Swiss Chalet houses are typically square or rectangular in plan, two-and-a-half stories high, have low pitched roofs with front gables, and wide eaves supported by decorative brackets. Some houses were built entirely of wood. Others are brick, stone, or stucco with wood upper floors, or brick with stucco upper floors. On early chalets, wood siding—both vertical and horizontal—is ornately carved and often painted. Also characteristic is a decorative treatment of boards integrated with siding material that appears to expose post-and-beam construction. The ends of rafters and purlins (structural members that are part of the roof support system) are generally exposed and are sometimes carved and painted, Front porches were often featured on later examples of the style, which are otherwise less elaborate than the highly decorative earlier homes.


The Swiss Chalet style, never widespread in the United States, appears to have enjoyed some celebrity in Cincinnati. The American version of the style was derived from the Swiss cottage form traditional among Alp-dwellers for hundreds of years. It is publicized by Andrew Jackson Downing in The Architecture of Country Houses (1850), a best-selling stylebook that did much to popularize other romantic styles such as the Gothic Revival.