|Can you count how many different roof types|
are visible on this house?
(1890s-era Queen Anne Victorian
on Military Street in Port Huron, Michigan).
Victorians could get away with this,
but you may not be able to.
You can’t design an interesting roof simply by melding a bunch of disparate roof shapes together. Even if you’re after a picturesque effect, the elements have to be deliberately composed, and with a touch of restraint at that. Even the most flamboyant Victorian houses will, on close inspection, reveal basically simple roof shapes enlivened by carefully-controlled accents such as turrets and dormers.
If you’re into the Grand Teton school of roof design, it’s especially critical to think through your roof scheme very carefully—it’ll probably be the most visible part of the building. With that in mind, here’s a quick rundown of common roof shapes, followed by some suggestions and caveats for combining them:
|Classic gambrel-roofed Dutch Colonial home|
featuring the English-style "dustpan" dormer.
|Once upon a time, bargeboards|
were a favorite location for ornament.
Not so much today.
|Mansard-roofed Victorian, circa the 1880s.|
Other roof shapes are much more difficult to combine successfully. Sheds, hips, gambrels and mansards will usually get into a stylistic brawl when any two are combined. If you pine for one of these shapes, it’s safest to use it exclusively. If you’re adding onto an existing building, the rules are even simpler—copy the pitch, massing and details of the roof that's already there.
|Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House, Chicago, c. 1909:|
Now that's a real roof overhang.
• Unless you’re absolutely sure of the effect you’re after, avoid combining different roof pitches. More often than not, varied pitches look disorganized or, worse, like a construction error. Stick to a uniform pitch, and rely on the size and arrangement of roof masses for effect.