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A-frame house plans for second homes & family vacation cabins: 12 retro designs from the ’50s & ’60s

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Shingled A-frame house design from the sixties

A-frame house plans: Two-story beach cabin (1958)

Dr. David T. Hellyer, Designer-Owner – Tacoma, Washington / From the Douglas Fir Plywood Association

If you want a second home that’s strikingly different, try this double-deck A-Frame style.

Although the A-frame has been used for many types of storage and shelters (its origins are in antiquity), this design represents one of its latter-day applications to a dwelling.

MORE: See 130 vintage ’50s house plans used to build millions of mid-century homes that we still live in today

The structure rests on king-sized base beams supported by nine concrete pilings. The roof of full-size Exterior fir plywood panels acts as both roof and walls. Properly edge-butted and nailed, the strong durable DFPA Tested-quality plywood panels provide the lateral rigidity that’s needed with this type of frame.

Panels used in the side sections can be nailed up at the owner’s townhouse during the winter months for assembly during warm weather on the building site, saving both time and labor.

The A-Frame cabin has two top-deck bedrooms which are reached from an outside stairway; the lower floor is left free for living with a spacious porch, built-in kitchen and bathroom and large living room. Roof panels and siding were left unfinished to weather to the glistening caste of driftwood.

Vintage double-deck A-Frame vacation home - two stories from the 60s

There’s room for lots of leisure living in comfort in this spacious downstairs living room. Bedrooms are upstairs with private entrance.

A-Frame house Two-story beach cabin

This two-story A-frame cabin’s floorplan

Kitchen, bath, living and outdoor lounge areas are exceptionally well oriented in the A-Frame design.

Vintage A-Frame house plans Two-story beach cabin


A-frame house plans: The Ranger cabin second/vacation home (1960)

Here’s a basic but striking A-frame house or cabin by Nagle and Associates that’s designed for the “blue snow” country.

From Second Homes for Leisure Living, by the Douglas Fir Plywood Association

Your second home The Ranger A-Frame cabin from 1960

How this mountain getaway is built

Built-up 2″ x 12″ beams rest on big concrete piers which are sunk into the ground 3 feet below grade.

Of course, the steep pitched roof of exterior fir plywood will not only shed the snow readily, but will resist mountain blizzards.

To relieve the spartan A-frame lines, an extra pair of A-frames have been extended onto the cabin’s spacious sun deck to form a shelter from the sun in both summer and winter.

Inside, there’s a wealth of wide-open wonderful space for taking your ease.

Your eating pleasure is amply provided for in the compact 6′ by 8′ kitchen. A complete bath, including shower, fits into a few square feet. The living room contains 240 square feet with a cozy corner fireplace that’s perfect for warming up next to after a hard day on the ski slopes.

A 144 square-foot sleeping balcony overlooks the living room and is made readily accessible with a ship-type stairway. Fir plywood construction throughout the Ranger makes a tighter, stronger, longer-lasting vacation cabin.

The A-Frame cabin’s living room design

The Ranger’s living room is oriented to take full advantage of the view with lots of windows facing onto the spacious deck area.

Your second home The Ranger A-Frame cabin from 1960

The vacation cabin’s balcony and open ceilings

The sleeping balcony and the open living room ceiling combine to add a sense of spaciousness throughout the Ranger A-frame house.

Your second home The Ranger A-Frame cabin from 1960

This A-frame house’s floorplan

The Ranger A-Frame cabin floor plan design (1960)



A-frame beach house or mountain cabin (1961)

From “Interesting variations of economy cottages” by Weyerhaeuser Co.

Functional, beautiful, economical … a new popular design in leisure homes, the “Arrowhead” A-frame house is perfect for use as a beach house or mountain ski-lodge. Store your boat under the front cantilever deck, which projects out for a view of the landscape, acting as an observation platform.

A-frame design means two-story living, with the upper level ideal for use as a sleeping loft.

Vintage A-Frame cabin design 1960s


A-frame holiday house built for fun

By Walter I Fischman – From Popular Mechanics (April 1966)

Vacation houses are booming! Hideaways nestling by the shore… budget chalets tucked into the mountains… charming year-round cottages hidden in the woods. The stuff that dreams are made of.

Dreams? Today, the dream of a vacation home is coming true for millions of families.

MORE: 40 vintage backyard ideas so fab, you’ll want to re-create this relaxing sixties-style outdoor living vibe

In every vacation area throughout the country wild and wonderful homes are popping up in a kaleidoscope of styles and sizes that share some enticing basic features: they’re relatively inexpensive, easy to maintain and can be used the whole year ’round.

But most of all, they’re fun to live in. And they’re answering a burgeoning yen of Americans for a place to go and “get away” and enjoy themselves.

