Something Old and Something New: The Shingle-Style Home

November 19, 2015

Art is often a matter of revisiting and going back to previous movements and innovations and renewing them – to “make it new,” so to speak. This is true whether we’re talking about the postmodernists of today going back to the modernists of the turn of the century and the pre-war years, or the romantics looking back on and reacting both to the Enlightenment works of the era immediately preceding them and the ancients long before them. This is true in every form of artistic expression, even the more “practical” ones, such as architecture. The fruits of this reflection and meditation can be seen all around you in the various styles of housing that you encounter, and likely in many of the designs, you are considering for your own home. One such style that is very uniquely American in its origins is the “Shingle-style” home.

The Shingle-Style Home

The Shingle-style of architecture rose to prominence in the United States when the so-called New England school of architecture became ascendant among home-builders in the latter part of the 19th century. Turning away from Eastlake-style, Queen Anne architecture owing to its ornamental and overwrought style, architects combined a quintessentially English aesthetic with a revived interest in the architecture of the American Colonies that arose following the 1876 Centennial. The style was characterized by its very plain, un-ornamented shingled surfaces, as taken from colonial buildings.

Shingle-style homes also focused on their horizontal space, spreading out and becoming one long, continuous “mass,” so to speak – building outward rather than upward, more often than not. The style became incredibly popular in its time and continues to be quite popular today. You can visit several neighborhoods around the nation to see how the style was approached in its heyday, such as in Bay Head, New Jersey and in the Montauk Association Historic District in Long Island.

What About Your House?

Were you to build a Shingle-style house today, it would likely work towards sharing as many similarities as is reasonable with colonial houses, including their plain, shingled surfaces. More modern flourishes, such as simple gables, low designs, and complex massing are all very likely as well in a Shingle-style house. If you wish to attain that “colonial-style” mystique, you might create a weathered appearance for your home – as opposed to that “new home look” – by having the cedar shakes treated, tried, and then installed to seem somewhat faded to gray.

Of course, it is not uncommon to incorporate other aesthetic preferences into such a home – don’t feel restricted by one school of architecture! This is your home, and you’ll be living in it for some time to come: so be certain that it is truly yours and what you want!