History of the A-frame House Style

An A-Frame is an architectural style typically used in houses and buildings that are in areas that have very heavy snowfall in the winter.  A-frame buildings have steep angled rooflines that begin at or above the foundation line and meet at the top in a triangular shape to form an “A”.  Due to this high pitched roof style, the primary exterior walls of the home are angled which can make interior decorating and design a little more difficult, but many that own these homes find ways to make them fascinating in terms of design.

Elizabeth Reese House

Elizabeth Reese House A-frame NY

Architect Andrew Geller designed a stunning A-frame home built in Sagaponack, New York that is widely credited as the home to propel the styling and building of A-frame Houses.  His design was published in the New York times in 1957 and this caused A-frame homes to spring up all over the world.  This international attention really helped the popularization of the mid century modern a-frame style that we typically see today though most a-frame homes were built between the 50’s and 70’s.

A-frame house popularity began to rise post-World War II as many Americans were beginning to have more disposable income and a second home was a great investment as well as a great vacation retreat.  The simple and inexpensive styling of the A-frame was also a factor in its huge rise to popularity between the 1950’s and 1970’s.  Many A-frame houses were built as “do it yourself” kits that could be purchased as plans from a number of different architectural planning firms across the country.

A-frame Pros and Cons

A-frame houses are very stylish, fascinating designs.  While the style looks very cool, it may sometimes pose challenges to homeowners.  These challenges include and are not limited to cooling and heating issues along with interior decorating issues.

Here is a list that may help you if you are trying to decide on buying an A-frame shaped home.

A-frame Style Pros

  • High pitched roof line is GREAT in snow country as it can handle a lot of snow without buckling under the stress.
  • A-frames typically have awesome Cathedral Style Vaulted ceilings that are phenomenal.
  • Space at the top of the house can be utilized for space, or a loft.
  • The roof line is also the exterior walls, so there is less maintenance in regard to painting.
  • Easy construction.

A-Frame House Cons

  • A-frames depending on design can have limited living space.  Many are 1 story or 1.5 stories with a loft.
  • Depending on design, the sloped walls present a lot of dead space at the base of walls.  This can typically be converted into storage space.
  • Upstairs rooms if any typically have high pitched ceilings with low head room and awkward shaped rooms creating issues with furniture placement.
  • Cooling and heating can be problematic as there is a lot of volume in the home to cool and heat.  In warm climates, the use upstairs windows will help keep the downstairs cooler though.

While there are a few cons, my personal belief is that the pros are enough to justify having an A-frame home for either your primary home or vacation home.  This website is dedicated to my A-frame house that is my primary residence in Phoenix, Az.  Phoenix is not a typical place for an A-frame style home and it can be tough because it gets really hot upstairs during the summer.  The character of the home though makes every minute worth it!

If you have any questions about a-frame architecture, please feel free to contact me!


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2 Responses to History of the A-frame House Style

  1. Jon says:


    I’m interested in building my own very simple A frame. Have you happened to come across any good books which deal specifically in A frame building?



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