Top Home Styles in the San Francisco Bay Area

Aalto Insights Team
Apr 25, 2023

Top Architectural Styles in the San Francisco Bay Area: Homebuying 101

The San Francisco Bay Area has a storied and multi-cultural history, which is on full display in the local real estate with the variety of architectural styles available in the area. The unique and iconic home styles that are seen throughout the Bay Area do a great job of reflecting the various cultural influences that have helped build Northern California over the years.

From the archetypal Victorian homes seen mostly in San Francisco to the ever-popular Eichler homes that are sprinkled throughout the North and South Bay areas, there is truly a home style to suit any taste.

As you start your journey to becoming a homeowner in the SF Bay Area, you may start hearing these common terms and architectural style names used to describe the local real estate.

We put together a guide so you can understand the ins and outs of the most common home styles and the popular architects in the area, so you can find the perfect home design to suit your lifestyle.

What style of houses are in the SF Bay Area?

Victorian Style Homes

Arguably the most iconic style of San Francisco homes, Victorian architecture dates back to the 19th century through the early 1900s. There are well-known sub-styles of Victorian homes, including Queen Anne (also considered Edwardian), Italianate, and Stick Style, which are terms sometimes used in place of Victorian.

These homes are very prevalent in specific neighborhoods of the city like Alamo Square (the Painted Ladies), Pacific Heights, and Haight-Ashbury.

Victorians are typically characterized by their ornate details, decorative trim, bay windows, shingles, and turrets (the circular tower-like accents with intricate detailing). Other identifiers for these homes include brightly colored facades (a la the Painted Ladies), stained glass windows in the more historic homes, asymmetrical lines, and spindle work that is often found on the porches or balconies.

Edwardian Style Homes

Named for King Edward VII of England, Edwardian architecture peaked in the early 20th century, and became more popular in San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake. Edwardian style homes were actually mostly built to replace the destroyed Victorian homes at that time. Which is why you can find most of the city’s Edwardian homes in the neighborhoods that were most devastated by the earthquake and fire, including SOMA, the Mission, Glen Park, Noe Valley, and downtown. There are sub-types of Edwardian home styles including: Arts and Crafts, Queen Anne, Tudor Revival, Shingle, Italianate (typically row houses), Craftsman, and Mission Revival.

These sub-types drew inspiration for now-famous Bay Area architects. The Shingle-style, for example, actually originated in New England and was brought to the West by San Francisco architects like Willis Polk, who would use redwood trees for the shingle materials. The Tudor Revival style was a favorite of Bernard Maybeck, a very talented architect best known for his design of the Palace of Fine Arts.

The popularity of these homes also exemplified the cultural shift of the 20th century from the more ornate Victorian era to the more simplified and functional style of the Edwardian period.

Edwardian homes are slightly harder to identify because they have a wider range of identifiers in their sub-types. They are commonly characterized by more simplistic design, use of stone and brick, clean lines, less ornamental details, prominent joinery, leaded-glass windows, projecting eaves, Tudor-style timbering, and art deco or gothic ornaments.

Craftsman Style Homes

Craftsman homes, sometimes referred to as a sub-type of the Edwardian style, were popular during the early 20th century, following the cultural shift to a simpler style at the time. These homes are more prevalently found in the East Bay, specifically in Alameda and in the Oakland neighborhoods of Rockridge and Piedmont.

Craftsman style homes have distinctive characteristics including low-pitched roofs, wide eaves, exposed woodwork and rafters, wide front porches, and use of natural materials. For interior design elements of these homes, Craftsman homes typically feature a prominent fireplace in the living room, built-in cabinetry, and shelving throughout.

Mediterranean Style Homes

Rooted in the Spanish Colonial Revival movement, Mediterranean style homes became popular in the 1920s - 1930s with influences from the architecture found in Spain, Italy, and other Mediterranean regions. Historically, these homes rose in popularity across California due to the similar climate conditions and geography. These homes are designed for indoor-outdoor living and are built to enhance natural light, with an emphasis on being aesthetically pleasing and functional.

Mediterranean style homes can be found all over the Bay Area, from San Jose to the Presidio and everywhere in between. Many of these original homes have gone through a remodel or restoring with special attention to preserving the original details. The main characteristics of Mediterranean style homes are their stucco exteriors, arched doorways and windows, red tile roofing, terraces on multiple floors, and wrought iron details throughout.

Mid-Century Modern Style Homes: Eichler

Eichler homes, which are the most common mid-century modern style homes in the SF Bay Area, grew in popularity after World War II. The Eichler has become synonymous with the Bay Area single-family home styles and was originally built in the 1950s-1960s by Joseph Eichler, a real estate developer who worked with various architects to perfect this popular home style.

Eichler or mid-century modern homes can be found in multiple regions across the Bay Area, but are especially prevalent in the suburbs including places like Palo Alto, San Mateo, Sunnyvale, Terra Linda and Lucas Valley. Eichler liked to build these homes in car-friendly neighborhoods that had cul-de-sacs or winding roads to prevent through traffic.

The main characteristics of these popular, mid-century Eichler homes include open floor plans for airy and seamless living, floor-to-ceiling windows, simple flowing interiors, and low-pitched roofs with natural materials used throughout. The focus on indoor-outdoor living in this style of home has caused a resurgence in popularity of Eichlers for homebuyers in more recent years.

Ready to find your home in the Bay Area?

From Eichlers to Shingle-Style to Mediterranean, Aalto has 30% more homes to choose from than anywhere else, so get started on finding the perfect home for you.

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Aalto, Inc is a real estate broker licensed by the State of California, License #02062727 and abides by Equal Housing Opportunity laws. This article has been prepared solely for information purposes only. The information herein is based on information generally available to the public and/or from sources believed to be reliable. No representation or warranty can be given with respect to the accuracy of the information. Aalto disclaims any and all liability relating to this article.

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