Shingle Style Architecture: The History and Lasting Influence of This Natural Style

Shingle-style architecture was popular in the northeastern United States during the late 19th century. It’s an American architectural form with a lasting influence on modern styles and the use of natural materials.

Shingle-style home styles spread across the country but were less popular than Victorian styles. Standard features include wooden shingle exteriors, asymmetrical designs, and numerous windows.

What is Shingle Style Architecture?

Shingle Style Architecture
Abbe Hall – Union College – Schenectady, New York

Shingle-style architecture developed around the late 1870s. Most experts view it as part of the Arts and Crafts movement and a reaction against the ornate Victorian architecture of the time.

Shingle style shares many features of Arts and Crafts style homes, like natural materials, simplicity of form, and the emphasis on craftsmanship. It also borrows elements from Queen Anne Revival architecture.

Queen Anne Revival architecture was popular at the same time as Shingle style but had broader geographic appeal. Like Queen Anne Revival architecture, a Shingle-style home can feature turrets, expansive porches and verandas, elaborate window systems, and an asymmetrical shape.

Development of Shingle-Style Architecture

Vincent Scully, Yale architectural historian, coined the term “shingle style” but credited it to William Ralph Emerson.

W.R. Emerson was an architect who developed the first house with exterior shingles from the ground to the roofline. He built this house in Bar Harbor, ME, in 1879 and called it “Redwood.” Emerson went on to produce many homes with the same style.

Two architectural firms that helped popularize this style were McKim, Mead & White of New York and Peabody & Stearns of Boston. These firms employed the shingle style on their “seaside cottages” in famous summer vacation spots for the rich and powerful, like Newport, Rhode Island, and East Hampton, New York.

One of the most famous examples of these “seaside cottage” homes is Kragsyde. Peabody & Sterns designed and built this house in 1882, commissioned by George Nixon Black, Jr. The house featured every element of shingle style. Vincent Scully described this home as a “masterpiece.”

Another prominent architect of the Shingle style was H.H. Richardson. His work is credited for using the Romanesque architectural form and popularizing the Shingle style. Experts call the style he developed Richardson Romanesque. Some of these designs combine both forms as his structures feature shingle cladding.

The shingle architectural style spread throughout New England with continuing Western migration. The style became popular in the midwest. In particular, Frank Lloyd Wright utilized shingles in his Prairie style at the beginning of the 20th century. The use of natural wood shingles gave his structure an organic style, creating continuity between the land and the structure.

The Shingle style architectural form reached its highest level of development in the 1880s but began to decline by 1900. The Shingle style remained a style for the wealthy because of the high cost of materials and craftsmanship associated with this design style.

Design Elements of Exterior Shingle Style

Shingle-style homes have certain stylistic features that give them cohesion of materials and design.

  • Wood shingles on the facade and roof of the house
  • Asymmetrical home design, in particular, uses complex massing on either side of the home.
  • Organic home design that melds rather than competes with the home’s site
  • Emphasis on horizontal structure
  • Wide and ample porches
  • Complex window designs and the use of many window systems
  • Shingled round or polygonal tower structures
  • Medium-pitched gabled, hipped, or gambrel roofs
  • Variable and complex roof lines
  • Typical one, one-and-a-half, and two-story homes
  • Support columns featuring single or grouped columns
  • Eaves of the roof close to the wall
  • Features to deflect rainwater, like water tables and string courses

Design Elements of Interior Shingle Style

A shingle house also had interior elements that helped define this new architectural style.

  • Random and irregular floor plans
  • Corner fireplaces
  • Inglenooks
  • Detailed millwork and wood trim
  • Staggered flights of stairs concealed by wood screens
  • Hardwood floors
  • Exposure of natural materials in the building structure

Global Impact of the Shingle Style

The Shingle style spread to Canada, England, and Australia in the late 19th century.

In England and Australia, architects combined this form with other styles like those in the Arts and Crafts movement. They also adapted it to the English and Australian climate and geography. In particular, wood was not abundant in these landscapes, making the style more expensive. Instead, architects used brick and stucco to create a shingled effect.

Designers also painted English and Australian shingled homes in brighter and more vibrant colors than was typical of the American Shingle house style.

Lasting Influence of Shingle Style Architecture

Shingle style had a lasting influence on architecture in the United States. Using natural materials and connection to the outdoors influenced the Bungalow house movement.

Shingle houses also feature simplicity, functionality, and lack of ornamentation that influenced the later modernist movement.

Architects and designers still create Shingle-style homes across the United States, most prominent in New England coastal areas. These homes have a comfortable and classic style that fits well into rustic and rural settings.

Prominent Examples of Shingle-Style Architecture

These are notable examples of Shingle-style architecture that still exist today.

Mary Fiske Stoughton House

Henry Hobson Richardson designed the Mary Fiske Stoughton House in 1882. This home features little decorative ornamentation and shingles that stretch from the roofline to the ground.

It has an asymmetrical facade with massing on the left side, including a front gable and rounded tower structure. The design promoted discussion amongst the architectural community and influenced the popularity of the Shingle style.

All Souls Episcopal Church

All Souls Episcopal Church, formerly St. James Chapel, is a historic building Stanford White designed in 1889. White was a student of H.H. Richardson and a founding partner of McKim, Mead & White of New York.

All Souls Church features a wood shingle facade, a gable framed roof, and an octagonal bell tower.

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio

Frank Lloyd Wright designed and built this home in 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois. The first structure was small, but subsequent additions featured elements of his developing Prairie style.

The home has wood shingle cladding, an asymmetrical design, and the use of other natural materials, including stone and other wood features.

Gamble House

The Gamble House is an example of how the Shingle style developed in later west coast design. Greene and Greene designed and built this home from 1908-1909 for David Gamble.

The home has a low profile and reflects a combination of Shingle style, Japanese style design, and Arts and Crafts design. The Gamble House features wood shingle cladding with earthy color tones that blend into the natural wooded environment.