How to Connect Earth and Sky With a Roof Design

By Bud Dietrich, Houzz

There are so many important functions for a roof. Though its primary purposes may be to shed water and protect us from the elements, a well thought-out roof does so much more. It can tether us to the landscape or let us soar up and away. And the best roofs can do both at the same time.

Roofs can also act as platforms and foils for chimneys and cupolas and weather vanes and all that other stuff we may have up there. And roofs can become terraces, lifting us above it all.

From the classic inverted “V” of a gable roof to the flat slab, roofs come in a variety of shapes and forms. The gable roof of the farmhouse relays a different story than the ground-hugging hip roof of the prairie style. And the seemingly non-existent roof of a modernist house tells us a different story altogether.


prairie style home with triangular roofline

Hoedemaker Pfeiffer, original photo on Houzz

Some roofs both hug the land and reach for the sky. This roof aspires to what’s above while, like a tent, it is tethered to the broad prairie. The absence of a shadow at the gable ends emphasizes the simple geometry of the roof shape. And the thin slit-like shed dormer is like an eye half open, not quite awake nor asleep.

Related: Store More in a Shed


brick house connecting earth to sky

Kenny Craft, original photo on Houzz

A simple roof shape can be powerful against all that sky. A minimum of detail in a monochromatic palette keeps us focused on the important stuff, just a simple yet powerful shape that reads all the more clearly against that crisp blue sky.


home with cupola illuminated against night sky

Helios Design Group, original photo on Houzz

A roof can be a platform for a cupola that illuminates the night sky. Whether cupola or chimneys or something else, these elements on the roof continue all that vertical movement, pushing our eye ever upward. Even the ubiquitous and often undersized weather vane can achieve the same effect.


dutch street-scape where wall hides roofline

Tracery Interiors, original photo on Houzz

Sometimes we hide the roof. Here the wall takes over and dominates, like in a Dutch streetscape. Even then, the wall reveals the shape of the roof behind it to continue that upward movement.


home with emphasis on roof, extended v roofline

ZAK Architecture, original photo on Houzz

Sometimes we let the roof take over. We extend the roof beyond the walls and let the sun create deep shadows. And we emphasize the inverted “V” by making it a motif.

Related: Enhance Indoor-Outdoor Connections With Comfortable and Stylish Patio Furniture


home with flat, modernist roof

Hanrahan Meyers Architects, original photo on Houzz

The flat, modernist roof keeps us anchored. Our spatial experience is all horizontal or Euclidean. It’s as if the sky no longer matters.