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Get the Look: Shingle Style
Learn how to recognize and appreciate Shingle-style architecture, best known for its use in the seaside resorts of coastal New England
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Shingle Style’s Roots
Known as one of the most uniquely American styles of architecture, Shingle style’s roots lie in the late 19th century, from about 1880 to 1900. That’s when rambling homes of this style were built along coastal New England to serve as getaways for well-to-do families.
Why just for the wealthy? Because the architects who designed these homes favored diverse forms united with a cladding of wood shingles. The cost of this type of construction was out of reach of the average homeowner.
Pictured: This 1885 Shingle-style Victorian home was built along the Massachusetts coast as a summer getaway. This view shows the back of the house, which includes a spacious porch facing the water. See the next slide for a view of this home from the street.
Shingle style can be hard to pin down, because it’s really an adaptation of several other architectural traditions. Early Shingle-style designs borrowed wide porches, shingled surfaces, and asymmetrical facades from Queen Anne-style architecture, and gambrel roofs, classical columns, and Palladian windows from Colonial Revival. The Richardsonian Romanesque tradition offered arches, sculpted shapes, and lower stories built of stone. The absence of a singular style is what inspired architects to be so inventive about how they designed these free-spirited summer homes.
Pictured: This home has clapboard siding on the first floor, and shingle siding everywhere else. The street-side view shows a small front porch with turned-wood columns; the large porch intended for relaxing with others is on the side of the house that faces the water.
What did all these Victorian-inspired summer houses have in common? Three things. The first (and you've probably figured this out already) was that their designers used a layer of wood shingles to tie all the vertical and sloped surfaces together. The shingles were stained brown or simply allowed to weather to a handsome patina (light gray to dark brown) from the effects of sun, wind, salt water, and precipitation. Some of the more expensive homes were built on foundations of rough-hewn rock that made them look as though they were embracing the earth.
The second thing these Shingle-style homes had in common was their sense of informality. Whether grand or humble, these houses appeared totally at ease within their natural surroundings. Spacious porches, multiple large windows, and balconies encouraged personal interaction with nature—or at least with the sunshine and ocean breezes that came with seaside living.
Pictured: Stone chimneys and weathered shingles help this rustic beach house on Martha’s Vineyard feel at one with nature.
Complex Rooflines: Gambrel
The third characteristic those early Shingle-style homes shared was steeply pitched, often almost free-form rooflines. Gambrel roofs, like the one shown here, were common, seen on about a quarter of Shingle-style homes. A gambrel roof has two different pitches, the lower one steeper than the upper.
Complex Rooflines: Hipped
A smaller percentage of early Shingle-style homes had hipped roofs, in which all slides slope gently downward to the walls of the building. (The “hip” is the angle at which the different slopes meet.) Hipped roofs were often designed as one large form attached to smaller forms such as lower cross gables.
Pictured: This 1920s-era Shingle-style cottage with a hipped roof stands just blocks from a beach in East Hampton, New York. Homeowners Patricia and Jeffrey Fisher designed and supervised the cottage’s renovation, adding a two-level foyer with a new staircase and a kitchen addition on the rear of the house.
Interior design: Patricia Fisher
Complex Rooflines: Gabled
The remaining Shingle-style homes have gabled roofs — front-gabled (shown), side-gabled, or cross-gabled. With front-gabled roofs, the triangular gable formed by the roof is visible at the front of the house; these roofs are often seen in Cape Cod or Colonial-style homes.
Architect: Jeff Murphy
Interior design: Rosemary Merrill
Complex Rooflines: Side-Gabled
With side-gable roofs, like the one shown here, the triangular gables are on either side of the house. This roof includes a shed dormer with multiple windows on the front. Dormers of various styles (including gabled, hipped, and eyebrow) make Shingle-style rooflines even more complex.
Complex Rooflines: Embellishments
Shingle-style exteriors don't include much in the way of decorative detailing, but their broad roof surfaces are often broken up by elements such as chimneys, dormers, towers (which start at ground level), and turrets (which project from the structure itself).
In keeping with their connection to nature, early Shingle-style homes included numerous windows both large and small, often in clusters of two or three depending on the size of the wall. Double-hung windows typically included divided-light sashes above and single-pane sashes below. Decorative windows crafted in round or rectangular shapes added variety. Palladian windows—large windows divided into three parts, with the larger center portion arched—offered another eclectic addition to the mix, as did one- or two-story bay windows.
Like their Victorian predecessors, early Shingle-style houses often featured spacious front porches. (Think about it: The owners had the time and inclination to relax because the homes were built primarily as vacation getaways.) Sometimes the porch supports appeared as plain painted columns, as shown here, but fancier versions featured classical columns, or beefier columns clad in stone or shingles.
Pictured: This 1930s Cape-Cod style house on Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay features a wraparound front porch and a spectacular view of the water. See the next slide for a view of this house after it was remodeled.
