This might be my personal favorite style, bringing back memories of Paris one summer while I was a student in architecture, the French Country style has a romance that cannot be captured elsewhere. Let's delve into the details.
When I think of French Country, I think of elegant, graceful French fashion models who are tall and slender but with panache. The proportions are the key to this style. I like to start with the windows. My favorite is a 3’ by 6’ window with a 2 over 2 mutton window pattern. The single vertical mullion in the window further reinforces the tall proportion of the style. I like an arch on top of the window – with the window itself or simply the trim. Adding a trim to the top and bottom or the window and omitting the side trim further enhances the vertical aspect of the windows.
This is an elegant style that embraces asymmetry; like a dress that provocatively showcases one shoulder. Elegant, graceful and maybe just a little sexy.
Roofs are primarily steeply pitched hips. In many markets, as high as 10/12 or 12/12. In low roof pitch markets, maybe 7/12 is as high as you can get. Builders looking to achieve a steep-pitched look more affordably can try a dual-pitch roof like 6/12 front to back and 8/12 side to. Remember to punctuate the hip roofs with a well-placed gable roof, especially at the entry. Or, if you’re doing all hips, try raising a hip roof over the entry to create roof bounce.
Exterior materials vary from stucco, brick, or stone – either by themselves or together – but I caution against using all three in one house. In markets where stucco is not acceptable, try a light colored brick or a painted brick. Board and batten siding combined with stone is also a nice look. The vertical orientation of the siding reinforces the proportions of the style.
When combining materials like brick and stone – be careful. It is easy to go very wrong here. I recommend letting one material take the lead and the other in a supporting role. In other words, pick one material that is quiet and let the other material be more dominate. Picking two busy or loud patterns is like sitting on an airplane between two loud passengers both talking on their cell phones at the same time. You end up not understanding either one - I have a headache just thinking about it! I’ve also seen the opposite where the two materials are too similar in color or texture. While the result of this combination is less disastrous, it’s what I call a “why bother”.
The style can support both warm and cool body tones, but not at the same time. I like to start with the masonry material and build my colors around those since their colors are more restricted than paint or siding. Remember, if you’re not using two materials, add animation with two paint tones.
So – who is drawn to this style? Someone who’s not afraid of their “inner fashion model”. Someone who loves the elegance and the flair of the style and isn’t afraid to show it! The French Country style can be a beautiful addition to just about any streetscape!