Friday, January 9, 2009

French Inspired Houses (aka, My Dream Home 2009)

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In January of last year, I did a post on my (then) favorite style of architecture, Georgian with Adams influence. So many of the house pictures in my inspiration files are Georgian, and I still love and appreciate this style. However, as much as I love Georgian style homes, over the past year I have found myself gravitating to homes with a French influence. It seems like more of a natural fit given the elements I like on the inside of a house: tall, large windows and doors, a light filled interior, high ceilings, and a neutral palette.

This is the house that was a turning point for me. I first saw it early last year on a Dallas realtor site, and just found it again on a new blog, Period Homes. I love everything about this beautiful house - the soft colors, the gray slate roof, the symmetry, the path to the front door, the wonderful proportions, the rounded dormer windows in the roof. It was built in 1929, yet its classic form is still beautiful in 2009. Also, it is not a dramatic departure from the Georgian homes I posted last year. I don't really see too many homes like this in my area of Atlanta; many of the two story French style homes in Buckhead seem to be much larger and much grander than this.

Although it sounds like my interest in French inspired homes suddenly formed sometime over the past year, in truth I have had an interest in French style architecture for years. I remember seeing this picture (above) in the Betty Lou Phillips book 'Provencal Interiors', and thinking it was beautiful. This is the back of a home designed by architect A. Hays Town of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. A. Hays Town was called the "premier architect of the South" in his day.

I did a post of French Normandy architecture early in 2008 (picture above is from this post, Pak Heydt Architects), so already the interest in French architecture was getting reignited. As I learned while writing both the post on Normandy architecture and this post, French inspired architecture is an incredibly broad category. It is nearly impossible to categorize French style because it is so diverse.

So, what kind of French homes are inspiring me now? The ones I am noticing in Atlanta are 1 1/2 story symmetrical renovations; this style seems to be in vogue in the most established part of Atlanta. Many older red brick ranch and Georgian style homes are being painted white or cream (mostly one story houses, but some two story houses), large shutters and new front doors are being added, roofs are being reshaped, and large gas lanterns are being hung. The home pictured above was a 1960s ranch that was taken down to the studs and redone to a high standard; I was able to see the inside of this home when it was on the market last year, and it was eye opening how nice and fresh a well done renovation could look and feel.

Here is another high quality renovation, this time of a 1950s ranch home. I was able to go in this home many years ago on a tour of homes, and thought of it when I was writing this post. I love the shutters on the front and the rounded dormers on the roof, and the small round windows on the wings of the house.

I recently found another superbly done renovation in the French style (pictured above; one picture is the professional version (used with permission), the other is my iphone picture). It is a renovation of a 1950 ranch house, and the architect is Stan Dixon. This project won the prestigious Shutze Award (named for Philip Trammell Shutze, one of Atlanta's finest 20th century architects) in 2008 for a residence under 4,000 square feet. According to the notes for this house, it was a prime candidate for French provincial style given the existing home already had a steep pitched hip roof and French doors across the front. Among the many changes that were implemented were custom doors and windows designed and proportioned to reflect the French style, a new limestone entry portico, new dormer windows, and a dining pavilion in the front of the home. The inside of the house was taken down to the studs and renovated as well.

Here is a close up of the home. Architect Stan Dixon pays close attention to scale and proportion when designing his homes, and even the smallest of details are superb and historically accurate. I love the lanterns flanking the door, and the shape of the French door on the dining pavilion.

Another renovated house in Atlanta, done in French style. Many of the renovated French style homes I see have a central structure, then two symmetrical wings that jut out from the house. This house was always French inspired style (built in the 1960s) , and the architect who drew up the plans for the renovation redid the windows and emphasized the French elements already there. The landscaping was also redone to emphasize the French style.

This home is in an Atlanta neighborhood built in the 1960s, and most of the lots in this neighborhood are wide and at least 1 acre. Most of the original homes were a designed in a gracious ranch style, and many recent renovations in this neighborhood have a French flair to them.

