When looking at traditional Turkish houses, don’t stereotype because there is more than one architectural style. While some places in Turkey earn more fame than others for their iconic housing markets, each area boasts a different Turkish style for many good reasons. Previously, Turkish locals constructed houses from local resources. For example, a staggering story is Geyre and the ancient site of Aphrodisias. One day, a historian travelled through this village and noticed old pillar stones on house walls.
He asked village locals where they got the stones from, and they pointed him to an undiscovered ancient city called Aphrodisias! Locals, not realising the importance of this ancient Turkish city, had taken fallen columns and pillars and used them to build family homes. Additionally, Turkey is a vast country with several different climate zones, so locals always built their homes to work around Turkish weather conditions. By exploring traditional houses around Turkey, you can gain a good insight into Turkish culture and traditions from eras gone by. Let's look at where to start your exploration.
7 Styles of Traditional Turkish Houses
1: Ottoman Houses in Safranbolu
Turkey’s town of Safranbolu has earned UNESCO World Heritage status because old Ottoman houses portray a prime trading spot and busy hub of Ottoman life. The tell-tale houses are easily spotted thanks to stone bottom floors and wooden upper levels. At one stage, all Ottoman houses were made from wood; however, this proved to be a fire hazard; hence the Turkish architecture style changed. Traditional Ottoman houses often used the bottom level as a storage area for animals or crops. The upper level featured various rooms situated around one large open space, and living rooms doubled up as bedrooms at night. Lots of windows also allowed copious amounts of natural daylight. Other places to see old ottoman houses in Turkey include Amasya and Beypazari.
2: Yayla Wooden Houses in the Kackar Mountains
Head over to the plateau regions of northeast Turkey, and housing styles change entirely. Here, Turkish locals live among miles and miles of forests, so they constructed their houses from wood. There are two notable points, though. First, the bottom floor was always unhabituated for two good reasons. Firstly, it is not unusual for wild animals to come down the mountains to seek food during winter. In addition, this region is a big Turkish honey producer, which bears love! Secondly, they would herd livestock into the bottom floor at night, and heat would rise to keep them warm on the second floor. So if you head to Uzungol or Ayder plateaus for a Turkish holiday, stay in an authentic wooden hotel.
3: Stone Cottages in Aegean and Mediterranean Turkey
Perhaps the most famous place for stone cottages is Kayakoy in Turkey's Fethiye region. However, this style does appear all over the southern and Mediterranean coastlines. Typical these houses were one or two floors. The entrance leads into a courtyard often used during summer, because of the intense heat day and night. Quite a few old stone houses have been renovated and bought into line with current building and habitation requirements, hence fetching hefty prices in Turkey's real estate market. These houses are sometimes called Greek cottages. The reason is that before the Ottoman empire was disbanded, many Greek communities inhabited Turkey's Mediterranean and Aegean coasts, leaving cultural traces through housing styles. (See examples of renovated stone cottages in Kayakoy.)
4: Whitewashed Turkish Houses in Bodrum
Head over to Turkey's Aegean coast, and the Bodrum peninsula is famous for the whitewashed houses dotting the hillsides. Often nicknamed sugar cube houses, they are remarkably like the stone cottages in layout but were whitewashed with the addition of blue shutters and doors. The blue warded off scorpions and other insects, and the whitewash reflected the summer heat. Like stone cottages, life centred around the courtyard, a hive of summer activity. Overall, these houses had one main aim; to keep cool in summer and warm in winter.
5: Traditional Cave Houses in Cappadocia
This is where the traditional housing styles start to pique interest. The central Cappadocia region is famous for Turkish cave houses because Tufa rock covering the landscape was soft enough to carve yet durable to last through summer and winter. Many old houses are under Turkish protection status, and to buy one and renovate it, will set you back a tidy sum. Yet, this makes the cave houses one of Turkey's quickest housing markets. Imagine a bathroom with a jacuzzi, his and hers sink and rain shower in a cave room. Fortunately, you do not have to buy a cave house to experience staying in one because there are many authentic Turkish cave hotels. While there, also take the time to explore the 14th-century cave churches at the Goreme Open air museum. (More about cave houses in Cappadocia.)
6: Yali Mansions in Istanbul
Now, we are talking about serious money. Istanbul's yali mansions are not only Turkey's most expensive housing market, but some houses also rank as the world's most expensive. Built during the Ottoman period by royalty and their dignitaries, Turkish mansions line both sides of the Bosphorus strait. Their historical importance guarantees them protection status. If you were to purchase one for 50 odd million dollars, you would still need legal permission to carry out maintenance, upkeep, renovation, or décor. Such is the privileged status of these houses; they are rarely advertised in mainstream circles when up for sale. Additionally, any interested buyers must prove their wealth and be vetted before they are even granted a viewing. As a result, many yali mansions' prices are not disclosed when selling. (More About Yali mansions in Istanbul.)
7: Wooden Houses in Istanbul
Around the 16th century, houses in Istanbul were typically constructed from wood only but were a high fire risk. So, in the early 20th century, they were banned. Over the years, many fell into disrepair and were knocked down. But because this housing style was forbidden, the architecture rarity made them prize gems for historians. Collectively, they rallied together and set up Turkish organisations to preserve these houses since they reflected early Istanbul culture and traditions. An excellent place to see an example is Sogukcesem street near the Topkapi Palace. Also, seek out old Ottoman houses in Arnavut village and the Asian Kuzguncuk neighbourhood.
About Turkish Architecture Today
So, as you can see, when it comes to traditional houses in Turkey, one can have a whirlwind experience seeing them all. But it is worthwhile knowing Turkey strives to preserve the housing styles of previous eras but has also made great strides over the last twenty years in modern Turkish living. As a result, some architectural designs beat the concepts often seen in high-profile places in London, New York, and Paris. These days, Turkish architects excel with their techniques to match global expectations.
One such revolution in Turkish housing is taking place in Istanbul. Previously, there were many slums, and living standards were poor and in some cases, the Turkish buildings were unsafe, having been older than 30 years, and when building regulations changed. In Istanbul, there are many governments backed developments. Often called lifestyle residences, large complexes feature stunning Turkish architecture, modern décor, design, and many communal facilities. (Modern property styles in Istanbul.)
Another place dominating Turkey's housing market is Yalikavak on the Bodrum peninsula. Before the turn of the century, this Turkish town maintained a typical traditional ambience, but the state-of-the-art mega yacht marina opened and changed everything. Suddenly, real estate developers were building large, luxury mansions with stunning sea views and gardens. So, of course, they would. When we see the mega yachts docking in, most are owned by high-profile celebrities, business people or royalty. Quite often, Saudi royalty will drop by to spend their summers in Yalikavak. This is the high-profile status of this modern Turkish town. (See housing styles in Yalikavak – Turkey.)
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