Since going down the beach house rabbit hole, I’ve been filling every spare moment poring myself over books about Andrew Geller. So many things from his life and work resonate with me, but I’ve been particularly thinking about the Reese House lately. The small A-frame in Sagaponack, NY kicked off his freelance architecture career and sparked demand for more A-frames and other odd shapes.
Many of these homes were built on modest budgets as vacation houses. The Reese House got its A-frame design in part because they are so cheap to build, but as Alastair Gordon writes in Beach Houses: Andrew Geller: “The strongest influence on the design was the personality of Reese herself, an independent career woman who knew exactly what she wanted – intimate contact with the sea and an instant release from her busy schedule in the city.” That better be my epitaph too.
There’s something universally appealing about A-frames. I thought that it was all about their connotations with vacation, but it might actually be the shape. “Most of [Geller’s] clients live in the cube of a Manhattan apartment, work in the cube of a Manhattan office, and feel liberated in the new definitions of space around them” wrote Fred Smith in Sports Illustrated.
What better time to think about the new definitions of space around us? Here are my favorite A-frames on the market right now.
Bonus: I recommend listening to Teddy Geiger’s remix of “Numb” by Sylvan Esso while you read. The song captures that hopeful, frantic restlessness that A-frames embody. It’s the perfect coming out of quarantine song. Plus, the music video kind of reminds me of Andy Warhol’s Silver Clouds.
The Forest Escape
Location: 2710 Dogwood Ln, Camino, CA 95709
List Price: $649,000
About halfway between Sacramento and South Lake Tahoe sits this newly renovated A-frame chalet. From the front, you might not expect much from the suburban-looking exterior. Stepping inside, you’re instantly drawn into the lofty main space. The wooden ceiling and wall of glass emphasize the sense of height.
The house has a modern rustic sensibility, kind of like when Joanna Gaines channels a modern version of her typical style. The home has plenty of clean lines and sharp angles - including a geometric motif - but is also softened and kept in line with the a-frame’s rustic cultural origins with a ton of shiplap. I find the mixture of mid-century, modern, and rustic touches charming, especially in places such as the main bedroom with its tall ceilings emphasized by the vertical wood panelling juxtaposed with the triangular windows.
While the house does a great job of steering away from a lot of the typical A-frame space challenges like short bedroom ceiling heights and awkward angles for main spaces, there are still echoes of the home’s shape throughout. My favorite example is in the main bathroom with its clipped corners and triangular transom.
The Desert Oasis
Location: 15944 Snow Creek Rd, Whitewater, CA 92282
List Price: $849,000
I’ve been dreaming about a desert compound to spend time with my creative friends for a very long time, and I’m not the only one. The current owner, Caroline Lee, also envisioned this mid-century A-frame as exactly that. She bought the home which had been recently renovated from her friend and famous interior designer Sarah Sherman Samuel, who has done stunning renovations for clients such as Mandy Moore and Garance Doré and appeared on the cover of Domino magazine. Caroline did her own renovations and decorating with the help of talented friends, which is very in the spirit of the place.
While this home certainly has the Instagram-worthy rooms to show for it (you should seriously check out the listings to see what I mean), what makes this house the most interesting to me is how it uses the space. I love the gravity of the main seating area at the front of the house, surrounded by windows and grounded by the large stone fireplace. The kitchen is tucked behind the fireplace in a way that maintains the joy from the pop of color in the space and the ease of flow, but doesn’t make dirty dishes a visible distractor. Behind the kitchen is a sleeping loft, where you can safely sleep under the stars thanks to the skylights that run the length of the house and windows to the side.
At first glance, I thought an A-frame house was a strange choice for the desert. But looking out at the mountains from the backyard, it makes perfect sense. The sharp angles feel right at home here. A new saltwater pool and outdoor space also help.
The Multi A-Frame
Location: 2957 Ponderosa Pkwy, Pinetop, AZ 85935
List Price: $694,000
This unexpected gem is a study in shapes. The structure is essentially two A-frames connected by another A-frame to create an angular H-shaped house. The connecting structure also has sharply angled bump outs and triangular windows. It’s… a lot of triangles.
The effect inside is spectacular. My favorite spot in the house is the living area in the double A-frame. The ceiling height, intersections, and light are spectacular. It feels more like a cathedral than a living room.
There a playful uses of windows and shapes throughout the space. I love the use of the skylights on the sides of the conventional A-frame side of the house that brings in a direct view of the surrounding trees. That kind of vantage point up to small trees is awe inducing. It makes me feel small in a good way.
One of the quintessential features of A-frames that people seem to only love or hate is the loft bedroom. So far the examples in the newsletter havent’ had them, and that might be why they’re so successful because they’ve figured out how to use complicated space in other ways. But to me, there’s something undeniably charming and childlike about sleeping up in a loft. This particular bedroom has the best vantage point nestled into the angles in the wooden ceiling with views to the space below and plenty of light and headroom.
The Rustic Retreat
Location: 333 Phelps Mountain Ln SE, Silverton, OR 97381
List Price: $499,900
This charming fixer about an hour south of Portland, OR is the perfect coming home to yourself kind of house. It’s on 20 acres and has the potential to be totally off-the-grid thanks to its solar panels, generator, and well. The house is beautiful as is, but also has plenty opportunity for the right person to come along and bring it to the next level.
Sand blasting the painted ceilings so that they’re wood again, installing new flooring and light fixtures, updating the kitchen, and adding a lot of plants would make this home feel brand new. What I’d do for the opportunity to DIY this house myself.
At just 1,120sq ft, the space feels a lot larger than the footprint implies. The house has lots of light and high ceilings, even in the main bedroom. If I lived here, I’d want to add even more windows to enjoy the view.
The house has the perfect claw-foot tub for enjoying the kind of long baths where you light a few candles, enjoy a glass of wine, read, and escape for a while. It even has a perfectly positioned window to look out at the wilderness and daydream out of.