This home was designed by James Means, many of whose greatest homes were designed in Atlanta in the 1950s and 1960s. The home is in the same neighborhood as the one in the previous picture. Means got his start working with another great Atlanta architect, Neel Reid, and worked at the same firm as Philip Shutze. This completely renovated home was on the market last year, and sold for $3.5 million. I wish I had saved more pictures from the listing! I remember that the cabinets in the kitchen were a beautiful blue-gray.

I pass by this home sometimes when walking my dog. This French style house is not very big, but it is charming.

This, on the other hand, is a new French style home in Atlanta that is enormous! It recently sold in the $5 million range. The landscape architects who worked on this property are among the best in Atlanta.

Another home in Atlanta that underwent a complete renovation, with the result being a charming French style home. I love the back of this house: 5 sets of French doors, and two small wings that make a 'U' shape to the house. I also love the rounded dormers on the roof in the front and back. I couldn't imagine having a back yard like this, though, with young children! Image courtesy DeLany Rossetti Construction.

This is the kind of lush Buckhead front yard that Tom Wolfe wrote about in his book A Man in Full. The home, built in 1955, was a standard ranch with a low roof. The current owners did a complete renovation; the height of the roof was increased and dormer windows were added, the front was redone, the windows lengthened and large shutters were installed. The result is a charming French style home.

This is new home designed by architect Stan Dixon. It is described as an 'elegantly proportioned French Country home', and is nestled in the midst of homes built in the 1920s through 1940s. It looks right at home in the neighborhood, a testament to the classic design and style of the home.

If I had to pick one, this is my favorite. It is more formal than the other homes I have shown, but I love the look of it. The elements I like are all in place: neutral color scheme, steep roof with arched dormer windows. I realize that many of the pictures in this post have those little wings on the side, which surprises me. This house has them too. I have watched this house being renovated for over two years (Pak-Heydt were the architects); the original house was also French in style, but quite a few changes were made to the roofline and the look of the house. It sits on a 3.2 acre piece of property, and is actually quite large; the house is U shaped with large wings off the back, plus a large garage to the left (visible if you look closely).

As you can see, French influenced style is quite prevalent in Buckhead, perhaps because so many older ranch homes "in-town" are renovated and lend themselves to this style. The cost of land is so high in Buckhead, and the property taxes are so high, that financially it often makes much more sense to renovate rather than tear down. I can't help but wonder if I gravitate to this because it is what I see so much around town. Or, maybe it is just what I notice; Buckhead has a tremendous diversity in home styles.

Do you ever see this style where you live? If you like this style too, which house is your favorite?

I started out 2008 with a love of Georgian homes, and am starting out 2009 with a preference for 1 1/2 story French eclectic symmetrical homes. Upon reflection, I am gravitating to houses that are not too big, but are very well done . It makes me wonder what 2009 will hold?

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  1. Wow, you know your French style homes in ATL...great post...enjoyed the tour! I love joy riding through the Buckhead area, especially when I'm on a garden tour, and just ogling the wonderful homes. I'd like to do the Catherdral of St. Philip Home Tour one day...forgot what it's called. I hear it has some wonderful homes on there each year, many in the Buckhead area. My main interest are the historic homes. :-) Susan

  2. Susan, I have been collecting these house images for years! I have a file on my computer called 'house-exteriors' that is a treasure trove of beautiful homes from real estate listings, blog posts, my own snap shots from my walks around Buckhead.

    I will admit, though, that I took two pictures this morning on the way home from dropping the kids at school - homes that I had to include in this post, but did not have pictures of!

    Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Merci for the tour! Lovely homes...this style is so easy to love!

    Gives me hope that my own ranch style home may be transformed as well someday!

  4. When we first started emailing -you told me you didn't really go for French!! remember! my favorites might be that little one on your dog route and the brand new one towards the end. the houses in Atlanta are so beautiful! great post, loved it.

  5. When I was little, I always loved to drive down (I think) Blackland Drive off Northside Drive... after you cross over Paces Ferry a mile or so....

    Some gorgeous houses...I grew up on West Wesley Road...

  6. They are all beautiful but the first one is by far by favorite. it has an understated elegance that is completely timeless.

