You probably recognize the white stucco and brown houses patterned with decorative half-timbering on the gables as Tudor homes. These homes have a distinct storybook feel with their medieval charm and English-style gardens that intertwine with the architecture.
Throughout the years, these magnificent homes have towered over landscapes and been home to many of the wealthiest of Americans. And while they have history to them, homeowners find many ways to update them to their more modern tastes while still retaining their original charm. In this article, we’ll dive into their history, the architecture style, and how you, too, can renovate them without damaging their historical beauty.
History of the Tudor
The tale of how they became a symbol of elegance and majesty North America itself is almost one for the storybooks. It traces its way all the way back to the Tudor period of the 15th century.
The original Tudor era made up the period of time between 1485–1603. It began with King Henry VII, although King Henry VIII is the inspiration for the architectural style that many recognize and know as Tudor today.
During his reign, King Henry VIII designed his palace with arched doors, stained glass windows, and vast gilded ceilings that others would then emulate in the late 19th century in what is known as the Tudor Revival period.
The late 1800s and early 1900s brought a return to the made-by-hand era that stood in proud contrast to the industrial, mass-produced homes. This era, known as the Arts and Crafts movement, inspired the people to go back to their medieval architectural roots and build houses that mimic the style once known only to the royalty of the Tudor era.
This style of home grew in popularity and spread across Britain, and even beyond the ocean into the United States of America, until World War II hit along with a new wave of nationalism in the US.
Today, you can find Tudor homes mainly along the East Coast, primarily in Maryland and New Jersey, but even extending into parts of Canada.
Although meant as a way for more common people to experience the extravagance of royalty on a more modest budget, with the originals sporting thatched roofs, Tudor homes are still seen today as a symbol of class and wealth.
Tudor homes are easily recognizable from their steeply pitched roof, leaded glass windows with a diamond pattern throughout, to the exposed timber framing and arched front door.
Upon arrival to a Tudor home, you’ll often notice the same pattern of decorative half-timbering against the plaster face of the home. Rosebuds and ivy typically climb the tower (if there is one) or the gables that protrude asymmetrically with large glass windows.
As you walk down the brick path that one often finds with these homes, a wooden arch door with a square frame greets you. Around the door frame of a historical Tudor, you’ll find intricate stonework of folds and deep lines put there to accent the thick, rounded door. The building material found on the exterior also decorates the interior of Tudors, as an extension of the majestic style.
You’ll enter the home and find that much of the floor is stonework or tile, and elements of wood, stone, and brick are throughout the house. Since stonework is so cold, many of the original homeowners hung intricate tapestries on the walls and put thick, woven rugs to cover the floor.
The furniture style that is typical of the Tudor Revival period often graces the Tudors of today. That furniture is usually double paneled chairs, chests that were once used for tables, chairs, or even beds, and large wooden tables.
One of the most prominent features of historical Tudors are the stained glass windows. Lead-lined and cathedral-like, one can usually find the stained glass in the great room, where you can sit on the simple sofas and straight-backed chairs and admire it.
The living room usually features high ceilings with exposed beams and a fireplace as grand as the house itself. You may have already been aware of a fireplace before entering the house, as large chimneys are also a defining feature of the home style.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Buying a Tudor House
As with many homes, the Tudor style comes with both benefits and drawbacks.
Drawbacks of Buying a Tudor House
The drawbacks of buying a Tudor house is how dark the hallways and rooms are as you go deeper into the house. These homes are often more than 2,000 square feet and use most of the natural light available for the great and living rooms, as well as the tower and upper bedrooms (if any). The kitchen is typically deep within the house and is often rather dark because of it.
Another drawback is the steep angle of the ceiling. If the living room doesn’t go all the way to the exposed rafters, there is often an awkward room right above. Although picturesque in stories, these angled rooms make for cramped spaces and odd closets.
Yet another drawback is the upkeep. You must take great care of all the lumber in the house to prevent water, rot, and bugs to infiltrate the space. You’ll need to wash and maintain the windows (often at high places) regularly to let as much light in as possible. And if you have the stone, tile, or wooden floors that so many of these homes have, you’ll have a lot of sweeping on your hands.
Benefits of Buying a Tudor House
The benefits of owning a Tudor house are significant for those who seek out this style of home intentionally. One of those benefits is the cozy nature the house provides. While often kept away from natural light, the dark hallways and back rooms are often lit with ornate chandlers and metal lanterns whose flickering candlelight casts a warm glow on the wooden paneling.
Another benefit of owning a Tudor house is being able to enjoy the rich architecture within your own home. Many people have to travel to experience the stone and glasswork typical to Tudor homes, but you have the benefit of enjoying it from your very own cozy nook.
The natural elements featured through the house is another benefit to owning a Tudor. While a bit more upkeep, the wooden cabinetry and board and batten paneling, as well as the brick and stone accents allow you to feel the beauty of nature no matter the weather.
Updating a Tudor Home
Updating one of these historic beauties takes a bit of work to still retain its defining elements.
A quick way to update the exterior is to add a bit of paint. While the half-timbering is usually a dark contrasting color against the creamy stucco, try mixing it up. Paint the timbers a lighter color and the stucco a darker natural color.
You don’t have to keep the colors natural, though. Painting the house a bright color such as a bubblegum pink or a nice moss green adds a pop of color, especially if your house is one of many Tudor homes on the block!
Besides paint, your best bet for updating the space is to change up the furniture and rugs, add a shelf or two, and incorporate more of the modern flair you’re hoping for without making changes you’ll want to undo later. Surface changes are best for historic homes, especially ones as intricate and unique as Tudor homes.
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