What Makes a Chalet?

A year ago, we wrote a post on the features that make up a lodge. Like lodge, chalet is an old word whose meaning has evolved considerably over time. The word comes from the Indo-European root cala, which means shelter. For much of its history, chalet did not mean much more than that, usually indicating a dwelling that a herder lived in while tending to his summertime pastures. Eventually, the chalet became a specific style of home in Switzerland and Savoy.

This Real Log Home in Italy is a classic Swiss chalet.

This Swiss chalet, as it is also known, has an appearance that instantly evokes our images of the Alps. The exterior of the building is made of wood, so naturally a Real Log Home is a perfect choice for those wishing to build a chalet. The roof has a gentle pitch, so it must also be quite heavy in order to support snow loads. The chalet is also a gablefront design, rather than the more typical side-gabled design. The traditional chalet also has wide eaves to shed water away from the foundation of the house.

This Vermont home, with its gablefront roof and multiple window styles, draws heavily from the Swiss chalet.

While the Swiss chalet is popular in its own right, the term chalet has been expanded to encompass a much wider variety of home styles. Over the years, North American usage has expanded the term to encompass many varieties of vacation homes. Typically, chalet can refer to any home in a mountain setting or near a ski resort. It may also be used to refer to homes away from mountains if they are built in an Alpine style. Those from Quebec may take the term the furthest, using it to refer to any vacation home.

Although a large building, Jesse’s Restaurant in Lebanon, NH is a great Real Log Chalet.

While the use of chalet has grown to encompass quite a few disparate architectural styles, we feel there are a few aspects of the Swiss chalet definition all chalets should have. Obviously, we believe a chalet should be constructed of wood. While stone foundation details are acceptable, it’s just not a chalet without real wood walls and rafters. Also, a chalet can have a cross-gable design if desired, but the front gable should feature prominently in the appearance of the home. We also think the varied window style of the Swiss chalet is a unique feature worth keeping.

This New York Real Log Home draws from both chalet and farmhouse styles.

If you’re looking to build a chalet of your own, whether in the traditional Swiss style or with a more modern touch, please contact Real Log Homes today. Our designers will work with you to create your ideal, log home chalet.