Swiss Cottage style houses—adapted from 19th-century models in the cold, mountainous regions of Switzerland and Germany—can be found throughout the United States.

They are common at ski resorts across the country, but Swiss Cottage houses also can be found at beachfront sites in New Jersey and Florida.

Key Features of a Swiss Cottage

  • 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

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 Swiss and German mountain chalets.

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—whether that’s in the mountains or near the beach.

Updated from an earlier version by Steven Marsh.