What is it about the A-frame that inspires so much devotion? A little triangular cabin, hidden away in the forest or perched on a mountainside, this cool structure has an enduring popularity that defies time and place.
It may be the simplicity of its lines. Or the fact that it’s all roof. Or the sheer improbability of diagonal walls. Simply put, 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 (pictured, above). Architects like Andrew Geller helped popularize them in the Fifties (below), 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 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 is having something of a renaissance, and we’ve been a part of that. Ten years ago, we acquired land in Bass Lake in the High Sierras, near Yosemite, that was remote and often snowbound. We needed a cabin that would suit the unique rural environment, and the sloping roof and easy assembly of the classic A-frame was ideal. We came across Chad Randl’s book and fell in love with designs like Schindler’s, John Campbell’s Leisure House in Mill Valley (1952, above), and George Rockrise’s Perlman House in Squaw Valley (1958, below).
Because the property was only accessible for a few months every year, we constructed the cabins in the Mojave desert and shipped them in pieces to Yosemite, where we assembled them in weeks. The end results, three A-frames at Far Meadow and Base Camp, have been much photographed and reviewed.
According to Sunset magazine, “Yosemite may be only 12 miles away, but Far Meadow’s Base Camp, in some ways, trumps the iconic park.” @cabinlove (who knows her A-frames) said of our Red cabin: “This is truly one of the coolest I’ve ever seen.”
Why not visit them yourself and find out? Check them out here: