Few building styles are as distinct as the aptly named A-frame.
Starting in the 1950s, these triangular homes became staples in ski towns and other resort areas around the U.S. and Canada. Although interest faded for some time, the efficient design wasn’t lost on modern architects and homeowners, and the A-frame has seen something of a renaissance over the past decade.
“There’s a lot more interest in postwar design in general,” says Chad Randl, author of the book A-frame and a visiting professor at the University of Oregon’s School of Architecture & Environment. “The quirkiness appeals to people.”
In Victoria, British Columbia, Sotheby’s International Realty agents Winston Chan and Logan Wilson are offering an almost 4,500-square-foot double A-frame for 6 million Canadian dollars (US$4.6 million).
The structure was recently updated, keeping the old-school look while adding modern amenities. It has the same footprint as the original home, but was brought down to the studs for the renovation, Chan says.
The current owners didn’t want to lose the historic A-frame shape, he adds. “It’s of an era. It’s almost like a vintage watch.”
A-frames, with their soaring ceilings, allow natural light to flood the home. The Victoria home is no exception, and there are views of the Satellite Channel, with Salt Spring Island in the distance. “It allows for some beautiful sunsets,” Chan says.
The 1.21-acre gated estate also features a second, newly built modern guest house, a fully finished tile garage perfect for showcasing several automobiles, and state-of-the-art technology to control and monitor the home from near or far.
Nearby, in Sooke, British Columbia, a 2,907-square-foot original A-frame home is being offered at C$6.75 million by Sotheby’s Glynis MacLeod. The five-bedroom, three-and-a-half bathroom home dates to 1969, and both the home and the extensive acreage surrounding it have been meticulously cared for by the original owners.
“This is one of those rare properties preserved by a family who care for the land and respect the environment,” MacLeod says. The home sits on 150 acres of virtually untouched forest, with waterfalls at the ocean and access to a dock in a sheltered bay.
Designed by German architect Tony Burkhart and built by European craftsmen, the home has a 1,360-square-foot deck cantilevered over the water and almost 2,000 feet of ocean frontage on Sooke Basin, plus a protected dock.
The double A-frame has floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides, providing an ever-changing light show that is the source of constant entertainment, says co-owner Virginia Wyman, whose father had the home built. “It’s a cathedral of light,” she says. “Every hour of the day brings a subtle difference.”
Most potential buyers are keen to update the historic abode, rather than scrapping it to build anew. “This home is sited closer to the water than current zoning would probably permit, so it is definitely worth keeping,” MacLeod says. “Instead, potential buyers have talked about keeping the existing footprint, and extending the house behind it.”
A-frames, with their severely pitched roofs, make great vacation houses in wintry areas like Canada. “Snow is unlikely to collapse the roof,” Randl points out.
Ski resorts—Squaw Valley and others near Lake Tahoe, for instance—are known for A-frames for this reason, as well as because the peaks of the roofs echo the peaks of the nearby mountains. But Randl says they were popular at other resort areas established after World War II, including places in Oregon and the Adirondacks in New York.
“They were playful and whimsical. They were different than the everyday,” he says.
The design was out of favor by the 1990s, but now that playfulness is popular again.
Kim Schneider and Tracey D. Clarke of Sotheby’s Sunset Strip sold a three-bedroom A-frame in Hollywood Hills, Calif., built for swimwear designer Fred Cole. Constructed in 1958, architect Harry Gesner also made good use of glass and the soaring ceilings to let light into the almost 3,500-square-foot house. Just minutes from the Sunset Strip, it was recently restored by the seller and features Brazilian cherry wood floors, a pool, and expansive views of the city.
The home was listed for US$3.5 million, and was sold in an off-market deal earlier this year.
Meanwhile, Davinci Haus, a German company, is bringing A-frames to the Hamptons with its custom-designed four-bedroom, four-bathroom homes starting at US$2.5 million.
Working with local architects and homeowners, the company promises a modern A-frame that is energy efficient and features amenities like standard triple-glazed glass and optional Wolf, Viking, and Miele appliances and Ciuffo cabinetry. Sotheby’s John Healey works with the Bridgehampton, N.Y.–based team to bring these contemporary A-frames to the Hamptons.
The quirkiness many enjoyin A-frames can still be found. David Benford of Landmark Sotheby’s International Realty is marketing a 2,800-square-foot A-frame in Hampstead, N.C., with a decidedly Polynesian look.
Sitting on two acres, the home overlooks the Intracoastal Waterway. Palm trees outside and dark wood inside add to the island vibe, and the distinct triangular home also features a Jacuzzi in the master suite, an outdoor kitchen, and a private deep-water dock. It’s being offered at US$1.3 million.