With a simple and ancient palette of materials--brick, tile, wood, iron, and slate--architect-builder Carr Jones conjured inimitable homes of lyrical beauty. An expert mason, Jones acted much like the “master builder” of medieval times--designing, constructing, and even fabricating much of the hardware on his houses. This Oakland residence designed in 1928 boasts his trademark arched entrance and curving walls. The home’s roof, with its field of slate edged by clay barrel tiles, recalls a technique common in rural France, where it was used to help prevent leaks at this most susceptible juncture.
Slate roofing is made from a sedimentary stone called schist, which naturally cleaves along well defined parallel layers; along with thatch, it is a favorite roofing materials of vernacular European architecture. Though its use dates back to the Middle Ages, it was largely restricted to the immediate regions in which it was quarried. With the advent of better transportation in the nineteenth century, however, slate quickly made inroads in both Europe and Britain as a replacement for fire-prone thatch.
Jones and other architects prized slate for its natural character and texture--qualities that were further emphasized by the rustic manner in which it was installed. Unlike the carefully squared and aligned slates seen on straight revival style homes of the era, Storybook Style cottages often boasted randomly-sized slates set in exaggeratedly misaligned patterns. In short, the less regular, the better. Many builders also followed the rural European practice of placing the largest slates from random-sized shipments on the lower courses, graduating to smaller pieces toward the ridge.