Wrap around porch, tower.

Tips from the Architect: Shingle Style Architecture

At Catalano Architects we strive to continue the design and development of the shingle style in the 21st century, designing timeless and functional homes that offer the traditional feel of shingle style architecture while providing all modern amenities that clients have come to expect in their new homes.

The History of Shingle Style

Prominent architects such as H.H Richardson, McKim, Mead & White, Peabody & Stearns, and W.R. Emerson first developed shingle style architecture during the 1880’s. At the time, it was known as “stick style” architecture. Around 1950, the name “shingle style” was coined by Yale architectural historian Vincent Scully who described shingle style as the “architecture of the American summer” due to its popularity among wealthy families building summer residences along the Northeast seaside (especially in Maine, Cape Cod, MA, Newport, RI and Eastern Long Island, NY). Shingle style was the first quintessential American design style, as it did not rely heavily on European design for influence.

Shingle style houses are designed to foster a relaxing and easygoing atmosphere and to engage their coastal locations by providing expansive porches, easy access to the exterior, and ocean breezes to keep the interior comfortable in hot weather.


Popular architectural styles of the late 19th century greatly influenced prominent features of shingle style building:

  • The asymmetrical approach to the plan and façade design and incorporation of porches, balconies, and eye-catching chimneys were taken directly from the Queen Anne style prevalent at the time.
  • Elements such as gambrel roofs, Palladian windows, and classic columns were adopted from the Colonial style.
  • The use of stone and stone arches references back to Richardsonian architecture.

Shingle Style Home Design

Shingles – The exterior shingles are left mostly in their natural state and are allowed to weather, resulting in beautiful gray or brown colors that blend with their surroundings. Natural stone is used for foundations and sometimes even for the first floor to anchor the house to the landscape.

Exterior Detailing – One of the main features of shingle style homes is the use of continuously wrapped shingles as exterior cladding for walls and roofs. The elimination of corner boards or intricate wood detailing on the exterior is what principally defined the style. The focus is more on the skin of the house rather than the structure or it’s ornamentation. Shingle style decor is understated and achieved mostly through creating patterns in the shingle layout rather than in applied wood millwork.

Roof Forms – Another prominent feature of shingle style homes is irregular roof forms. Gables, hipped roofs, gambrels, and intersecting gables is found on most houses, and the inclusion of shed, hipped, or eyebrow dormers creates unique and complex rooflines.

Windows, Turrets, & Towers – Windows are often double hung and grouped in pairs or in sets of three, but Palladian windows and oval windows are also popular. Rounded turrets and towers are also featured prominently in designs, allowing for stunning views across the coastline.

The shift from highly ornamented and extravagantly decorated designs to a simpler, more rustic, and functional approach to building established shingle style architecture as a leader in American domestic style.

Palladian window, classical columns, decorative shingle
Catalano Architects: Example of the use of the palladian window, classical columns for the porch, and decorative shingle style on gable ends. Photo by Warren Patterson
Double hung window, eyebrow dormer.
Catalano Architects: Example of the use of double hung windows, oval windows, and eyebrow dormers. Photo by Eric Roth.
Wrap around porch, tower.
Catalano Architects: This house features a beautiful wrap around porch and breezeway, connecting to a garage with a tower. Photo by Callan MacLeod.

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