Boutique Travel - May 24, 2021

A Brief History of the A-Frame Cabin

By Roshan McArthur


What is it about the A-frame cabin that inspires so much devotion? A small triangular home, hidden away in the forest or perched on a mountainside, this A-shaped structure has an enduring popularity that defies time and place. Perhaps it's the simplicity of its lines. Or the fact that it’s all roof. Or the sheer improbability of its diagonal walls.

In essence, an A-frame is an equilateral triangle, with a peak formed by rafters that are bolted to the ground and have no additional vertical walls. Horizontal collar beams stabilize the walls and create the signature A.

It’s a style that’s been around for centuries, but in modern times was inspired by R.M. Schindler, who built a contemporary A-frame home for Gisela Bennati in Lake Arrowhead, California, in 1934. Architects like Andrew Geller helped popularize A-frames in the Fifties, when relative affluence allowed American households to build more vacation homes. They bought pattern books, mail-order plans and pre-fabricated kits to bring them to life. Churches, gas stations and liquor stores adopted the look, and by the Sixties the A-frame had become a cultural icon.

According to Chad Randl, author of the book A-frame (2004), “Its appeal transcended geography and class in part because its form defied categorization. Was it the embodiment of contemporary geometric invention or a steadfast, timeless form, suggesting rustic survival? From grand versions overlooking Big Sur to the small plywood shacks advertised in Field and Stream, there was an A-frame for almost every budget."



Today, the humble A-frame cabin has gone through something of a renaissance, and here at BoutiqueHomes we’re happy to have played a part in that. Ten years ago, our founders Heinz Legler and Veronique Lievre acquired land in the High Sierras near Yosemite that was remote and often snowbound.

Looking for a cabin that would suit the unique rural environment, they came to the conclusion that the sloping roof and easy assembly of the classic A-frame was ideal. Having come across Chad Randl’s book, they had fallen in love with designs like Schindler’s, John Campbell’s Leisure House in Mill Valley (1952), and George Rockrise’s Perlman House in Squaw Valley (1958).

Because the property was only accessible for a few months every year, the cabins were constructed in the Mojave desert and shipped in pieces to Yosemite, where they were assembled in weeks. The end results, three A-frames at Far Meadow and Base Camp, have been much photographed and reviewed. In fact, Lindsey Bro, curator at @cabinlove, described the red A-frame pictured below as "truly one of the coolest I've ever seen." And she knows cabins.



The Yosemite A-frames are no longer available to rent, but they will always have a place in our hearts. In the meantime, we've discovered quite a few other A-shaped homes to share with like-minded cabineers. 

See below for some inspiration, but you can click here to explore our collection of cabins in all shapes and sizes, all around the world.