The Global Popularity of Tudor Style: The look that originated in 16th-century England and Wales can now be found all over the world

October 3, 2013, 6:25 p.m. ET

The Global Popularity of Tudor Style

The look that originated in 16th-century England and Wales can now be found all over the world.


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In Thames Town, handsome Tudoresque homes sit near English-style pubs, red telephone booths and a replica of Christ Church in Bristol, England. Some of the houses have family crests on them. But everything in this village was built less than a decade ago—and Thames Town is situated about 25 miles outside of Shanghai. “It’s like Disneyland, except it is in the real world,” says Andrew Ballantyne, a professor of architecture at Newcastle University in England.Tudors—typically British-style homes with pitched gabled roofs, large chimneys, latticed windows and, often, black-and-white facades—sprang up in England during the 16th-century reign of the Tudors. The style permeated all class levels; it wasn’t until the Tudor revival occurred in North America in the late 19th and early 20th century that it became thought of as a symbol of wealth, when affluent Wall Street executives constructed Tudor homes in the suburbs of New York.

Since then, the style has endured in popularity despite decades of changing lifestyles and a movement toward more modern architecture. The result: Tudors now can be found around the globe, from the California coast to a business district of Singapore.


In many cities, Tudor homes have become a symbol of old money and conservatism even though they didn’t originally have an elegant overtone, says Christy Anderson, a University of Toronto associate professor of art. In China, the homes represent Western-style wealth and status. In Australia, they were built as a nod to nostalgia for England. In a California beach town, they’re a sign of exclusivity. And in Singapore, a black-and-white home may be the best real-estate deal around.

The Tudor style itself can also vary considerably, making them anything but cookie cutter. Many homeowners are drawn to the style for its adaptability: Because many Tudors are asymmetrical they’re also easy to add onto, making renovations easier to design.

Still, there are complaints about the architecture, chief among them that Tudor interiors tend to be dark because of smaller windows and darker walls clad perhaps in wood paneling. Maintaining and restoring Tudor revivals, typically built between the 1870s and late-1920s, can be costly. Leaded-pane windows, old-growth timbers, slate roofs and plaster walls are difficult to replace, and many builders and architects aren’t trained in the building style. “If you were building a Tudor today you’d have to have an enormous budget,” says Kevin Murphy, a professor of art history at Vanderbilt University who is working on a book about Tudor architecture in the U.S.

For homeowners who love the look and can put up with the hassles, here are a range of neighborhoods around the world where the Tudor style still reigns supreme.

St. Malo, Calif.

The Tudor, with its thick walls and heavy timber strips, might not seem like a natural design for a beach house. But in Oceanside, a coastal city in Southern California, lies the gated community of St. Malo, home to 83 homes designed in the French Normandy Tudor style. This style, known for decorative half-timbering and a more country look, is a far cry from the all-glass contemporaries in Malibu or the beach cottages of Newport Beach.

The community originated in the late 1920s, when Pasadena architect Kenyon Keith designed the 28-acre neighborhood to look like St. Malo, a village off the coast of Brittany, after a poster of the area caught his eye.

Today, residents include prominent old-money families from Pasadena and San Marino. Many of the homes have been passed down through generations, and the community values its privacy.

Spencer Baumgarten, an agent at Creative Artists Agency, bought a traditional 2,000-square-foot beach house about two years ago for $1.5 million, according to public records. His wife Lara had summered in the community as a child and after renting, the couple decided to buy. “We actually bought the home that I went to with my friend when I was younger,” Mrs. Baumgarten says. “Our kids love this place.” The community has three tennis courts, a sand volleyball court, a playground and a private beach.

Mr. and Mrs. Baumgarten recently finished upgrading the home—after gaining approval from the homeowners association, which strictly regulates the architecture. They redid the master suite and kitchen and added a gym in the guesthouse. “It couldn’t be more diametrically different from our other homes,” says Mr. Baumgarten, who has typically lived in Spanish-style homes in the Los Angeles area. “But it’s beautiful.” During the early summer, there is a scramble to get construction or renovations done because St. Malo doesn’t allow any building between July 1 and Labor Day.

John Beran, an Oceanside real-estate agent, says most of the homes in St. Malo sell for $2 million or more. A homeowner must give the community 30 days notice before a home can go on the market, giving people a chance to buy it themselves or alert their friends—all part of the goal of keeping the community close-knit.

Tusmore, South Australia

Roughly a third of the 586 houses in Tusmore, an upper-middle-class suburb of Adelaide, are Tudor in style.

Often called “storybook” homes in Australia, the spaces not only have exterior Tudor elements, but interior features like glazed brick features around fireplaces, timber work in the hallways and stained glass windows, says Peter McMillan, a real-estate agent with Toop & Toop, an Australian real-estate firm. Many Tudors also have floors and design accents made of Jarrah, a deep red hardwood native to Australia.

A lot of Australian Tudor homes, which were built in the 1930s, were a result of British settlers’ nostalgia for their homeland. In recent years, the appeal of Tudoresque homes has increased as a portion of the market has “tired of the modern architecture,” Mr. McMillan says. These homes are often on large parcels because many of them were built when there was plenty of land available. Tusmore’s Tudor-lined Kennaway and Burke streets are a short distance from tony Burnside Village, where it is common to find ladies lunching and residents jogging along the tree-lined streets.