  7. I love the littlest house the most! Very cute! That huge one right after it is a bit much. They are all quite something!

  8. What beautiful homes and set in such generous surroundings (appears to be) - thank you for the great post and I loved looking around Atlanta, xv.

  9. Ok, you are killing me with these beautiful homes! I poured over this post, it was perfection! Thank you~

  10. This post was a labor of love, it took me much longer than I anticipated, but I enjoyed every minute of it! I am glad you guys liked it.

  11. thanks for the yummy photos , i loved the 3rd house down. i too think french homes are the best!!
    ck out our blog
    thanks again

  12. Beautiful post, we also have a lot of French inspired homes here

  13. the rounded dormer windows are my favorite!

  14. My favorite is the little french house you pass on your dog walk! Somehow when the houses get too large, they loose me. They start to look a little mcmansionish. They're all beautiful though!

  15. Sarah -- I always appreciate the work of , Pak Heydt!

    Just wanted to say thanks for the "gilding" tip you left over at style court. Happy weekend.

  16. THIS is your neighbourhood!!!!???? Wow! I could have sworn I was in France. All so beautiful. A-M xx

  17. Most of these pictures are from the Buckhead area of Atlanta, which is often called 'the jewel of the city'. It is a large area with lots of little neigborhoods within it, and it is home to some of the most beautiful real estate in the area. Atlanta is quite unique in that it is a big city, yet there are many 1-10 acre lots within city limits. Many of these homes are in the older, more established parts of Buckhead. None are from my neighborhood, but I drive by many of them everyday!

  18. I can see why you would love this style of home. They are all so charming. I love the high pitched roof detail as well as the windows with shutters and all of those charming dormers. I think the last one is lovely.
    It truly is a perfect match for your more French inspired interiors.

    I find myself constantly changing my favorite style of home as well. Our present home is a white shingle style beach house (16 blocks from the beach!), but I seem to be gravitating towards Swedish and French inspired homes recently.

    I also enjoyed my visit to the Period Home blog. Thank you for the link.


  19. So beautiful!!! I was justin ATL but didn't have the chance to make it down to Buckhead. I love all of the older homes in that area. I love the French style home. You don't see much of that where I live (outside of chicago).
    I do love the little quaint one though .. it is so sweet.

    ps- thanks for the info. on the bunk beds. Didn't even think about Ethan Allen. I'll have to look into that.

  20. You can tell this post was a labor of love. It's amazing how many of those Buckhead homes are very similar. I've never been there, so thanks for the fun tour.

  21. Beautiful homes and I always learn so much from your blog!

    My favorite French home is Monet's home in Giverny...a little more rustic. What would you call the style? Love the colors inside and out, the texture, the scale, the connection with the gardens. Any home for me must have an indoor/outdoor flow or I just feel off balance.

  22. All of these homes are exquisite!

    I would love to give you more details on the house I posted and can also send you the floor plan. E-mail me at palomascontreras@hotmail.com when you have a chance. :)

  23. Really inspiring because my husband & I always take walks around my parents' 50s neighborhood & try to think of ways to improve upon the houses. (We hope to buythere next year) The interiors are often really liveable with really blah exteriors. Some of the houses could definitely go in this direction & I'm loving the ranch redos you've shown. Thanks!

  24. These houses are so beautiful. The first one reminds me of the kind of dollhouse most little girls would love to have.
    I'm mad about dormer windows (so much so, I posted about them not that long ago), and we don't see them all that often here in Australia, so this post is a special treat!
    Oh and thanks for visiting my blog - I see that you have a soft spot for redheads too!

  25. Great collection of photos; I recognized a few from my drives through the leafy Buckhead neighborhoods. The Stan Dixon projects are my favorites. They were on the smaller side of your collection so the width to height proportions are more pleasing to my eye.

  26. Oh I so enjoyed this wonderful post. Thank you! I used to live in Buckhead but now reside in Dunwoody.

    You probably are already aware, but The Cathedral of St. Philip home tour is on the 25th and 26th of this month.

