Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Architectural design element: carved stone door surrounds

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I sometimes wonder if living in Washington DC as a child planted the seed for my love of beautiful, classic architecture.  When I visited my sister in June, my first trip to her ‘new’ house in DC, I was struck with the character of the homes in the area (many of which are embassies).  In particular I noticed the abundance of stone door entrances in some of the city houses – the areas that surround and frame the front doors, in the form of door surrounds, porticos, and casings. 

One of the most magnificent stone door surrounds I saw was on the British Embassy residence, designed by Edwin Lutyens.  Look at the beauty of the carvings in the stone.  This kind of elaborate design is typically only seen in public buildings.

I feel quite certain that this building is an embassy.  The stone portico caught my eye.

The flag and brass plaque give this house away as an embassy.  The simple stone door surround (matched by the casings that surround the windows) has beautiful scale to my amateur eyes.

I believe this is a private residence.   I was struck my the beautiful and elaborate door surround, punctuated by columns and a keystone at the arch. I love the that the mullions of the windows are painted black.

Stone door surrounds are a time honored tradition, and very long lasting.  This home, built in the early 20th century, has a timeless feel with the patina of the stucco and the beauty of the stone door surround. Note the face carved into the stone…I wonder who it is?

Atlanta is filled with wonderful examples of stone door surrounds, particularly ones that are made of limestone.  This home, built in the 1920s, has striking limestone accents on its front, but the grand ‘Buckhead’ green door with its limestone door surround is the focal point, and has aged so beautifully.  Stone imparts a weight and heft to a door surround that would be difficult to achieve with another material, but it only appropriate for certain styles of houses.

A home with an exterior of stone, accented by a limestone door surround that has a very French style.

James from Limestone & Boxwoods alerted me to the limestone door surround of this house being built in the Brookhaven area of Atlanta.  Note how the side walls of the limestone door surround are carved to emulate the lines of the antique door.

The stone door surround (and window casings) makes this 1920s  Tudor style formal and elegant.

I featured this charming home on my blog earlier in the year. The striking limestone door surround is the focal point of the tailored front of this house.   Architecture by Norman Askins and Stan Dixon.

A French Normandy style house in Atlanta has a charming rusticated limestone door surround that works beautifully with the Tennessee fieldstone exterior. Architecture by Pak Heydt & Associates.

Lutyens inspired limestone entry arches, in a project by Pak-Heydt & Associates architects. Source.

Another Pak-Heydt project used Texas limestone to achieve the correct color balance. Source.

This Yong Pak renovation was featured in Southern Accents in 2005; a reader sent the article to me for another reason, but I immediately noticed the beautiful and subtle limestone door surround paired with charming lanterns.  I love the color palette of this house.

Atlanta residential designer Bill Baker is quite well known for his love of limestone as a defining element in the facade of a home.  This house, featured on my blog earlier this year, has exquisite details in the limestone carvings, and the initials of the homeowners are carved into the door surround.

A limestone portico is one of the defining elements of a 1930s house that was recently renovated in Atlanta.  Residential designer Bill Baker transformed the house into charming Regency style. 

A stone portico was recently added to a house that is being renovated in Buckhead right now; the addition of the portico has transformed the appearance of the house.  Architecture by Spitzmiller & Norris.

Architect Stan Dixon seems to have a fondness for the elegance that limestone adds to a house. He used a clean lined door surround to a 1950s ranch house that was renovated several years ago. 

The stunning house in Atlanta that I featured in my last post (Before and after: a magazine cover house) has a limestone door surround, with a keystone accent.  Stan Dixon, the architect of this home, designed the house that I am building, and we will have a limestone door surround that will be the focal point of the front of the house.   It will be a simple and clean lined design – but will add a nice touch of elegance to the house.

Mediterranean Masterpiece - Before Entry[1] Mediterranean Masterpiece - Front Yard[1]
Finally, a great before and after showing the impact that a limestone door surround has on a house.  Before – on the left – a Mediterranean style 1920s house in Atlanta.  After, on the right, the house after it was renovated.  The structure of the front stays the same, but the balconies were removed, and a limestone door surround was added.  I think it ‘makes’ the house.  Architecture by Rodolfo Castro (project architect, while he was with Summerour & Associates).  Source: Limestone & Boxwoods.

Do you see stone door surrounds or porticos in your neck of the woods? I had no idea how widely used they were in Atlanta until I really started noticing.  I am not surprised though; many of the homes in certain areas of Atlanta reflect a more classical and elegant style of architecture, and stone door surrounds work beautifully with this style.

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  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I like how they can range from simple/understated to exagerated/over-scaled (e.g. "The Villa") and still be just right for the house. I imagine that every architect wants to to do the next a one-of-a-kind entrance. All in the budget of course. Everybody can see the front door. Only a few will ever see the living room.

    I'm glad you keep your eye pealed for great places in Atlanta.

  3. Lovely post. The grand old houses of Atlanta are a continued treat for the eye. It's easy to take them for granted.

  4. Atlanta has some of the most beautiful homes. I was in Birmingham last week and happened to be in Mountain Brook. There are some of the beautiful homes there. I must say there are some talented designers out there!
    Thanks for sharing such beautiful work.

  5. beautiful piece. everything about the fourth image is right for me....the door surround, the muted colors, the iron work. a lovely treat. thank you.

