The Cape Cod style house gets its name from home designs used widely in New England and especially Cape Cod, Massachusetts in the 17th century. The Cape Cod style house was originally designed to protect against stormy New England coastal weather conditions.
The typical early Cape Cod houses had steep roofs to help shed snow, and to offer more protection to the living quarters; shingle or clapboard siding; one and one-half stories; central chimney and fireplace; center front entry door; and operable wooden shutters.
Most Cape Cod houses were noticeably free of exterior ornamental trim-work or other fancy work, as function was deemed more important than appearance.
Over the years, Cape Cod style houses have changed, but have retained many of the basics. Today's materials are different; the siding and shutters are aluminum or vinyl, and most shutters today are strictly decorative.
Chimneys and fireplaces are usually not centrally located now, since fireplaces are not typically used for central heat as they were in the earlier days of the Cape Cod house. Today's Cape Cod style houses are usually full two-story dwellings, and many designs have added dormers for increased living space in the upper level.