Even with a new roof, new shingles, and a rebuilt porch, this 1930s-era cottage looks virtually the same as before. That’s because homeowners Linda Butler and Ken Alvez carefully renovated the house to retain its Shingle-style personality. They rebuilt the wraparound porch and replaced an enclosed porch with a banquette dining area with wraparound windows. (New windows include muntins on upper sashes to match the home’s vintage style, while lower sashes were left unadorned to facilitate views of the bay.) They also built a 21x20-foot family-room addition with access to a new deck and patio that connect the space to the backyard.
Architect: Ron Labonte
Landscape architect: Pam Quinn
Interior design: Linda Lee Butler
Then and Now
By the late 19th century, builders were creating scaled-down versions of those rambling summer estates inland—nary an ocean wave in sight. Still, Shingle-style homes never became a common choice (like Queen Anne back in the day), so the style’s popularity began to fade by the early 1900s. Fifty years later, though, architects began to borrow from the classic style and design buildings with selected Shingle-style characteristics.
Today, architects continue to ceate elegantly casual Shingle-style homes on the East and West coasts, as well as on lakeside sites. What these homes continue to have in common is their shingle-clad exteriors, their free-form designs, and their dedication to relaxed informality. The remaining slides showcase our favorite 21st-century Shingle-style homes.
Pictured: This rambling modern-day house sits atop a 50-foot-high bluff overlooking Nantucket Sound, where seaside views can be enjoyed inside as well as out. The complex roofline, shingled siding, and wraparound porch are all hallmarks of Shingle style.
Architect: Scott Hutton
Interior design: Elizabeth Corker
Oyster Bay Beauty
This two-story shingled house on New York’s Long Island was designed to take advantage of the site’s spectacular view of Oyster Bay. Street-side, the house presents a traditional face, with two chimneys, multiple dormers, and a tower adding to the roofline’s complexity. A subtly bowed front facade swells above the portico.
Each room in this house was crafted to offer a view of the bay. Take a tour.
Architects: Stuart Disston with Joshua Rosenweig and Guy Horvath
Interior design: Eliza Gatfield
Nantucket Summer Home
Encircled by porches, this multi-gabled house is clad in Nantucket’s traditional gray shingles accented with crisp white trim. Inside, homeowner Jane Forman, an interior designer as well as a lifelong collector, decorated the home to reflect Nantucket history and culture. “Our time on Nantucket has grown from just the summer months now that we have retired,” Jane says. “The house has made this stage of our life so special, because it represents additions to our family.”
See the home’s guest cottage on the next slide.
Architects: Botticelli & Pohl
Interior design: Jane Forman
Nantucket Guest Cottage
Jane and Charles Forman’s guest cottage echoes the main house’s classic Shingle-style charm.
Architects: Botticelli & Pohl
Interior design: Jane Forman
New England Summer Home, front view
As with its 19th-century ancestors, this Shingle-style second home (built near Boston in 2011) was designed to make the family and their guests feel at ease. The materials that make up its serene interiors accommodate relaxed beach life as well as active play.
See the back of this home on the next slide.
Architect, Interior designer: Daniel Reynolds
New England Summer Home, back view
At the back of the house, two balconies, a sunroom, and a pool deck give family and friends ample room to spread out and enjoy summer life. “This house was built to bring family together,” says homeowner Scott Helinski. “Not just now, but in 50 years when [wife Lisa and I] are gone and our children are here with their children.”
Architect, Interior designer: Daniel Reynolds
Harbor Springs Cottage
Sheila Keil's parents still live in the cottage in Harbor Springs, Michigan, that’s been in her family since the 1920s. So when Sheila decided to build a new home overlooking Lake Michigan, she sought out a designer who shared her fondness for turn-of-the-20th-century cottages. Tom Stringer delivered the classic Shingle-style cottage essentials: cedar shingle siding and rough-hewn stone structures outside, beaded-board paneling and antique wicker furniture inside. He also delivered an interior color scheme reminiscent of a vintage cottage garden. “You have everything under the sun—periwinkle, aqua, yellow,” Stringer says. “It’s like a Midwestern garden in June.”
Exterior architecture: Nick White
Interior design and architecture: Tom Stringer
Builder: Jeff Ford
Landscape architect: Douglas Hoerr
Nantucket Retreat, front view
Architect Joe Paul designed this home to appear as though an old cottage had been enhanced with two taller structures. To further the illusion, he sided the main structure with shingles and used clapboard to cover the connecting areas. “On Nantucket there’s a certain amount of randomness—homes are built of found items and added onto as needed,” Paul says.
See the back of the house, which faces the sea, on the next slide.
Architect Joe Paul
Interior design: Donna Elle
Nantucket Retreat, back view
With ocean views a priority, architect Joe Paul took the homeowners around their lot looking for the best place to locate the living room. As a result, the backyard entertaining area that sprawls outside the couple’s living room enjoys an unfettered view of the sea. In fact, the home’s zigzagged design helps nearly every room look out on an ocean panorama.
