Tag Archives: architecture

The Mid-Century A-Frame

When thinking of the mid-century, one rarely thinks of the A-frame. Yet the A-frame was a familiar notion at the time, mainly as a mountain getaway. Indeed, even to this day, the A-frame’s association with the woods and mountain cabins, strikes people as unusual when seen in other environments. Nevertheless, the A-frame has certain advantages over traditional forms.

The A-frame became very popular around 1957 after an article in the New York Times appeared about a beach house built by the modernist architect, Andrew Geller, on Long Island known as the Elizabeth Reese House.

Elizabeth Reese House, Sagaponack, New York, Andrew Geller, 1955. (Courtesy Jake Gorst)

The main interest of an A-frame house comes from the ease and inexpensive construction. Like a dome, the A-frame forms the roof at the same time as the walls, thereby, making the building quicker and less costly. A little time after the publication of the New York Times article, even Macy’s got in on the act and began offering A-frame kits. In fact, purchasing in kit form was quite common as the A-frame reached a peak in popularity.

In 1950, San Francisco architect, John Campbell, designed and built the 540 square foot Leisure House. This led to kits for sale for $5000 and acclaim for his design, further fueling the modernist interest in this type of building on the west coast.


Leisure House, California, John Campbell, 1950.
Leisure House, California, John Campbell, 1950.

Modernists enjoyed working with the A-frame because of its basic artistic nature. The triangle finds a supreme place in the arts. From the pediment of the Parthenon to the design of a Renaissance painting, the triangle, along with the rectangle and circle, forms one the simplest and fundamental shapes.

The A-frame, as the result of odd space near the bottom sides and at the very top, were incorporated into larger structures in hotels, resorts, shops and gas stations. Many times the triangle formed a central area with an extension or extensions radiating outward. The most iconic image of the A-frame in the United States is the lodge or hotel cabin.


Aspen Inn Motel - Fort Klamath, OR, United States. Super cute A Frame Cabins
Aspen Inn Hotel, Fort Klamath, Oregon.

Because of the unique space of the A-frame, most usually have a loft, typically a sleeping area.

Aspen Inn Motel - Fort Klamath, OR, United States. Upstairs loft in the A-frame.  Great for kids.
Aspen Inn Hotel, Fort Klamath, Oregon. (Loft Area).

The A-frame is extremely simple to construct and kits are still available.

Example of the framing of an A-frame, small house.

The A-frame can have a very modern look with plenty of glass and some slight modifications to the basic design.


Or one can settle for a rather plain, common look for the A-frame.

cabin fever:

a frame cabin:


Duplex Paris:

Rustic gets a modern edge but keeps its pedigree in a lakeside vacation cabin, thanks to a thoughtful renovation by its architect owner:

Modern A frame cabin:

A-Frame Resurgence - A-Frame House - Bob Vila:

small modern house designs in triangular shape:

10 A-frame House Designs – For A Simple Yet Unforgettable Look:


A mid-century modern A-frame in Atlanta via Northcrest Modern:

Beautiful A Frame in the snow:

Cottage Life-- Mobile -- Straight As for these beautifully designed A-frame cabins:

Before & After: An A-Frame Cottage Gets an A+ Renovation | Design*Sponge:

Contemporary take on A-frame. Architect Kengo Kuma's Y-Hütte, in Eastern Japan:

Modern and Luxurious Tiny A-frame Cabin 001:

An Ultra-Minimalist Cabin Takes A-Frames To The Limit | Co.Design: business + innovation + design:

AMAZING A-FRAME HOMES: mid-century #modern living room with #natural lighting + #retro furniture:

Mount Washington A-Frame:

Catshuis aan Zee - huis in A-vorm:

illuminated A-frame at night:

Desanka's Visionary Lux Lodge — House Tour | Apartment Therapy:

A Frame Home Decorating Ideas | Frame House | Home Exterior Design Ideas:

A Frame | Flickr - Photo Sharing!:

a frame houses | The A-frame is the epic combo of modern meets mountain meets retro ...:

Far Meadow Base Camp, Sierra National Forest:


Contemporary-mountain-House-Design-Ideas-with-Extraordinary-and-Beautiful-View-in-Snowy-image, Pyrenees, Paris:

An A-Frame Cabin for a Snowboarding Family in Whistler:

hiroshi nakamura, hiroshi nakamura & NAP, japanese architecture, nasu tepee, teepee-inspired homes, timber homes, small homes, small homes in the woods:


