Durable, economical, and easy to build, the simple A-frame was once the must-have midcentury vacation home. Today, the classic retreat has been propelled back to popularity, thanks largely to photo-centric platforms like Instagram and Pinterest. Read on for 20 charming A-frame homes that caught our eye!
What is an A-Frame House?
Built from trusses or rafters, the A-frame is a building with a triangular shape—similar to the capital letter "A"—marked by a distinctive peak and a steeply sloped roof that stretches all the way to the foundation or ground.
Thanks to its self-supporting design that eliminates the need for interior posts, the A-frame house features an open floor plan with soaring ceilings and triangular end walls typically punctuated with large expanses of glazing. A half-floor is usually inserted to created a lofted space for sleeping or storage.
While modified A-frame homes (such as the flat top A-frame, or the A-frame with wings) have been introduced over the years to add more usable space to the interior, it is the pure, equilateral A-frame with 60-degree sides that’s the most beloved.
When Did A-Frame Houses Become Popular?
The A-frame structural system has been used for utilitarian buildings since ancient times. The simple shape, easy construction, and ability to shrug off snow and rain has made the sharply pitched building typology popular around the world—from Japan's Gassho-zukuri "prayer-hands construction" farmhouses to the feast houses of Micronesia.
Yet, it was in America during the prosperous 1950s that A-frames became popular as vacation homes. Architect John Campbell’s "Leisure House," built in 1951 for the San Francisco Arts Festival, is famously credited for helping to kick off the demand for A-frames.
The expanding middle class of the time was eager to flaunt their wealth with a second home, and they saw the trendy A-frame houses as an affordable and easy-to-build escape from city living. Architecture firms sold working plans with complete material lists, while department stores like Macy’s even got involved with selling prefabricated home kits.
In its purest form, the A-frame is a visual delight—yet it's often thought of as impractical due to its constrained floor plan and awkwardly sloped interior walls. The vaulted ceilings can also translate to higher heating costs. Still, the building makes for an excellent vacation home even today, and—with a few modifications and space-saving tricks—it can be enjoyed as a full-time abode as well.
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20. Okanagan A-Frame
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