Historic Homes Part 2: Romantic Style

Have you ever walked by a charming house with intricate detailing, whimsical windows, and a storybook-like appeal that instantly transported you to a bygone era? If you’re nodding your head in agreement, then you’ve probably encountered a Romantic Style house from the 19th century.

In last month’s post, we looked at Colonial Style homes. This month, we’ll be taking a look at Romantic Style homes (1820-1880). The first popular Romantic Style, the Greek Revival was the dominant style for the first half of the 19th century.  As the United States rejected its ties to England, colonists began looking to the architectural style of Greece for inspiration.

Soon Americans began to branch out stylistically…wait, we can choose what our house looks like?  That’s right, we have freedom! In addition to Greek Revival homes, there were a number of sub-categories of Romantic Style Houses: Gothic Revival,  Italianate and Octagon. 


A few characteristics of the Greek Revival Style are:

  • Wide band of trim below the main roof and porch roof
  • Elaborate door surrounds.
  • Classical Columns supporting porch roofs.

The home below is a historic Greek Revival farmhouse in Indiana. Even though it’s in rough shape, I wanted to include this example because it’s located in the Midwest. It also feels a bit more relatable because its shaped less like a Greek temple than the example above. However, it still has features – like the Doric columns and the wide trim below the roof- that put it in the Greek Revival category.

Check out the trim and column surround on this interior doorway in a Greek Revival Home!

I think I could read for hours in this stunning, sun-filled library, too!

Gothic Revival

If there is one thing I remember from my time studying interior design in Rome, it’s this. Gothic architecture = pointed arches. Think tall windows stretching to heaven. That’s literally what those Gothic churches were trying to do. They wanted to help draw your eyes upward.

When it comes to Gothic Revival style homes, the pointed arches were a defining characteristic, too.

The Dibble House (below) in Eldon, Iowa, has Gothic features (see the pointed arch?!) and inspired the famous Grant Wood painting American Gothic.

Gothic Revival doesn’t have to mean old fashioned, however. Particularly when it comes to living in historic homes today. This Gothic Revival home features pointed arches in the interior. (Notice the alignment!) It’s clearly a historic home, but has modern and playful features mixed in.


The Italianate style is a visual ode to the architecture of the Italian Renaissance, though swapping classical materials like marble for wood and shingles. Notable characteristics include low-pitched roofs, wide eaves with intricate ornamentation, and decorative window details. This style was particularly common in the expanding towns & cities of the Midwest.

The Italianate home below is located in Ohio and has the common Italianate features: stucco siding, cupola, paired brackets dividing the bays, and simple Renaissance detailing around the windows.


The Octagon Style was not one that I was familiar with…at all and honestly, I think it’s super strange!

In researching, I learned that the Octagon category of houses was invented by Orson Fowler, also inventor of the pseudoscience of phrenology (the study of personality based on bumps in your skull).  Octagon houses create odd shaped spaces and unusable corners, so I think it’s for good reason that they weren’t popular with architects.  This article is an entertaining read about Orson Fowler and a run-in with Mark Twain.  

romantic style inspiration

Romantic Style homes emerged in the early 19th century as a reaction against the rigid forms of classicism, embracing a more emotive, picturesque approach. These houses weren’t just structures; they were storytellers, narrating tales of fantasy, nature, and a longing for the past. The architects of this era aimed to capture the essence of medieval and Gothic aesthetics while infusing them with their own creative flair.

In a world that’s constantly evolving, there’s something undeniably appealing about the Romantic Style houses that graced the 19th century. They beckon us to slow down, to appreciate the beauty in intricate craftsmanship, and to find inspiration in the stories they tell.