Colonial architecture was and is the architecture style of rectangles. On the floor plan, these rectangles intersected each other much the same as they would in a game of dominoes. In the exterior views, the parallelogram was used almost exclusively, with its looks enhanced by a great deal of horizontal lines. Arches, curves and oblique shapes were avoided like the plague.
Completely avoiding “out of the normal” geometry, these structures were nicely proportioned and their dignity was and is displayed with the utmost pride. These homes were so direct and straightforward that there were no obstacles to the work of builders and so well created with such a good design that even though a great deal of design styles have come and gone, the old Colonial still remains a mainstay design even in the twenty first century.
The beauty as a result of balance or harmonious arrangement of the exterior of the colonial should never be strayed from. At each end of the building you would see stately chimneys always equal in size, whether they were functional or not; and in order to avoid the use of windows of different size, it was common to see a stairway cross a window without any attempt whatsoever to hide it from view outside. You’d almost suspect that the designers were lazy because it seemed like they traced one half of the exterior elevation, and then, flipping the paper over on its face, retrace it to balance the original.
Then, as now, the degree of formality and stateliness obtainable in a building depended upon how much money was in your pocket. Additional money available in the hands of capable designers made sure that the architectural composition was properly completed and enhanced the decorative effect. This is illustrated in walls. The simplest and cheapest were those of plain brickwork, or large brick or stone covering with a coarse plaster of lime, shells, and pebbles used for outside wall surfaces. Variations of these were the laying of brick in the Flemish bond or other ornamental methods of laying brick, and the forming of projecting pilasters, bands or string courses.
Even though these houses most often stood off by themselves in the open country, there was a definite effort to concentrate great thought and workmanship into their fronts. A larger degree of formality with a corresponding increase in the expenditure of money, effort, etc. was obtained by simple but large quoins or projecting brick courses at the corners of the building.
Finally the greatest example of stateliness was arrived at by cutting the stone of walls into regular shapes and sizes forming ashlar work which was a thin, dressed rectangles of stone oddly spaced, but with a recognizable pattern.
Most of these type homes can be found in the southeastern United States and especially in north and central Georgia and east Tennessee. Many of these have stood the test of centuries and still as beautiful today as they were when they were built well before the Civil War.