Shingle-Style Architecture: Turn-of-the-Century Allure

Shingle-style architecture is a uniquely American brand that marks a point of convergence for several different influences from Queen Anne Victorian to Medieval Romanesque. A popular New England style that appeared just as the nineteenth century wound to a close, shingle-style architecture paints a sweeping portrait of the nation at that point in time: high fashion with an edge of eclecticism and a bent for asymmetry. In retrospect, what could have better ushered in the roaring 20s, with its love of glamorous oddities and modern twists on the tried-and-true?

Isaac Bell House

The Isaac Bell House is a National Historic Landmark built during America’s Gilded Age. Also known as Edna Villa, this outstanding example of shingle-style architecture is located in Newport, Rhode Island.

Celebrated as the architecture of the American summer, this style lends itself well to metaphor. Stone foundations emerge from the bedrock as a verisimilar root system, tying the house to sturdy tradition at its base while allowing it to grow bolder as it ascends. With Palladian windows, neoclassical ornament, and wide, elegant porches, a subtle eclecticism suffuses the home. The primarily wooden construction unifies the shingle-style home with its surroundings so the more asymmetrical elements can shine without undermining the home’s stylistic integrity.

Kragsyde Mansion

Kragsyde Mansion was an iconic shingle-style estate built in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts in 1883 and demolished in 1929. The rambling house was designed by the premier Boston architectural firm of Peabody & Sterns for a wealthy Boston client.

Variety adorns the top of the shingle-style home as well, where it caps off with complex roof forms, towers blended into a continuous roofline, and gable dormers in late-Victorian fashion. Curved walls sometimes replace tower structures to expand interior space and add visual interest to the exterior.

William Watts Sherman House

H. H. Richardson’s William Watts Sherman House in Newport, Rhode Island, is generally acknowledged as one of the American architect’s great masterpieces and a prototype of shingle-style architecture.

Gone are the ornate details that delicately adorned the Victorian homes of the 1800s. Applied decoration gives way to greater structural variety: complex forms wrapped in cedar shingles, gambrel roofs, grand windows opening onto balconies. The cedar shingles tie the diverse forms together to ensure the asymmetry does not topple out of proportion and create something altogether discordant. On the contrary, the resplendent final product reflects the American spirit while evoking the slow and romantic lifestyle of the Victorian era.

MMA Shingle-Style Country House

MMA’s Shingle-Style Country House represents our 21st-century take on this storied architectural tradition. Another project in this style is in the works in the western suburbs of Boston; take a look at the rendering below and check back for updates as this project unfolds.

Rendering shingle-style influenced home west of Boston.

Preliminary rendering of a project with shingle-style influences on the boards at MMA now.