It’s an easy-to-assemble kit for seashore or ski slopes; will cost you $3,345; a professional can erect it in 60 man-hours; a handy craftsman with a few friends won’t take much longer.

Shingled A-frame home design from the sixties

Vintage A-frame house design

Biggest news in the field is the phenomenal popularity of the A-frame house, a dramatic and efficient design packing maximum comfort, usable living space, and unusual eye-appeal into a minimum number of square feet. And the clincher is you can almost put them up in a few lunch hours.

Popular Mechanics chose the beautifully rustic “A” shown here because of a design innovation that enlarges the living space and strengthens the structure.

A product of Lindal Cedar Homes Ltd., New Westminster, B. C., Canada, the Aintree A-frame’s roof, though steep, is not nearly as steep as conventional A-frames. This means that the second floor becomes a truly usable area that can be divided into a couple of bedrooms, or serve as a bunk room for a raft of kids or guests.

Inside an A-frame house from the 60s

Freeport, on the island of Grand Bahama, was the site chosen for our A-frame. A relatively deserted isle until a few years ago, this long, slender strip of land has today become one of the most popular vacation spots in the world. A scant 50-mile plane hop from Miami, it is a gem set in crystal-clear waters and ringed with endless miles of white sand beaches shining in the sun.

Most enticing of all for homeowners who build or buy here, there are no income, property or real estate taxes. Could there be a happier place for a vacation home? We thought not.

MORE  Everyone's dream: An affordable vacation cabin (1958)

Inside an A-frame house from the 60s (3)

PM’s vacation house comes as a precut kit, usually delivered by truck (ours came by schooner). Floorboards, joists, rafters and wall sections are all pretrimmed to proper size and identified to facilitate construction.

Any moderately experienced home craftsman who will follow the spelled-out step-by-step instructions that come with the house can put it up with a helper in less than two weeks. The manufacturer claims the job can be done in 60 man-hours (well, maybe by a gung-ho guy who cut his teeth on A-frames.)

Inside an A-frame house from the 60s (2)

Inside an A-frame house from the 60s (1)


Three-gable A-frame weekender: A retro vacation cabin from the ’60s

From Popular Mechanics (April 1966)

What two letters of the alphabet will save money and add space?

This was the riddle that designer Ralph Rittenour of Portland, Oregon, had to solve when he planned a weekend vacation house for a client in Bend, Oregon.

Added to this riddle was the client’s dislike for the obvious answer to the first — the A-frame. Its tent-like appearance was too austere. And besides that, the conventional A-frame simply could not accommodate the client’s space requirements.

But Rittenour could not dismiss the advantages of the A-frame. The house was to be built on a hilltop overlooking a pine-studded canyon, and the shape of the A-frame was ideally suited to blend with the topographical setting.

Three-gable A-frame weekender second home cabin from 1966

Tackling the matter of aesthetics, he broke up the unappealing “tent-like” lines by reaching back to post-victorian construction and resurrecting the gable, a spacesaver that has been largely ignored in modern architecture. And to maintain the symmetry on the exterior while adding to the interior spaciousness, he butted three gables together in the shape of a “Y.”

By approaching the problem from both ends of the alphabet, Rittenour was able to offer his client the modest cost of the A-frame and 2500 square feet of living space.

Where most conventional A-frames are divided in half with kitchen and bath downstairs and a balcony for sleeping, Rittenour found he could devote a full gable of his “Y” shape to the living room (27 feet 4 inches by 22 feet) open from floor to ceiling. With a completely glass front opening onto a large deck that overlooks the canyon, the effect is one of vast space.

Building a three-gable A-frame cabin vacation house from the 60s

Features of this A-frame house from 1966

A huge fireplace of native fieldstone dominates the juncture of the three sections, and open areas on either side add to the living room’s spaciousness. The gable to the right of the fireplace contains a dining area (15-1/2 by 13 feet) and the kitchen (9 feet 10 inches by 8 feet) and these are separated by a serving bar. The inside end of the kitchen is a compact laundry with automatic washer and dryer.

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Leading off a short hallway to the left of the fireplace. the downstairs of the third gable contains two 11-foot 6-inch by 11-foot 11-inch-long bedrooms, plus storage space and closets. The furnace for a forced-air heating system may be placed in one of the closets or under the house.

A stairway rises behind the fireplace to a balcony that embraces the stone chimney and looks down onto the living room. Behind the stairway, on the ground level, is a bathroom complete with a shower stall.

Opening off the upstairs balcony, above the kitchen/dining area is a good-sized master bedroom. And to the left of the balcony is a storage room and lavatory and a bedroom similar to those downstairs.

A-frame cabin or second home design from 1966

Each bedroom has sliding glass doors that open onto a small deck. Entry to the house is through a glass door to the dining room, which opens onto the parking area and driveway.

