Roofs Are Like Hats

Roofs are Like Hats, You Say?

Um-hm—they top the house, the way a hat tops a head and:

  • come in a variety of styles
  • endless shapes
  • use a variety of materials
  • adorn, or merely cover
  • have crowns
  • have brims
  • float or embrace
  • angle or curve
  • have decorative features

The list is longer, but you get the idea, and with room enough to discuss a few of these characteristics.

 Shapes and Fit

A cloche is a hat that fits way down on the head. Two types of roofs fit this description.

Photo by aptmetaphor

  • The Gambrel roof has the typical sloped peak, but a vertical extension on each side hugs the wall. Think barn.
  • The Mansard roof customarily covering a rectangular house, is relatively flat on top (some have slight slopes that meet in a low peak), and extends down to hug the walls on all four sides—the style originated in France, as did the cloche. The Mansard actually covers a second floor.

When you see a flat roof, flat like a pancake, think of a tam o’shanter that more or less sits on top of the head.

Roofs with wide, sweeping eaves and angle out, to cover porches all the way around the house, are reminiscent of big hats with wide brims. Roofs with smaller eaves resemble short brimmed straw sailors, so popular in the mid 40’s, and still around on runways. The house with one porch—a baseball cap.

Hats with very flat crowns, and short brims, tilted up at the back and down over the forehead, and put a finishing touch on upswept hairdos:  shed roof.

Roof styles, like hats, reflect the outfit below

You’ll notice that the Victorians have roofs that pop up and down, in very interesting ways, and complete the style of the house nicely. There’s a vertical balance between decorative features. Some like to emphasize a spiral staircase or bay windows expressed as a turret on the house exterior. Works well with dated and very modern styles. Doesn’t work well with other styles. If you’re a Victorian sort of person, fond of long swirling skirts, wearing scarves or big belt buckles, the more elegant the hat, the better. Cowboy hats can be very elegant…

The Italianate style house very often has a raised “look-out” on its roof, resembling a tiara. Looks perfect on this style—the final gesture—as a nod, to a style that deserves it. With all the arches, porticos and balustrades, the roofline responds with decorative cornices or entablatures, definitely in keeping with a fedora, sporting a sterling brooch, over a silver-studded leather outfit.

Photo by frerieke

The arched roof on a church has been used on secular architecture, but mainly in Europe—where they have beau coup churches. Some churches have been converted into residences, in America, with the roof style being a main attraction. The old-time bonnets framed many a pretty face, the same way the gable ends of an arched roof frame the beautiful stained glass windowed walls.

Photo by Reinout van Rees

Materials characterize roofs and hat materials

Well, you might put sequins on a baseball cap if you’re adventurous, but you’d want to think a while longer before putting a copper or slate roof on a bungalow, because an inappropriate roof material detracts from the house.

If the house is a Plain Jane, there’s nothing wrong with adding a little pizazz, but doing a bit of architectural detailing below or on the roof—such as a little porch addition, or perhaps some dormers—is way better than going over the top with a roofing material that dominates the house. In the same way a straw hat compliments (but doesn’t overpower) a seersucker suit, simple shingles are the best material for a simple house.

The way a baseball cap and jeans go together, a clapboard house, and a tin roof are just about a matched pair. Think about a stucco house with a tile roof—perfect—the same way a sombrero complements a striped poncho. Old brick, period-style, two-story house, and slate roof: a felt snap-brim with an Armani worsted suit.

Carrying out these hat themes is an unusual way to think about roofs, but it works, doesn’t it.

What’s all this about hats?

Mom was a milliner.

Author Bio


Doug Richard is a lifelong entrepreneur in several industries involving architecture and construction.  He currently owns and operates a Tampa roofing contractor, Tampa tree service company, and Ft Pierce, Florida roofing contractor offices.



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