Architect: Joe Paul
Interior design: Donna Elle
A gambrel roof and shingle siding give this expansive Dutch Colonial house in the Seattle area its own brand of Hamptons style. The specially treated shingles, which weather evenly, looked aged from day one. A wall of French doors in the dining, living, and family rooms opens the house to the outdoors and a concrete terrace that overlooks Lake Washington. “No matter where you are in the house, it feels very open and inviting,” homeowner Sun Chaney says.
Architect: Paul Moon
Interior design: Susan Marinello
Lovely Lakeside Cottage
Formal, casual, and Americana come together in this cottage two hours north of Indianapolis on Lake Maxinkuckee. “They wanted the look of an old cottage that had been refurbished,” says Gary Nance, a residential designer who worked with homeowners Gina and Jim Bremner on their new Shingle-style summer home. Porches, an upper balcony, and large windows face the lake.
Architectural design: Gary Nance
Interior design: Suzanne Kasler
Cape Cod Reconstruction
Homeowners Lance and Tracy Isham renovated their 1928 cottage on Cape Cod with respect for its history. The idea was to do a seamless renovation, blending the old structure with new additions to suit year-round living without marring the summer-house spirit of the Shingle style. The project included a two-story bumpout that accommodates a treetop master bedroom.
Architect: Douglas Dick
Interior design: Mary Foley and Michael Cox
West Coast Reverie
Guests at Joanne and Dennis Schwary’s home on California’s Lido Isle tend to head for the patio and dock to take in the view of Newport Bay. Although the home’s floor plan is California casual, the exterior is more like the Hamptons: shingle siding, a stone foundation for the patio, and a Palladian-style window between two stone chimneys. “The light here is beautiful, and we have amazing sunsets,” Joanne says. “I never want to live anywhere else.”
Architect: Don Stine
Interior design: Julie Hovnanian
Creative Nantucket Cottage
Once a humble dwelling, this Shingle-style home became an appealing year-round retreat thanks to a series of renovations and additions.
Interior design: Nancy Serafini
Shingle-Style in Utah
Homeowner Hillary Taylor wanted to capture American vernacular architecture in her new Salt Lake City home surrounded by mountain vistas. Working with California architect Jon Jang, she incorporated updated Federal and neoclassic details into the Shingle-style mix to bring her vision to life. Multiple windows foster a strong indoor-outdoor connection—a boon during Utah’s long winters.
Architects: Jon Jang and Craig Kitterman
Interior design: Hillary Taylor
Originally a modest, two-story Cape Cod built in the 1960s, this house had acquired unrelated additions that did nothing to boost its appeal. So homeowners Hiroko and Harry Lange hired Boston-based architect Ron Margolis to turn the architectural hodgepodge into a stylish weekend getaway. Various architectural elements—irregular outlines unified by cedar shingles, an eyebrow window, and a flagstone walkway—helped the house attain a Shingle-style presence worthy of its location: at the entrance to Marblehead Neck, with a beach and views of the Boston skyline. “Now our home is comfortable, cozy and fun,” Harry says. “We love to entertain our friends so they can enjoy it, too.”
Architect: Ron Margolis
Interior design: Dee Elms and Andrew Terrat
Perched on a rocky ledge close to the sea, this Shingle-style retreat overlooks a sweep of gardens that culminate in a spectacular view. Homeowner Darcie Bundy worked with Maine architect Thom Rouselle to execute her vision for a Shingle-style structure with five-sided wings. “It’s how I envisioned the house—with two arms that curve around to enclose us, yet open out to the sea,” Darcie says.
Architect: Thom Rouselle
Interior design: Darcie Bundy
Hampton Designer Showhouse 2013
Set on five acres in Bridgehampton, New York, this sprawling retreat features a well-manicured lawn, a tennis court, and hiking trails as part of its charm. The site hosted the Hampton Designer Showhouse in 2013. More than 30 designers pooled their talents to showcase seaside style in the expansive interiors—plus three porches and two pool areas.
Architect: Brian P. Brady
Builder: Paramount Homes of the Hamptons, Inc
Hampton Designer Showhouse 2012
This 8,500-square-foot Shingle-style house on Long Island hosted the Hampton Designer Showhouse in 2012. The complex roofline features both the gambrel shape and multiple dormers. Inside, the colors of sand, sea, and sky inspired many of the room makeovers.
Builders: Steven Graziano and Thomas Graziano
Hampton Designer Showhouse 2011
A curved eyebrow dormer punctuates the gambrel roofline of this Shingle-style showhouse in the Hamptons. Massive chimneys also do their part to create an exterior reminiscent of Shingle-style getaways of the late 1800s. Inside, retreat-worthy rooms decorated by top designers range from casual to luxurious.
Builder: Michael Cerbone