Celebrating Shingle Style Architecture

I read a lot about this book when it came out earlier this year, but now I finally have my hands on it:


The pictures are sumptuous. The architects who wrote the book—Tom Kligerman, John Ike and Joel Barkley of the vaunted Ike Kligerman Barkley firm of New York and San Francisco—can turn a phrase as well as they can design a home.

Ike and Kligerman will be in DC on Tuesday to speak about the book in a conversation moderated by our own Patrick Sutton of Baltimore. The panel discussion will take place at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Georgetown, from 6:30-8:30 pm. The mid-Atlantic chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art is sponsoring the talk; its chapter president, Ankie Barnes of Barnes Vanze Architects, is a good friend of Kligerman’s, and he set up the event.

Now, on to the book. After poring over it, I asked the architects about their love of shingle style and how they use it in homes that at once reference the past and exude modern spirit. Here are their answers, along with a peek at the photographs contained the The New Shingled House—which will be on sale, of course, at Tuesday’s talk.


All photography by William Waldron

Q. I love this remark in your introduction: “As graduates of Columbia, Yale and Princeton, steeped in the modernist and historical canons, we appreciate the shingle style as an important transformative moment that grows out of the past even as it anticipates the future. But as American boys, we love it because it reminds us of home.” Can you describe home?


John – I lived in a number of homes growing up, but I do have a pertinent shingle-style experience, which was in a suburb of Cincinnati that was predominantly built around the turn of the century on the Little Miami River. I lived in a Dutch colonial, which had a gambrel roof and was covered in shingles. They used the local limestone flagstones recovered from the riverbed and it was essentially very barn like—a big central living room with an enclosed porch in the front. In the rear there was a dining room and a small kitchen, three bedrooms in the gambrel roof. It was typical shingle style—in a lovely town with a lot of similar houses built around the same time, many of them as summer vacation cottages.

Tom –My earliest memory of the shingle style is a house in Friendship, Maine—like the rest of New England, this was one of the birthplaces of the style. My family spent the summer in a relatively modest shingle-style house—I was 3, or 3 and a half. I associate it with an incredible time being in that house. I caught my first fish, harbor pollock, and we used to go on long walks through the woods. What I remember about the house is these beautifully burnished wood floors, and sitting on the porch with big overhangs and looking through the pine trees to Penobscot Bay. And so it was incredibly cozy, it said everything that people in America love about homes. The hearth is the heart of the home—that’s the memory that stuck with me from that first shingled house in Maine.


Q. You note the appealing “shaggy quality” of shingles—why do aging shingles seem so warm and inviting as opposed to, say, stone or brick?


T – It’s like a favorite briefcase or your favorite pair of shoes. The thing that’s great about shingles is they take on a patina in a different way from a stone building or a brick building—it’s a little more obvious. They just get this wonderful sort of comfortable softness with time that a lot of more solid building materials do not. There’s a comfort to it in the way it weathers.

J – Tom always mentions the smell—when it heats up during the day you get a sort of fragrance coming from the cedar—there’s a particular odor that’s also very memorable.


Q. With all the advances in building technology that you’ve seen in your careers, do they allow you to do things with shingle designs that might not have been possible 100 years ago?


T- I don’t feel that way. There are obvious things like computers and wireless systems like alarms and lighting, but generally in these houses there’s nothing we do today that couldn’t have been done in 1880. The difference is that these houses look more modern because we have the history of modern architecture to draw from. And quite simply, the architects from the 1880s hadn’t seen that yet. We’re drawing on a modern sensibility of plans that are open, with massive windows.

J – Elaborating on that, modern architecture became conceptual in a way where the covering of the building is thought of as a skin; it was probably more a picturesque play of compositional elements back in the 1880s as opposed to a conceptual thought of a wrapper or a skin.

T – But there were hints of that. When Stanford White was doing the bell house, for example, there were hints of these concepts being in play already.


Q. Your house descriptions note design elements that are associated with shingle style, such as open screens, beamed ceilings and crisp trim. Are there any “rules” you follow with regard to interior architecture when you decide to use shingle on the outside?


