American house architecture was much more exuberant in the 1920s than since. I’ve worked on houses from the 17th century through the 21st, and the 1920s can lay a claim to being the most useful and practical without giving up anything in the style department. They’re generally smaller than a contemporary house, but that’s a feature, not a bug, if you ask me. Most contemporary houses are huge because they waste a lot of space, and waste it in multiples while the occupants try to find a corner of their caverns to actually live in. If the houses were designed better, they could be smaller. They aren’t, so they can’t.
They were, in the twenties. It’s important to remember that compared to the walk-up rented apartments and ramshackle shacks the twenties homebuyer was moving from, they weren’t all that small. But a 2012 female person takes one look at the modest closet, and the 2012 male person vainly searches for seven feet of blank wall for their TV, and are disconsolate.
One of the most exuberant style items afoot back then architecturally was the faux thatched roof. That’s what you’re looking at there. The Arts and Crafts retreat to rusticity was in full play. But hobbit house roofers are hard to find in the 21st century, and so the homeowners had to find someone willing and a little unusual to plan the necessary assault on their roof and their checkbook.
The roof is a very large visual element on a house. 90 percent of them are blah expanses of asphalt tab shingles. Back a hundred years ago, you might find asphalt shingles, of course –the house in the picture might have had them as original equipment — but you’d be just as likely find slate, or sawn cedar, or heavier split shakes, or metal. They’d be laid in interesting patterns and a wider palette of colors than now, too. “What color gray do you want” is all they ask you at the lumberyard now.
I’ve repaired curved roofs like this. I cheated. If you lay cedar shingles on the lawn in the early morning, the sunny side shrinks and the damp, grass side expands, and they “cup” a good deal. You can bend them the rest of the way by hand and nail them down if you’re in a hurry. The steam box in the video is a much better method, of course. Well, “better” until you get the bill, anyway.