The woodsy child of the American Craftsman, the brown shingle home is a west coast classic. Built with the same ideals as the spartan and organic Arts and Crafts homes of California, the Brown Shingle is exactly what it claims to be, and is easily recognized by the signature redwood shingles that dress it up soberly.
Entirely covered with a rough and irregular wood surface, the west coast Brown Shingle is clearly a product of its environment, decked out head to toe in shingles fashioned from the redwood trees that surround them. In their ideal state, the shingles are stained, never painted, and over time the entire structure will take on a distinctly dark and natural finish.
Though they may be attractive and considered ornamental, the distinctive shingles of these homes are highly functional. Usually two feet long and eight inches wide, paper-thin at the top and thick at the base, the shingles are heavily overlapped in construction. This technique is designed to keep out the rain - an important job when your house is in a rainforest climate, as many of these California homes are.
Like other American Craftsman style homes, you'll find the clinker brick chimney, rubble work masonry, built-in cupboards and seating areas, leaded glass and handcrafted woodwork in most Marin County brown shingle homes.
One of the county's prized examples of the brown shingle home can be found in San Raphael. The Erskine B. McNear House was designed by architect Brainerd Jones in the late 1800s. A strong influence in California's Arts and Crafts scene at the start of the 20th century, Jones drew upon a number of styles in his design for the McNear house. Though a clear example of the Brown Shingle, elements of Colonial Revival, California bungalow and British Arts and Crafts are also visible in the structure.