A-Frame house

An A-frame is an interior style of house with steeply-angled sides (roofline) that meet at the top in the shape of the letter A and a ceiling that is open to the top rafters.

Although the triangle shape of the A-frame has been present throughout history, it saw a surge in its popularity around the world in the post-World War II era, roughly from the mid-1950s through the 1970s. It was during this time that the A-frame acquired its most defining characteristics.


A-frames typically have one or more of these features:

  • A triangular shape
  • A 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


Triangular and tee-pee shaped homes date back to the dawn of time, but architect Andrew Geller turned an old idea into a revolutionary concept in 1955 when he built an A-frame house on the beach in Long Island, New York known as the Reese House. Named for the distinctive shape of its roofline, Geller's design won international attention when it was featured in The New York Times on May 5, 1957. It didn't take long for the style to catch on: Before long, thousands of A-frame homes were being built around the world.

A documentary entitled Call Me Andy, previously expected to come out the first few months of 2007, will chronicle Geller's life, including the design of the first A-frame, among with his other designs. A broadcast of the documentary is anticipated to air on PBS.

Rise in popularity

The post-World War II popularity of the A-frame has been attributed to a combination of factors including Americans' extra disposable income, the inexpensiveness of building an A-frame structure, and a new interest in acquiring a second home for vacationing. Another contributing factor to the rise of the A-frame includes the adaptability of the structure itself which enabled architects to experiment with more and more modern designs. A-frames served a perfect medium for architects to explore their creative side because of the cheapness of the building along with the fact that many people were more open to the idea of a modern styled vacation home rather than a modern styled primary home.

After the rise of the archetypal A-frame, architects soon began experimenting with new designs leading to what became known as the modified A-frame.

Design concepts

The steep slope of the A-frame roof is designed to help heavy snow to slide to the ground, instead of remaining on top of the house and weighing it down. At the same time, the sloped roof provides two other benefits. It creates a half floor at the top of the house which can be used for lofts or storage space, and, since the roof extends down to the ground and doesn't need to be painted, it minimizes the amount of exterior maintenance required on the house. On the other hand, the sloped roof creates a triangular "dead space" at the base of the walls on each floor. A-frames have limited living space and are usually built as vacation cottages for the mountains, lake, or beach.


Further reading

  • Randl, Chad. A-frame. Princeton Architectural Press. ISBN 1-568-98410-3
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