What is a Chalet Style House?

You can immediately identify a chalet-style home, even if you aren’t an expert in architecture. These wood-framed houses, also known as Swiss Chalets or Alpine Chalets, were built for areas with uneven terrain. They are ideal for primary or vacation homes.

What is a Chalet-Style House?

Chalet-style houses are European-inspired homes with sloping roofs and simple construction. They are common at mountainside ski resorts and woody lakeside communities.

What makes a house chalet-style?

Chalet-style houses are best known for their triangular, dramatic profile. They have steeply pitched roofs and overhanging edges and are often covered with wooden shingles. Because of their slope, these roofs keep snow from building upon the top of the house in cold climates.

Traditional chalets were originally designed to be built on steep and uneven terrains. Because of this, they have a compact footprint that minimizes excavation. Modern building techniques and materials allow for chalets to be made in various sizes and can accommodate large families.

Chalet-style houses reflect their Alpine heritage. They are made of natural materials left unadulterated to blend in with the rustic setting. The foundations of chalets are made mostly from stone or cement. The foundation will be visible on the downhill side if the chalet is built on sloped land.

Wood is the main building material of the house. It is not treated for weather or other elements and is left unfinished. The colour of a chalet will depend on what type of wood is used. While historic chalets were built using wood from their native environment, modern transportation and globalization have allowed for chalets to be made with lumber from all corners of the world. While some homeowners might choose to paint over exposed wood, most chalets that you will find on the realty market follow the traditional European design principles.

Chalet-style homes are usually two stories high and have lots of windows that let in natural light. These windows also provide stunning views of the surrounding area, unifying the indoors and outdoors.

A chalet-style house’s interior is open-concept. This creates the warm, communal atmosphere you associate with a ski lodge. A fireplace in the main room is a great way to heat the space and keep out cold air from entering through the large picture windows.

Chalets are small in size, but their vaulted ceilings make them feel spacious and open. Many chalets feature loft spaces above the great rooms that can be converted to bedrooms or home offices, as well as a semi-private area for quiet relaxation.


  • Pitched gabled roof
  • Overhanging eaves
  • Concrete or stone foundation
  • Timber framing
  • Exposed natural wood


  • Living space that is open concept
  • High vaulted ceilings
  • Fireplace
  • Large picture windows

History of Chalet-Style Houses

The 1328 document that first documented the term “chalet” was a description of simple log cabins constructed by farmers in Switzerland’s Canton de Vaud. The term “chalet”, for most of history, was used to describe any small house located in the mountains.

The chalet design that we all know was created in the middle of 19th century. It wasn’t built by Swiss but by French and English tourists to Switzerland, who were inspired by local architecture. They returned home with romanticized images of Swiss chalets and started to build elaborate, but not very accurate, replicas of the homes they had seen on their travels.

Many Swiss companies started offering blueprints for chalets in catalogs as the popularity of the chalet-style increased. These catalogs offered a range of basic designs that could be customized to include many details and flourishes. This led to the gingerbread-style houses we now associate with the chalet style.

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