The “A” shape is hard to mistake. This design has been a traditional vacation home or second home style since World War II. The A Frame has that woodsy but contemporary; campy yet dramatic; modern style, look and feel. Dozens of ideas and plans are available on the internet. These houses boast high interior ceilings, open floor plans, large windows, loft space and wood siding, among other features. You can even buy an A Frame house/cabin as a pre-fab kit for the ultimate DIY. There is an A Frame for every budget.
A Frames can be humble cabins or expansive vacation homes. The design is easily scalable. This style of home is often found perched on a mountain side, tucked away in the woods near lakes or hidden oceanside behind the dunes. There is one just down the street from me. I pass it every time I head to the local Post Office. That home inspired this writing.
The structure can be an inexpensive build with only four surfaces – two end walls and the steeply angled gable roof. The front and rear gables have deep set eaves creating an inviting area for decks and patios to be added. The equilateral triangle design is independently strong (think pyramid). The shape is perfect for areas that receive a lot of snow. Snow does not stand a chance to gravity on that roof. Such a large roof can be costly to replace, metal is the way to go with new builds. A Frames can withstand the harsh elements with little maintenance. Acres of roof beg for solar panels in off the grid locations. Most of the surface to this dwelling is roof.
Often constructed of wood and stone to blend into its natural setting. Its peaked style replicates the trees and mountain tops that often surround it. Soaring ceilings and masonry fireplaces offer an inviting interior. Of course, this style of house loses a lot of livable space with that steep slanting roof. One and a half to two stories of interior living space. Very few vertical wall surfaces are in this home. Except for the front and back walls, there is no vertical external surface in the house. The second floor is narrow. A dormer could be added to gain more space and light on the second floor. A small addition can add much needed living space to either side.
Natural light can be limited and insufficient, entering only from the front and rear facades. So angle to the sun’s trajectory is important to maximize light. Distinctive floor to ceiling windows are often utilized in these homes to bring in light. All that glass and steep roof does reduce siding costs and brings the views inside. Large, broad decks provide desirable outdoor living space.
The first modern A Fame cabin was built in Lake Arrowhead, California in 1934. In the 1950s, post World War II Americans fell in love with the look and seeming ease to build this type of structure. By the 1960s the shape was iconic and utilized in commercial as well as residential buildings. Perfect, cozy getaways for singles, couples and small families. This perennial classic gets reinvented decade after decade. From it’s purist tiny house form to custom, grand vacation homes, the A Frame is still popular after all these years.
(c) Shannon Whaley 2021