Here are some mid-century A-frame designs:

Mid-Century Vacation Home Graphic | The Johnsons' Mid-Century Time Travel Guide #midcentury #vacationhome #illustration:


Vintage Cabins | Mid-Century Modern | A-Frame House | Residential Architecture | Home Ideas | Interior Design:

No roof rake needed.:

ARCHINOWHERE 06_study Art Print:

Modern Vacation Homes Atomic A Frames Chalets Eames Era Floor Plans Mid Century | eBay:

Mid-Century Modern Vacation Home Plans, via grainedit.com/2009/05/25/mid-century-modern-home-plans:


a-frame interior:


The A-frame makes a good fit for a tiny house. The open plan and the lack of expensive and time-consuming labor, allow for a modern house requiring less maintenance. The fact that the roof is the walls means less painting, for example. For a house off the grid, the angle of the roof permits the perfect collection of solar energy if pointed in the right direction.

The construction of an A-frame house does not demand sophisticated knowledge of techniques as used in an average house. Rather, it is like two lean-tos built against each other or a hard shell “tent”. Once the few angles are known, the building becomes rather simple.

Artistically, a modern style comes just as easy as the construction. Roofing made of modern materials such as steel and interiors utilizing the many modern surfaces available today, plus the edition of mid-century modern furniture, takes the A-frame from backwoods cabin to modern dwelling.

Just a treat, if you are from the US, especially from the western US, you remember the ubiquitous at the time Der Weinerschnitzel:

A-frame Roof Weinerschnitzel Restaurant in Whittier, California.
The Original International House of Pancakes.
The original Tastee-Freez, Perris, California.
A Former Heap-Big-Beef, Mill Brae, California.
A Former Nickerson Farms in Arizona.

Whataburger A Frame
Whataburger in Corpus Christi, Texas.



Charlie’s Tiny House: Mid Century Modern

Using the same inspiring mid-century modern arch from Patricia’s Tiny House, I have separated the form, similar to a pilaster, from surface decoration and surrounded a tiny dwelling ¾ of the way with arches. Charlie’s Tiny House, much like Patricia’s is totally influenced by the modernity of 20th century American design. The introduction of curved shapes while maintaining an overall rectilinear plan is seen over and over again in modern architecture from dinners such as Sambo’s to burger joints such as McDonald’s.


Sambo’s restaurants were an incredible source of mid-century architecture, which included fanciful roofs, rough stone walls and long stretches of windows. Most were original and delightfully playful in their artistic exuberance.

1587 Shawano Avenue, Green Bay, Wisconsin, McDonald’s Speedee Sign, Built:   c1959, Style:   Mid-Century Commercial, Singular example of iconic McDonald’s metal and neon sign dating to the late 1950’s in Wisconsin. Features include the company’s trademark mascot, “Speedee,” and golden arch design.   This sign remains in its original location, and was recently restored.  

Charlie's Tiny House.png

The “front entrance” of Charlie’s Tiny House.


I have never understood some preconceived notions about house design such as the aspect facing the street should have a front entrance. Famous mid-century modern architects many times set the entrance back, hid the front facing the street with sculpted block or walls and reserved walls of glass for the unseen areas in the so-called back of the house. Charlie’s does not necessarily have a front, but does have entrances. The two doors at the corner of the house lighten the heavy effect of the red stained, wood covered exterior and balance the two long windows on either side.

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A more direct view of the “front”.

The Rietveld chairs, combined with a Platner coffee table, sets a mid-century modern mood, which continues around the rest of the veranda. Mid-century pendant lamps keep the influence going.

Gerrit Thomas Rietveld (1888-1964), Dutch, active 20th century, Red-Blue Chair, designed 1917–18, produced ca. 1950, Painted beech and plywood, Layton Art Collection, Inc., Milwaukee Art Museum. Photo credit: John Nienhuis


Charlie's Tiny House3.pngA corner of the house showing the continuation of the yellow arches, the tall, narrow windows of the bedroom and the cement planters.

Charlie's Tiny House4.pngDirect view of the veranda with the Wassily Chairs by Marcel Breuer, 1925.

Charlie's Tiny House5.pngComing around the corner.

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Straight on view of the side opposite the “front” entrances showing the boulder garden, Lombardi poplars and the French doors leading to the kitchen/dining room.

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An oblique view.

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A closer look exposing the cement, elevated planters and the Grand Confort Chairs by Le Corbusier.

Grand Confort Chair by Le Corbusier (1929).