  27. The first house is my favorite as it looks just like my childhood home in Wilmington, NC. I do like the French style homes, but most seem out of place over here...
    Great post, loved the collection of houses.

  28. Fabulous post! What an amazing collection of French inspired homes - how great that you are surrounded by such gorgeous style! Its hard to pick a favourite but I love the house that is U shaped around that gorgeous large pool! Tracey x

  29. What a great post! I'm in Atlanta, and I recognize a lot of the houses - and the architects. I've been a fan of Pak Heydt for years, although I think the second, smaller Stan Dixon house is probably my favorite of the images posted. Thanks for the virtual tour.

  30. I hope you've seen the Neel Reid house 1348 Fairview Road in Druid Hills. Pictures don't do it justice: the gentlest shutter color in Atlanta, I think.

    It's in the middle of this page Druid Hills Homes by Joseph Neel Reid

  31. Stunning homes! I have always loved when homes wrap around the pool!

  32. Loved, loved seeing these gorgeous and ever so timeless homes! Thanks for the tour! I have a friend who lives in Buckhead and the next time I visit, I want to see some of these for myself! I loved the charming one , too, that you pictured from your dog walks. Just Perfect!

  33. Hi! I'm so glad I found you through Susan, Georgia blogger Friends! I live in Acworth and have always loved driving through buckhead to see the homes!
    Your blog is such tasty eye candy. Will surely be back for another visit!

  34. Oh these are just jaw-dropping!!!! Looks like some of the homes I've seen off Paces Ferry Rd, in Atlanta.

  35. Oh, yes, Buckhead...I love them all, Georgian & French style homes. I grew up in Marietta & as most of us did, enjoyed driving through Buckhead to drool at the beautiful old homes.

    I'm pretty sure I've been by your blog before, but thank you for stopping by via Eddie. I will always love Atlanta & it will always be home, even though it's gotten a bit too big for me. I really enjoy living in B'ham now.

  36. So, so beautiful! Amazing this is Atlanta - it seems another world.

  37. I love these! I am a French Country girl myself, meaning that I adore it, not that I live it. These houses are perfection, thank you so much for sharing your stash with us!

  38. I love the facade of each of these houses. They are so lovely and yes most of them a little huge for my taste and affordability...so if I were to pick one of those for my inspiration...I'll chose the smallest one but certainly not the dullest looking.

  39. It's interesting that so many of you prefer the small home that is on my dog walk route. This home is about 10 years old, not a renovation. I think it is rare for new homes in Buckhead to be created so purposely small; given the price of the land, most new homes are at least two stories and as large as the lot will allow! I love that this builder/home owner created a home like this, although this house is on a small lot so perhaps the builder/architect thought that the scale worked for the lot. I think it does.

    Several of you have emailed me about these homes. Most of the renovation projects were built in the 50s and 60s, in very prime areas of town, and on lots that are at least 1 acre. It seems like things were done quite differently then; small and detailed was more in vogue. I would rather live in a small house that is of exquisite quality and has just enough space than a 12,000 sf McMansion that emphasizes size over detail and quality! Perhaps that is why I am so attracted to these houses. I actually remember seeing one of these houses a few years ago and not liking it, so I think I am adapting based on my new preference for small but nice.

  40. I enjoyed your second year of dream home photos! So fun to see how our tastes evolve! I never thought I would be in a new home in 09, but here I am!

    I have been catching up on your posts, I missed a few during my move! :-)

    Happy day,

  41. love a classic french style home!

  42. What a great post. I live in Buckhead and drive by all the houses you describe. I'll be taking a closer look now!

  43. Isn't it amazing how our taste changes with time, experience and stage of family development. When the children were at home, I wanted 90% of my Dream Home to be an indoor swimming pool with retractable roof. To keep the place clean of dirt and child-mess, I wanted to do nothing more than sluice the house down with a hose.

    Now I just want elegance and comfort. Thanks for your link and for your fine photos

    Art and Architecture, mainly

  44. If interested, you can see the interior of the house above that was designed by architect A. Hays Town on zillow.com (address: 6257 Highland Rd., Baton Rouge, LA).

    Here is a link that might be helpful:


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