house – five bedrooms, three baths with high ceilings – is of rock/stone and stucco exterior with a tall entryway, and covered porch (Plan #187-1004). Inside is a Great Room, dining room, kitchen with peninsula/eating bar, and fireplace. Bottom: This lovely two-story Hill Country home with four bedrooms has a stucco exterior, covered front porch, courtyard, patio, an open floor plan, with a kitchen island and dining area (Plan #136-1030).
Hill Country home designs are distinguished by the use of limestone, which comes in a variety of shades and tones. With a terrain resembling that of Tuscany – rolling hills, colorful landscapes, and great views –the Tuscan style is also quite evident in the region’s homes. From one-story cottages to ranches, two-story homes and estates – the tell-tale terra cotta roofs, colorful stucco and brick exteriors are visible.
The Tuscan details are seen in the front yard, covered front and rear porches, and landscaping of this one-story, three bedroom home (Plan #117-1055). An open floor plan gives plenty of space for a Great Room, kitchen, breakfast nook, and dining area.
Beachfront Homes in Corpus Christi and Galveston
To the uninitiated, Texas is not synonymous with beaches and waterfront homes. But the Texas Gulf Coast region, which includes Beaumont, Corpus Christi, and Galveston, has some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. In this 350-mile stretch of shoreline along the Gulf of Mexico, coastal home plans are a very popular style. Beachfront homes can be built as one-story or multi-level structures with three or more bedrooms, and all the comforts of waterfront living. The most distinct feature of a coastal house design is an elevated main floor built on pier and pile foundations.
Warm earth hues for this home with a sundeck perfect for watching the waves at sunset (Plan #161-1053). The Great Room connects kitchen/dining/living areas and opens to deck.
The Hacienda’s Main House Evolves into the Ranch
Perhaps the house plan most people associate with Texas is the ranch… stretched out and sprawled in the Prairie region. The ranch, as we know it, was created in the 1920s. But, the ideas for the design date back to the Spanish missions and the hacienda. The social center of life in the 17th century, the hacienda included the land, village, several buildings and the main house. With its rectangular shape, low-hanging tiled roofs and garden courtyards, it was the main house that became the basis of a new architectural style.
While the Spanish settlers used mainly adobe and brick to build their residences, today’s ranch can be constructed of different materials, including stucco, rock, stone, concrete with wood and vinyl siding. Some of these brick and adobe ranches can be found in most of the state, especially in San Antonio and El Paso.
This four-bedroom brick ranch house has an open floor plan that features a Great Room with fireplace and access to the covered rear porch (Plan #153-1645).
This one-and-half story ranch has three bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths, a covered porch, and a patio (Plan #117-1094).
Eclectic Styles Abound: From Mansions to Victorian Cottages, and Bungalows
The sheer size of Texas, the richness of its land and the various cultures of its settlers make it a hub of eclectic residential designs. There are the mansions of Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, and Arlington, but there are also remarkable bungalows, cottages, and country homes built in the Victorian and Queen Anne styles.
All around Texas – from the historic homes to the 21st century residences, there are traces of Craftsman, Colonial and Greek Revival, Tudor, Prairie, Tuscan, and Mediterranean designs.
This two-story, four-bedroom home features a master suite on the first floor with a sitting room, powder room, master bath, and a walk-in closet (Plan #106-1169).
This five-bedroom home has a Tuscan influence and an abundance of living and entertaining space (Plan #161-1053).
A touch of the Southwest is evident in this Texas house (Plan #117-1053) with six bedrooms, a covered lanai, breezeway, pool, private deck, wine cellar, Grand Hall, dining areas, kitchen, library, and more.
This five-bedroom Texas country home (Plan #161-1054) has a lovely covered porch and landscaped front yard.
An attractive front yard adds to the charm and curb appeal of this four bedroom Victorian style house (Plan #136-1001).
More than just size or proportion, the Texas house style is defined by its variety. You can have a beachfront home in Galveston or a vintage adobe ranch in El Paso – or perhaps a quaint Victorian cottage in the Hill Country – and still live the Texas dream.