  6. My favorite is the simple stone surround with the single arch top stained wood door. Very simple, very French, very elegant.

  7. Went back and looked one more time. It was the 7th image. Yep, that's my favorite. I also love the stone wall with the large finials and the box woods. Probably like the stone because it's the same stone we used on our house. Mona

  8. I have always loved looking at all the ornate details of classic architecture. It always amazes me that they can carve/form all of these pediments, casings, and columns out of stone! Great Post, Atlanta has amazing examples of any type of architecture you will ever want to see!

  9. Excellent, excellent post. As you know, limestone is one of my favorite architectural elements - in many forms. Limestone door surrounds, though, are the defining element of most of the homes I'm drawn to and my absolute favorite element. They make the house. I can't believe that place in DC. I'm not going to be able to sleep tonight. I'm already ruminating...

  10. I was just noticing this in Cape May's a town filled with Victorian architecture. Most houses have porches, but I was noticing that those that don't really use the portico. Simple and beautiful.

  11. Great points Terry. You always have great perspective.

  12. The stone door surround on the Swan House is beautiful.
    You can see it here:

    Love all of these images! Thanks Holly.

  13. I love this post! It's a really great collection of Atlanta Limestone surrounds, but I love knowing what peaked your interest. Growing up in DC obviously had a wonderful impact on the elements you love so much. Wonderful post.

  14. Holly, Are you familiar with The Institute of Classical Architecture ???? You would be a perfect fit. I would be happy to send you contact info. This was a terrific post, thank you. Helen

  15. Holly,
    What a great post! Beautiful architectural elements! I so enjoyed it! You might always give more of it!
    Thank you so much for sharing!

  16. Thank you for helping me take notice of these surrounds--I don't think I'll ever view the front of a house in the same way! One question, what is "Buckhead Green", the color painted on the fabulous door? We have a "Mountain Brook" green here in Birmingham and I wonder if it is the same?

  17. I have always loved stone door surrounds but living in Southern California in a smallish tract house this is a luxury I will have to dream about but never own. Still, thank you for sharing these beautiful images---I can add them to my dream sequence. :-)

  18. I believe the 2nd one down isn't an embassy but a condo building. I'm pretty sure anyway. Love seeing my neighborhood on your blog!

  19. Wow, what a condo building!

    Buckhead green - I have always heard this color used for a dark, dark green that is so dark it sometimes looks black.

  20. Awesome photographs! Each and everyone of those stone door surrounds is just out of this world, so ornate, grand and just truly remarkable. Wonderful post, thank you for sharing.


  21. My favourite - Sand stone and glossy black or dark green. Paned windows and oversized doors.
    Great images!!!

  22. Thanks, a great posting. For me as well it has always been about the sense of approach.

    I read every post. Keep it up!


  23. Thanks for another beautiful blog, Holly!
    I also grew up in D.C., (on Capitol Hill, though.) The house we lived in had been a hospital during the Civil War, and I always imagined that Walt Whitman had cared for soldiers there--the romantic in me! It had twelve foot ceilings, I remember, and an enormous sliding door (original to the house) between the foyer and the library. When I was thirteen, we had to sell it, and the buyer tore it down :( I would have polished it up, if I could have. It stood on a lot which now contains three rowhouses. Anyway, all that by way of saying Washington D.C. was a magical city in which to grow up! I didn't live around the magnificent embassy homes, but I was always struck by the dignity of the architecture, too. I could see the Capitol from my window!

  24. I love them all!!! My front door needs something around it, but probably wood detailing. Love how it finishes it off so beautifully.


  25. Beautiful Images. The detail around some of these doors is amazing. Thanks for sharing them.

  26. What a wonderful first impression.A beautiful post as usual. I love it when you include Washington DC...Thanks for sharing.

  27. All beautiful! I am also in the process of designing my own home, and a stone door surround has been on the front elevation from the start!

  28. Ah, D.C. I lived in that area for awhile and would pass by all those gorgeous homes and buildings everday on my way to work - it was a great way to start the day! Such great memories. Thanks for sparking them!

  29. I love stone surrounds! We definitely have them here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, mainly in the more historical neighborhoods. Great pictures! Thanks for sharing.

  30. You know how we get on little riffs in the blogosphere? I'm on a Lutyens riff, so the neo-Georgian door grabbed me. Come visit our Nieuw Neo Georgian house! Liz

  31. Great images - I love the look of door surrounds - wooden or stone. I must admit that the large, ornate limeston surrounds are to die for.

  32. Lovely post! Many SF apartment buildings have gorgeous stone surrounds. Our simple rancher does not :-(


  33. These are homes I am so drawn to. Gorgeous every one!

  34. As the saying goes "the eyes are the windows to the soul", I always say, "doors are the entrance to the soul of a home". I truly believe a beautiful doorway and entrance sets the tone for the entire house! Thanks for your fabulous post... loved it!

  35. Lovely collection of snapshots which remind me of a trip to Atlanta and the Swan House awhile ago.

  36. A great series. You always make me think about details, that in the back of my mind I always knew I loved, but never understood why.

  37. This is an amazing post. So detailed and thorough. I loved reading about the door surrounds and seeing all of your beautiful photos.

  38. The entrances to those homes are true architectural experiences. I wish that more homes would be designed with a little more love and forethought today.


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