By the 1990s, the majority of Creoles were urbanized. In Bluefields, most live in the four predominantly Creole barrios on the banks of Bluefields Lagoon. As these barrios have become increasingly crowded, individual families have taken up residence away from the waterside, in the expanding, predominantly mestizo, barrios of the town. Rural settlement patterns are of two types. Most rural Creoles live in small villages of fewer than 2,000 persons. In these villages, houses are strung out in files, two or three deep, along the water's edge, with missionary churches at their centers. In the Pearl Lagoon area, 36 kilometers north of Bluefields, where most of the small villages are located, settlements are either predominantly Creole or Creole mixed with either Miskito or Garifuna. Other rural Creoles are located on small freehold farmsteads on the Corn Islands and in the Kukra Hill area, which lie 68 kilometers northeast and 30 kilometers north of Bluefields, respectively.
Creoles live primarily in "West Indian cottages"—wood-framed clapboard structures, painted in white or pastel colors, with wooden floors raised from the ground by posts, steep corrugated galvanized "zinc" roofs, and verandas in front. The basic structure of such a cottage is modified according to the economic means of its occupants. In the outlying rural areas, a typical house may be smaller, with only two interior rooms. The zinc roof may be replaced by palm thatch, and the clapboards may remain unpainted. In these areas, the kitchen and bathhouses are usually in separate structures just off the house, as is the outdoor latrine if there is one. In the urban areas, the basic model might be elaborated into a two-story structure with the kitchen and bathroom built in. Even in the urban areas, however, running water is a comparative rarity, and a well and an outhouse are necessities. In the 1980s affluent Creoles began building cement houses that were patterned after those built by mestizos in the Pacific portion of Nicaragua.