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1950s - 1970: A-Frame House Style

Homes Shaped Like Tee-Pees


With a dramatic, sloping roof and cozy living quarters, the A-frame shape became a popular choice for vacation homes.
An A-frame house in North Gloucestershire

An A-frame house in North Gloucestershire

© Architect John Wilkes, Gloucestershire Photo Library

A-frame houses have many of these features:

  • Triangular shape
  • Steeply sloping roof that extends to the ground on two sides
  • Front and rear gables
  • Deep-set eaves
  • 1½ or 2½ stories
  • Many large windows on front and rear façades
  • Small living space
  • Few vertical wall surfaces

History of the A-frame

Triangular and tee-pee shaped homes date back to the dawn of time, but several 20th century architects awakened interest in the geometric A-frame form.

In the mid-1930s, Austrian-born architect Rudolph Schindler designed a simple A-frame vacation house in a resort community overlooking Lake Arrowhead in California. Built for Gisela Bennati, Schindler's A-frame Bennati House had an open floor plan with exposed rafters and glass-walled gables.

Fifteen years later, other builders explored the A-frame shape, constructing landmark examples and variations of the form. In 1950, San Francisco designer John Carden Campbell won acclaim for his modernist "Leisure House" made of smooth plywood with all-white interiors. Campbell's A-frame houses spread via do-it-yourself kits and plans.

In 1957, architect Andrew Geller won international attention when the New York Times featured a distinctive A-frame house he built in Amagansett, Long Island, New York.

The A-frame shape peaked in popularity during the 1960s. Enthusiasm waned during 1970s as vacationers opted for condos, or else built much larger homes.

A-frame Pros and Cons

The A-frame shape with its steep sloping roof provides several benefits:
  1. Heavy snow slides to the ground instead of remaining on top of the house and weighing it down.
  2. Space at the top of the house, under the high peak, provides enough room for lofts or storage.
  3. Maintenance is minimized because the roof extends all the way to the ground and doesn't need to painted.
On the other hand, the sloped A-frame roof creates a triangular "dead space" at the base of the walls on each floor. A-frame houses have limited living space and are usually built as vacation cottages for the mountains or beach.

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