While real estate prices in the past four years have been relatively flat in Tusmore, with a current median single-family sales price of about $540,000, many of the Tudor-style homes in Tusmore have sold for over $930,000, an increase in recent years.

Central Business District, Singapore

Fifteen months ago, Glen Goei, a prominent theater and film director in Singapore, put in a bid to rent a Colonial black-and-white home. Built in 1910 for a British high-court judge, the home is a mix of Tudor and tropical bungalow. “It’s very competitive,” Mr. Goei says. He won the two-year lease, which can be renewed, by offering to pay around $16,000 a month.

Approximately 500 black-and-white bungalows managed by the Singapore Land Authority, a government board that develops and regulates land in the country, are leased, and more than 90% of them are rented out as residences, according to a SLA spokesperson. Rents range from $2,400 to $16,000 a month and many of the homes are in central areas, along Nassim Road, Goodwood Hill and Orange Grove Road. These homes aren’t always identifiably Tudor, but evoke an English style, says Mr. Ballantyne, who is the co-author of “Tudoresque: In Pursuit of the Ideal Home,” a book about the Tudor style. Popular with expats, the area is very lush, with lots of trees and winding roads. “On my way home is like driving through the English countryside,” Mr. Goei says.

Mr. Goei’s 6,000-square-foot home on nearly 2 acres has 15-foot-tall ceilings, a large informal living room that he uses as a yoga/piano/TV room and a vast entryway. The main house is connected to what used to be staff quarters and Mr. Goei has converted it into a guest room and wine cellar. There is a pool in the courtyard and large trees on the property.

Despite their high rents, the black-and-white homes are some of the best deals in town, according to Singapore architect Soo K. Chan. As rents have skyrocketed with an influx of expats, the large bungalows are more affordable than equivalent luxury apartments.

Thames Town, Shanghai

Thames Town is part of the “one city nine towns” project initiated by the Shanghai Planning Commission as part of a massive urbanization plan in which each town emulated a different European architectural style. Thames Town, which was completed in 2006, reportedly cost about $320 million and covers more than 240 acres; 75% of its homes had already sold by the time it opened. Today, all the houses are sold, mainly to wealthy investors, according to media reports, and prices ranged from about $600,000 to $750,000. The town’s developers didn’t return phone calls seeking comment.

For the Chinese, the Tudor symbolizes an upwardly mobile middle class that wants to “broadcast their status to the world,” says Bianca Bosker, author of “Original Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China.” “There’s a desire among China’s wealthy to show off their sophistication, and this is seen as the most efficient and obvious way of doing that,” she adds.

The town has received plenty of criticism for its blatant imitation of English style. Some critics describe it as simply a tourist attraction; it is a popular spot for Chinese couples to take their wedding photographs.

For all the people who call the town bizarre, Ms. Bosker says it wasn’t long ago that U.S. architects copied from Europe as well; she points to Princeton University, an example of a knockoff of European colleges. “It’s no secret that Princeton copied the architecture of Oxford,” says Daniel J. Linke, a university archivist at Princeton.

“A couple different residents told me the way to live best is to eat Chinese food, drive an American car and live in a British house,” Ms. Bosker says.

Atkins, the England-based architectural firm that designed the town, drew inspiration from “an array of historic and modern buildings across the U.K.,” according to a spokesperson.

Rosedale, Toronto

The tony neighborhood of Rosedale, minutes from Toronto’s downtown financial district, has about 1,200 homes, many of which are quintessentially Tudor with features like prominent front gables and large chimneys. Many of the homes were built in the early 1900s as symbols of domestic establishment and attracted much of Toronto’s old-money crowd, says the University of Toronto’s Ms. Anderson.

As a heritage-district neighborhood in a great location, it is one of the most sought-after communities in the city, says real-estate agent Fran Bennett, who lives in Rosedale in a Tudor home. Most homes in the neighborhood sell for $2.4 million to $6.8 million, says Christian Vermast, an agent at Sotheby’s International Realty Canada.

After living in a contemporary, single-story home with floor-to-ceiling windows, Wendy Adams and her husband Wade Oosterman purchased a 9,000-square-foot Tudor-revival home in Rosedale with a gabled roof and leaded-pane windows for close to its $4.9 million list price. The interiors include coffered ceilings, a large wooden staircase with thick balusters and wood-paneled walls.

The couple is now in the midst of renovating the house, a challenging process. Ms. Adams and her husband are turning their six-bedroom home into a seven-bedroom, eight-bathroom space and opening up the basement level to accommodate a TV and game room. They’re also adding a few more modern amenities: a better powder room, pantry storage and remodeling some of the “cubby rooms” off the attic.

One of the more difficult parts of the renovation has been trying to replicate original details. “You can’t afford it or find someone who can do it,” Ms. Adams says. Many of the interior doors, for example, have a church-like arch and her builder tried to dissuade her from reproducing them, instead urging her to choose a newer style that is complementary. “Even the lumber isn’t the same because it isn’t all old growth,” she adds. Mike Lawrance, co-founder of M-Squared Contracting in Toronto, says a historic home with substantial square footage undergoing a major renovation with high-end finishes would, on average, cost around $1.7 million.

For all the headaches, Ms. Adams, who declined to comment on the cost of her restoration, loves her Tudor home. “It has soul,” she says. “There’s a personality to it that is getting harder to find these days.”


About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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