To maintain the casual feeling of the vacation retreat and also blend the structure into the rugged pine country, Rittenour chose to build it completely of native western woods. The support beams are solid Douglas fir. The decking for the roof is 2 by 6 Douglas fir. Since the house was to be used the year round, and there is considerable snow in the winter, the roof decking was covered with 1-in. rigid insulation and topped with western red cedar shingles.

An innovation in the construction is that instead of using hardwood, the flooring throughout the house is 1 by 4 ponderosa pine. The interior paneling is also ponderosa pine throughout. The exterior decking is spaced 2 by 6 western hemlock.

A masterpiece of simplicity, this house can be built easily at a cost that’s modest for a four-bedroom structure. Storage space has been built into every nook and cranny to eliminate the clutter that would slow down your departure after a perfect weekend.

A-frame vacation cabin floorplans


A-frame home designs - Georgia Pacific vacation house plans from 1962 (2)

Vacation homes with the Georgia-Pacific Delta Frame: A new concept (1962)

Here is a new concept in A-frame cabin design. It is called the GP-Delta Frame because the entire unit is designed in the shape of a delta figure to rest upon an independent foundation. The Delta frame should be very easy to construct from the highly-detailed plans and materials cutting schedule furnished with the drawings.

Subject to variation by geographic zones and economical trends, it is estimated that the entire cabin could be erected and delivered on site for approximately $5,500. This is based upon having the work done by carpenters, paying current retail lumber prices, and the delivery of the material for 200 miles.

Plans have been designed to meet over 60 miles per hour wind velocity and earthquake zone 3 requirements.

A-frame home designs - Georgia Pacific vacation house plans from 1962 (3)

Delta Frame: A new concept (1962)


Four-family A-frame vacation home (1962)

Our designers have taken advantage of the features that can be found in the single GP-Delta Frame No. 436 [above] and incorporated them into a multiple family vacation home. Of course, this attractive plan may well be used for many purposes. It is an excellent way of grouping living units, and they can be placed in many very interesting plot arrangements.

Each apartment has its own private entry and deck area. The single bedroom measures 19′ x 12′ at floor level. It is created by the formation of a raised loft that is reached by the stairs indicated. This forms a balcony that overlooks the living area. Considerable savings in labor and materials will result from the manner in which the kitchen cabinets, stall showers and plumbing fixtures have been grouped together.

Main floor area has 2,1 18 sq. ft., allowing 775 sq. ft. for each apartment unit. Excellent privacy is maintained for each apartment without sacrifice of light and ventilation. Notice sliding glass doors that connect with porch area.

Upstairs level consists of sleeping loft comprising 874 sq. ft. for each apartment. Prefab fireplace is placed on central wall space of gable end. Plans have been designed for over 60 miles per hour of wind velocity and earthquake building zone 3 requirements.

Width 60′-0″
Depth 60′-0″
Main Foor Area — 21 18 Square Feet
Second Foor Area — 874 Square Feet
Each Apartment Area — 775 Square Feet

Four-family A-frame vacation home (1962)

Four-family A-frame vacation home (1962)


A-frame cabin floorplan & design (1968)

Provided by the US Department of Agriculture

The A-frame cabin, a very popular type of recreational second home throughout the United States, has been built by many people in mountain areas, at the shore from Maine to Florida, and across the country.

Like the traditional cabins, this A-frame cabin provides quite comfortable living space for a family of four or five members. Sleeping space for weekend visitors can easily be provided by rearranging the furniture in the large bedroom on the second floor.

The first floor of this 24- by 24-foot cabin contains a living-dining room, a compact kitchen, a bathroom with shower, and adequate storage space. The living-dining room runs the full width of the building with storage space on each side.

The locale and climatic conditions are major factors for the builder to consider when deciding if a heating system and insulation are needed.

The kitchen at the rear of the cabin contains a sink, a refrigerator, and a range with base and wall cabinets. A ship’s ladder stairway leads to the second floor, and a dormer-type window extension in the roof adds light and ventilation to this area.

With some knowledge of carpentry and the ability to use the ordinary hand tools, three or four men should have no serious problems building this cabin. Care should be taken in locating and setting the pressure-treated posts.

The A-frames should be assembled flat on the ground, raised into position, and braced until the flooring is put in place. The roof sheathing should be placed, the ends cut to the shape of the overhang, then the roofing applied. The end walls and partitions may easily be installed and the kitchen and bathroom fixtures placed.

Redwood or cypress lumber siding will take on a nice weathered finish and eliminate the need for periodic painting.

Construction notes: Use rough lumber for all structural framing. Lap rough, 1-inch boards for end-wall siding. Other materials or methods may be substituted. Rafters and floor beams are 24-feet long to facilitate construction of the A-frame on the ground. If some saving in initial cost is necessary, add the deck in front later. Interior finish is left to builder’s choice.

A-frame cabin design from the 60s

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