J- I would say the style provides a lot of flexibility in terms of what direction the interiors take. Hopefully there is some carry through either through bringing shingles inside or just the quality of craftsmanship with wood. But I think that you can do something that feels very comfortable and unassuming, or you can create a striking modern counterpoint to the sort of more traditional exterior. The style both interior and exterior allows for a great deal of freedom.

T- I think it’s a huge range—we’ve done houses that are moody and dark the way an old shingled house might be—a sort of dark mountain quality. But we’ve also done some like on the beach in Sagaponack [pictured below], which has a very modern inside. One of the nice things about both of the houses is this notion of surprise—you don’t expect the interior you find when you walk into the house in Sagaponack.


Q. What are the most unexpected locales, architecturally speaking, where you’ve designed a shingle house, and what led you to make that decision?


T- For me it’s the South Carolina Lake House. I expected to do a mountain lodge and what we ended up doing is a riff on the shingle style house designed by John Russell Pope. I’d always wanted to recreate it and it was wonderful to do it in a completely unexpected location—mountains not the ocean.

J – We haven’t really done one in San Francisco but I always find it sort of interesting that shingle style or Queen Anne style houses are such a fabric of that city. Because you think of it as more seaside or country idiom but it’s a very sophisticated style that adapts well to being in the middle of the city.

Pollack Residence, Ct.; Mark Hampton Inc. Interiors/ Ike Kligerman Barclay, Architects

Pollack Residence, Ct.; Mark Hampton Inc. Interiors/ Ike Kligerman Barkley, Architects

Q. What have shingles allowed you to “hide” behind them, or mingle differing architectural elements, that other materials wouldn’t have?


J – We were doing a house by the shore in New Jersey and we realized we could simplify the house structurally by wrapping a piece of steel that popped out of the roof in shingles. It was at the edge of a row of windows and we just devised a new composition so the roof covering the windows is extended, and it created this sort of corner covered in shingles. Looking at it now you’d think it was part of the original design.

T – We’ve actually designed some secret rooms in these houses, with all the high roofs and dormers we’ve taken advantage of that to involve some secret rooms and capture some hidden space. But I am sworn to secrecy, so I can’t give away any more details.


Q. Do you have favorite exterior and interior building materials that you use to complement shingles?


J – The great thing about shingles is that they can be huge, they can be normal sized or they can be tiny, and that’s one of the fun things about the range. You can employ them literally as little fish scales or they can be big slabs of wood. But there’s a considerable range to their size.

T – One of the things that really complements shingles is pebble dash. We’re using it for a new house now, but it’s also what was traditionally done, in houses by Stanford White for example. The entryway to one of these cottages we’re working on is a combination of stucco, pebbles, and pieces of glass bottles embedded in patterns. It makes the entrance feel special and different. And when the light hits it, it glistens. We’re making the windows in the front door out of those bottles as well—sort of like stained glass. On a much bigger scale, you can see this in John’s house, Point Loma Casita. These leftover bottles become stained glass—a sort of simple mosaic.


Q. Finally, your narratives respectfully give credit to the designs, philosophies and approaches of great architects who have come before you. What inspiration do you think future architects might take from the “The New Shingled House” represented in this book?


T – I would hope they would take more of the modern and interpretive things we’ve done and push it farther. We’re not just rote copying old houses but rather we’re on some sort of continuum, modernizing this flexible style. So hopefully something cooler and better than what we’re doing.

J – I think shingles lend themselves to sculptural shapes that have already been done—there are some crazy modern shingle things like Sea Ranch Chapel, which was done by James Hubble. But shingles don’t have to be wood; they can be metal, plastic, resin.

T – Elon Musk has shingles that actually create electricity!

J – As a kind of building element, I think it really lends itself to use in a number of different materials— anything!

Here is the information about the event—click here to register, and I hope to see you there.
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
6:30 PM – 8:30 PM EST

St. John’s ~ Blake Hall
3240 O Street NW
Washington, DC 20007


  1. Beautiful pictures, love the architecture. Thanks for sharing!