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This image displays the side of the house with the sanded, stained and clear coated wood strips reflecting the living area extension. The casement window at the roof line is repeated inside.

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Image looking back toward the raised planters and boulder garden.

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Direct view of the side with an entrance on the right.

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Back around to the “front” entrances with a better look at the Rietveld “de Stijl” chairs.

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Coming in through one of the “front” entrances and seeing the living area. The door is to the bathroom. Notice the window above the door.

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A less elevated look at the living area with the door to the bathroom ahead.

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The television console with the door to the bedroom to the right, the door to the bathroom on the left and the dining area straight ahead.

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The bedroom with the two long windows.

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The bedroom with desk and wardrobe.

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Out of the bedroom and looking at the kitchen/dining area. Notice the windows to the bedroom and to the bathroom.

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The kitchen and dining area with the French doors to the veranda on the left.

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The dining area and French doors to the veranda.

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The bathroom covered on the left with the same material on the exterior of the house.

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The bathroom with the door to the living area on the right.

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The bathroom windows.

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Looking back toward the entrances.

This small house is only around 360 sq. ft. and appears much larger due to the ceiling height at 12 ft. The long windows not only let in considerable light, but  also produce a feeling of greater space. One other advantage of tall walls is the ability to hang large artwork which produces a feeling of spaciousness as well.

Charlie’s Tiny House Floor Plan




Patricia’s Tiny House

One of my keen interests in design or architecture is the forms of the mid-century. Modern design lends itself to so many variations that an inexhaustible supply of ideas becomes available. Furthermore, modern design is not only in the realm of commercial and typical residential building, but also in terms of the tiny house movement. In an effort to spur creativity in this realm, I have developed the notion of creating some architectural motifs and patterns whose usefulness brings on new concepts.

These architectural details fall into the American version of modernism with sculpted cement blocks and forms, zigzag roofs and other sorts of applied decorations. Organic architecture will also be considered in formulating designs.

"Lincoln Center by Matthew Bisanz" by Matthew G. Bisanz
“Lincoln Center by Matthew Bisanz” by Matthew G. Bisanz

Arizona State University Library in Tempe in the 1960s
Arizona State University Library in Tempe in the 1960s

Gammage Auditorium in Tempe, Arizona, Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright 1962-64
Gammage Auditorium in Tempe, Arizona, Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright 1962-64


The form I developed for Patricia’s Tiny House is a sculpted modern arch. The arches are mainly applied decoration, except the yellow arches support the roof over the patio and entrance to the house. Also included and in contrast to the arches are rectangular forms on the roof with glass panels on either end. These mimic the frequent zigzag pattern in overhangs, roofs and porches  seen in many American mid-century modern buildings, especially small, commercial structures or on schools and hospitals.


Front of Patricia’s Tiny House.

The entrance is to the right, off the patio. Looking through the two large glass panels framed by arches, the living area and kitchen are on the right, while we see a study area in the middle. The bedroom and bathroom are covered by the filled in arch on the left.


View of front from a slight angle.


Another view of the front at a higher sight line.


At this angle we are able to see the patio and entrance.


Showing the patio and entrance head on.


At an angle that, along with the patio, shows the back of building.


The back of the building where we see the multiple arches framing the half-circle, clerestory windows. The rounded forms which push upward are resolved by the triangular shapes on the roof.


A more graphic, drawn image of the arches that surround the tiny house.


The Arches.


The side of the house opposite the patio.


Coming back around to the front.


A closer view of the front.


Peeking through one of the large windows and looking at the living area with the kitchen in the distance.


The kitchen area with large frig, washer/dryer, cook top, and convection oven.


Looking at the living area from the kitchen with the entrance on the left.


The living area, as well as a space for study.


From the kitchen area, we look into the study and bedroom area. The door on the right is to the bathroom.


Inside the bathroom, showing the vanity and toilet.


Toilet, shower in the bathroom. Behind is the door to the rest of the tiny house.


Simple floor plan of the tiny house showing the basic dimensions. Patricia’s Tiny House is 387 interior sq. ft.

As one can see, the introduction of a couple of architectural elements can give a basis for the overall design, in this case, arches and triangular forms. I find the arches extremely pleasing and thought-provoking, which will start many variations for future proposals. Hopefully, since so many things spring to mind, that the use of various mid-century modern motifs and details won’t begin to bore the reader. However, I have already thought of several buildings using the inspiration of the major features of Patricia’s Tiny House.

Until then…