10 Key Characteristics of Greek Revival Architecture

The traditional Greek style of architecture has such grandeur and aesthetic appeal, that people from other nations began to copy elements of the style. It began when other European countries started to replicate Greek buildings, and this style also gained popularity in the United States. The term Greek Revival style simply refers to homes that are built in a style intended to replicate that of the Greeks.

Strictly speaking, the Greek Revival era spans the period between 1825 and 1860, although the term is also used to refer to modern houses that have replicated the style. While each property has its own features, there are some typical characteristics that you would expect to see in a Greek Revival building. The following are 10 key characteristics that define the Greek Revival architectural style.

1. Exterior Materials

Wentworth Studio says that one of the most significant characteristics of a Greek Revival style home is the materials from which it is built. Greek temples are generally built from marble or stone. To resemble the traditional appearance of the Greek temples, properties built in the Greek Revival style are usually built using wood, stucco, and sometimes, stone. These materials give a similar appearance to the marble and stone used in traditional Greek properties.

2. White Walls

Almost all Greek Revival buildings are painted white. Again, this is to reflect the use of white marble in the construction of the traditional Greek Temples. In Greece, even humble properties are painted white, so this color reflects the general style through this country. Some properties feature a white faux finish on the exterior, rather than having painted walls.

3. Sash Windows

Generally, the windows of a Greek Revival residence reflect the glazing technologies of the mid-nineteenth century, when this style of property was at the height of its popularity. Unlike the elaborate doorways, the window surrounds are rather plain. Usually, the windows were double hung with six panes in each sash. In the case of decorative windows, they consisted of three-part assemblages. A unique feature of this style is the windows set in the frieze below the cornice. These were small, rectangular windows that were used to replace the common dormer.

4. Elaborate Front Entrance

The Greeks typically used a simple post and beam construction as the vault design was not known to them. This is why Greek Revival entrances are so different from the Federal and Georgina styles, which feature arched entrances and fanlights. However, the door surrounds of the Greek Revival style are elaborate, featuring a rectangular transom and small-paned sidelights. These are framed by a wide and heavy trim. Some front entrances are recessed, and this gives them the appearance of being three-dimensional. Either a single or double door is at the center of the front entrance, and this may have one, two, or even four panels.

5. Low-Pitched Roof Shape

A distinctive feature of Greek Revival properties is the shape of the roof. Homes built in this style have a low-pitched gable and hip roof. In the original Greek Revival properties of the nineteenth century, either cedar shingles of standing seam tin were the main materials used for the construction of the roofs.

6. Columns and Pilasters

One of the most apparent characteristics of a Greek Revival property is the columns. This is a typical architectural feature that makes properties built in this style stand out from other architectural styles, even those with which the style shares some similar characteristics. The columns or pilasters appear at the front of the home. Although classic columns are round, there are some structures that feature rectangular columns. Traditionally, Greek-style columns are built without a base. However, some Greek Revival structures feature columns with a base, and these are usually associated with Roman-style properties.

7. Entablature Roof Trim

The entablature is the band of trim at the base of the roof above the columns, and this is a characteristic feature of properties built in the Greek Revival style. According to Study.com, there are three parts to an entablature. The first is the cornice, which is a projecting border near the roofline. A horizontal band called the frieze is the second part of an entablature, and this is either plain or decorative. Finally, the area below the frieze is called the architrave.

8. Interior Moldings

The architectural features of Greek Revival-style properties also extend beyond the exterior of the properties to the interiors. According to Design Evolutions, moldings are an important feature of both the interior and the exterior of homes built in this style as this feature contributes to the expressive classicism and high style of Greek Revival architecture. Those who live in Greek Revival style buildings often retain this original architectural feature to add interest to their interior design and to retain the character of the property

9. Expressive Detailing

Another internal architectural characteristic of a typical Greek Revival-style house is the expressive detailing. The level of detailing can vary from one property to the next, but it is an important element of the interior styling. In many cases, the larger properties boast the most interior detailing, as these properties were owned by wealthier people who want to give a sense of opulence to their homes. Although there is less expressive detailing in the interiors of smaller Greek Revival buildings, it is still usually a feature of most properties.

10. Porticos

Most Greek Revival-style homes have a portico, which is a type of open porch leading off the front door that is supported by columns. Buffalo As An Architectural Museum says that the style of these porticos can vary, as both entry and full-width variations are seen. Some of the styles include Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian style porticos. The presence of a portico adds to the sense of grandeur and the overall aesthetic appeal of a Greek Revival building.

Photo via Bill Fitzpatrick / CC BY-SA

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