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By Maria Cipollone | Agent in Coral Springs, FL

Swiss Cottage Architecture

Swiss Cottage: From Ski Slope To Seashore

1840-1860By Steven Marsh
This Swiss cottage house is the Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum and Gardens in Rockford, Ill. Image: Ivo Shandor
How to identify Swiss Cottage architecture
Swiss Cottage houses, adapted from 19th Century models in the cold, mountainous regions of Switzerland and German, can be found throughout the United States, from trailside sites on ski mountains, to beachfront sites in New Jersey and Florida. Most Swiss Cottage houses have these features:
  • Large windows
  • Rough-cut lumber as a primary building material
  • Exposed beams with large brackets
  • Gabled roofs with wide eaves
  • Jerkinhead roofs, partially hipped and forming a truncated gable
  • Rough-cut boards nailed to a wooden underlayment, making it resemble a Swiss post-and-beam structure
  • Exterior weatherboarding painted in bright colors
  • Raised stone foundation
  • Decorative coats of arms
  • Balconies
  • Large windows 

gingerbread house in oak bluffs, martha's vineyardThis gingerbread house at Oak Bluff on Martha's Vineyard is an offshoot of the Swiss Cottage style. Image: Diana Lundin
The origins of Swiss Cottage architecture
The storybook style of the Swiss Cottage evokes the fanciful design of cuckoo clocks, which were popular during the style’s mid-19th century heyday. It’s a picturesque style modeled on the chalets found in the cold, mountainous regions of Switzerland and Germany.
Many designers who thought Americans should try new types of homes promoted the style. Andrew Jackson Downing was among them, noting in his 1850 book “The Architecture of Country Houses,” “there is something peculiarly rural and domestic in the character of the Swiss farm-houses. Their broad roofs, open galleries, and simple and bold construction are significant of strength and fitness.”
Swiss Cottages: designed for snow
In general, the lines of Swiss Cottage homes are horizontal, with expansive roofs designed to shed snow. Roofs are typically front-gabled and shingled, but a jerkinhead style — a truncated hipped roof – is used. Swiss Cottages are generally two-story houses, although modern versions don’t reserve the ground floor for livestock as the originals did.
Construction is usually of rough-cut lumber, often assembled in board-and-batten style, to give it a rustic feel. Porches with flat balusters and cutouts are also common to ease the transition from the cold outdoors to the comfort of the home’s warm interior.
The Swiss Cottage remains popular today as a vacation home archetype, in the mountains and near the beach.

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