A mish-mash of brick and stucco facade houses in Queens
Photo by Rafael Herrin-Ferri

Queens is New York City’s most diverse borough, both culturally and in terms of its residential architecture. Throughout the borough, you can find amalgamations of different architectural styles, personal touches, and cultural influences from all over the world resulting in houses that are truly unique. In his book, All the Queens Houses, Spanish-born Queens-based architect and artist Rafael Herrin-Ferri creates an architectural portrait of the borough that captures how the homes reflect the diversity of their residents.

The types of houses featured in the book include “row housing, semi-detached two-family houses, detached single-family houses of the early twentieth century, and more contemporary three to five-story apartment buildings on small lots.” Creating a broad study of the urban house, the book also calls attention to smaller architectural features such as entryways, stoops, and garden elements that make Queens houses intriguing to passersby at the street level. Here, we highlight 5 of those features and how they make Queens homes stand out among the rest!

All the Queens Houses Talk

A brick facade house in Queens with many gables

Continue exploring the quirky architecture of Queens in our upcoming Untapped New York Insiders virtual talk with Rafael Herrin-Ferri on March 16th! In this talk, you’ll see some of the more than two-hundred images featured in All the Queens Houses. This live-streamed event is free for Untapped New York Insiders. Not an Insider yet? Become a member today and gain access to free in-person and online events as well as our archive of 150+ on-demand videos. You can grab your own copy of All the Queens Houses from a local Astoria bookshop here!

1. Colorful Paint

  • A vibrant green house in Queens
  • A yellow house in Elmhurst Queens

Herrin-Ferri started documenting the houses of his borough back in 2013. His block-by-block survey was completed in 2020. Walking and biking through the borough, he captured portraits of houses that some might deem “distasteful, kitschy, ill-proportioned, misshapen, or just plain ugly.” To Herrin-Ferri however, these houses “reflect the evolving every day, incrementalist spirit of the borough.”

One of the bold ways Queens residents personalize their homes is by painting them vibrant colors. It’s not uncommon to see a pop of blue, green, yellow, or pink among a row of otherwise dull-toned buildings. Sometimes, the paint color even extends to the fence, stoop, driveway, and sidewalk. In researching some of the houses he photographed, Herrin-Ferri came to learn that the colors often have cultural significance.