When Rudolph Schindler built a home in Lake Arrowhead, California for costume designer Gisela Bennati, little did he know that the triangular house would become a national sensation. The house – constructed in 1936 – with its A-shaped roof that almost reached its foundation, open floors, large glass windows, and doors attracted a lot of attention.
The A-Frame reached the height of its popularity in the 1950s when young architects around the country took a page from the Austrian-born Schindler and built their variations and interpretations of the style. They created triangular homes that withstood harsh winters and hot summers – and were adaptable for all seasons. Because of their snow-shedding capability and cozy ambiance, A-Frames became popular in lake-view and mountain region settings as second homes or vacation getaways.
The A-Frame home is truly a classic design that suits the lifestyle and needs of many homeowners. While it is a straightforward and minimalist configuration, it can be designed as a grand residence with all the luxurious amenities or as a modest home for those who want to downsize or those who want a smaller footprint. We revisit the A-Frame style home and explore its timeless appeal, its advantages as well as its disadvantages.
The A-Frame Home and its Features
A simple structure with its distinctive triangular roofline – evoking the shape of the letter “A” - an A-Frame home is a striking sight in any neighborhood. The extended roofline stretches down nearly to its foundation, creating two steeply angled sides.
A two-story, 1,509-square-foot A-Frame style home features the signature triangular steep roofline, large glass windows, a covered front porch, and a sundeck. The home includes two bedrooms, two baths, vaulted ceilings, a second-floor master suite, and a loft. (Plan #108-1932)
In addition to the unique long roofline and rustic look, the sheer height of A-Frame homes allows the construction of two-story structures. Whether it is a one-story or two-story home, the A-Frame has these essential features:
Simple uncomplicated design
Open floor plans
Exposed beams and high interior ceilings
Floor-to-ceiling glass-paned windows
Large decks that may wrap around the home for outdoor living or just relaxing
Loft space and wood siding
Lots of storage space
True to its name, an A-frame is an architectural house style that resembles the letter A.
Advantages of A-Frame Homes
While the A-Frame has been reinvented throughout the years, its unique triangular shape, simple and minimalist structure continue to enchant and captivate Americans. There are other advantages that make the A-Frame attractive to homeowners.
1. Easy to build with pre-drawn house plans or prefabricated kits that make it scalable
Depending on your building and woodworking skills, you can construct your own A-Frame from the ground up with house plans or buy prefabricated kits for building the home. The kits are easy to install and come in a variety of sizes – which makes the A-Frame scalable. The style is also scalable – with options for something small like a 600-square-foot home, a modest 800-900-square-foot residence, or a larger 2,000-square-foot structure with two floors and many luxury features.
An amazing one-and-a-half-story, 1,354-square-foot A-Frame home shows how an A-Frame can be scaled to feature three bedrooms, one bath, and a large sundeck that is perfect for outdoor entertaining. The home has a vaulted ceiling in the living room/dining room, large glass-paned windows, and a sleeping loft. (Plan #138-1332)
2. Strong and sturdy
The deeply pitched triangular roof is stronger than other designs and has the ability to shed snow and carry the heavy load in places that get a lot of snow.
3. Adaptable and versatile
Perfectly suited for regions that get a lot of snowfall, the A-Frame is also ideal for scenic lake and mountain areas as well as in places with warm climates.
This stylish Modern A-Frame home is perfect for a getaway by the lake. This 2 bedroom, one bath home has 1,050 square feet, tons of windows, and lots of storage. (Plan #100-1352)
4. Comfortable and low-maintenance structures
5. A-Frames provide lots of natural light into interior spaces
Its open floor plan, lofty ceilings, and large windows allow natural light to filter into the space, thus creating bright and airy interiors.
6. A-Frames are energy efficient and good for the environment
The home’s design provides areas where homeowners can install solar panels that reduce energy costs
7. More affordable
The A-Frame is more affordable than their conventional four-wall home plan counterparts
8. A-Frames offer terrific scenic views
You can build A-Frame vacation homes in a lakeside area, a wooded glen, or in the mountains, and enjoy the peaceful and beautiful scenery afforded by the large windows.
You cannot ask for more in a vacation home! A delightful 1,301-square-foot A-Frame house is surrounded by scenic views of mountains and a lush natural landscape. The home has three bedrooms with a main floor master, two baths, loads of windows, and a beautiful deck ideal for reading, relaxing, and entertaining. (Plan #126-1890)
Disadvantages of A-Frame Homes
What are the downsides of A-Frame homes? As much as people love this home plan, there are a few drawbacks to consider when building or buying an A-Frame.
1. The Roof
The most amazing and charming feature of A-Frames – can be a drawback. It is difficult to access the roof when there are repairs to be done. And when it is damaged, it can be expensive to replace. In addition, the steeply angled walls limit the size of the living space.
2. Lack of conventional storage space
Since the A-Frame does not have four walls, homeowners must forego closets and opt for dressers, floating shelves, and other creative ways of adding storage.
If you’re looking to add some extra space to you’re home, how about this lovely A-Frame garage with a studio apartment. The 2-car garage has 704 square feet, extra storage space, and a second level with living space, kitchen area, and full bath. The optional deck on the second floor adds to the large feel of this garage. (Plan #211-1065)
3. There are no external walls like those in a traditional home.
Think about it, the A-Frame’s “front” and “back” walls are actually windows or doors. Again, you must be imaginative when hanging picture frames and other wall accents.
4. Little privacy in the upstairs bedroom
The loft area with the bedroom may be open to the downstairs. This does not allow the privacy that homeowners have in the standard two-story home.
This stunning vacation home with A-Frame influences has a loft open to the downstairs. Fortunately, this 1,077-square-foot home has three bedrooms, so you don’t need to use the loft as a bedroom unless you need to. In addition to the bedrooms, this home has two baths, a mudroom, a living room, and a family room. (Plan #126-1242)
The A-Frame and its distinctive steeply pitched roof with symmetrical sides have been replicated and modernized throughout the years. But, whether it is designed as a vacation getaway, a second home, or a primary residence, the A-Frame’s timeless style continues to permeate the architectural landscape.
Footnote: The lead image not shown in the article is a gorgeous two-story A-frame vacation home with modern touches. The 1,272-square-foot home includes three bedrooms, 1.5 baths, a balcony, and a sundeck. For more details on the charming home, go to: (Plan #138-1326)