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Deep Dive: Best Exterior Choices for Cape Cod Homes

Cape Cod–style homes are among America’s favorite residences because of their simple, yet charming cottage design. The style emerged during the late 1600s as colonists built traditional British cottages and adapted them for the harsh New England winter climate.

The best Cape Cod cottages are simple in design with little ornamentation, like the traditional American Colonial–style homes that were built in areas farther south during a similar time period. These practical cottages were built to be sturdy and efficient to properly heat during harsh winters.

What are the main design elements of a Cape Cod house? 

  • Compact, rectangular footprint with either one story or one-and-a-half stories
  • Symmetrical design with center front door and large central chimney
  • Steep roofs with side gables
  • Windows positioned close to roofline; dormers were added later for more light
  • No front porches
  • No decorative flourishes

Like most homes built by pioneers, early houses featured wooden clapboard siding and shutters. The ocean wind weathered homes over time, turning them into a light gray color. If homes were painted, it was often white. Some homeowners added shake shingle siding, but only to the front of the house.

Cape Cod–style homes fell out of favor in the late 1800s when Victorian styles topped design trends. In the 1930s to 1950s, the affordable Cape Cod design became popular again. However, this time its footprint was larger—the second story was built with more bedrooms and dormer windows were added. Homeowners used a bit more ornamentation, including extra trim around the front door and windows.

Which Cape Cod exterior siding looks best?  

Drawing inspiration from the home’s architectural roots, Cape Cod–style homes are typically re-sided in wood siding. If you own a Cape Cod cottage and experience blustery New England weather—or any kind of extreme storms—practicality requires you to look at the most durable finishes. 

Engineered wood products, such as LP® SmartSide® Trim & Siding, allow homeowners to mimic the look of traditional wood yet assure long-term durability due to its engineered wood technology that helps to protect against hail, wind and Nor’easters. Add additional charm to your cottage with elements like LP® SmartSide® Cedar Texture Shakes to accentuate the front of your home’s siding or gables.

Which Cape Cod exterior color scheme looks best?

As mentioned, if Cape Cod–style homes were painted in the early days it was traditionally white—both body and trim. In the 20th century Cape Cod cottages were painted in conservative colors, staying with a gray, blue-gray, sage or buff palette (in addition to the ever-popular white). Trim is almost always in white or a very light color. Consider an option like LP® SmartSide® ExpertFinish® Trim & Siding, a prefinished option available in 16 versatile colors, including many of the popular palettes mentioned above that specifically complement the Cape Cod’s classically modern home design.

Ready to start shopping? This article explores three factors to consider when shopping siding. 

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