tsweigart

Exterior choices for French Country

tsweigart
August 25, 2018

We are designing a home in the valley/country area of a mountain town. What type of exterior can we go with, besides stucco, to achieve a French Country look? I'd like to go with a color like SW Alabaster and dark stained beams and shutters. Also, we have to do asphalt shingles instead of wood or metal for the roof. Should these be light or dark? Thanks in advance.

Comments (44)

  • PRO
    Sophie Wheeler

    Is the house near the French Alps? If not, then why aren’t you building a vernacular style more suited to your actual physical location? What does your architect recommend for cladding?

  • PRO
    Beth H. :

    what's wrong w/stucco? throw in some masonry, and the right elements and it will work. but you have brick, or stone/rock, combination. Who's building the home, plan-wise? don't they have a recommendation?











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  • beckysharp Reinstate SW Unconditionally

    Is this the Atlanta or Houston version of French country? If so, I'd look through the Cote de Texas blog for ideas.

    Is this a country house in France version? Like this?

    Or given your location in the mountains, are you looking for a French chalet style?

  • tsweigart

    We are surrounded by mountains, but are located on the flats in the farmland and would rather tap into the "country" influence more than the chalet style mountain influence. Local style is divided between large log homes by the lake and old historic farmhouses on the flats. We are building a single story with an open gable design. The roof has a fairly steep pitch. Even when adding elements of stone, wood, and shutters the renderings lean more towards farmhouse when doing lap siding. I would love to do stucco but we are using steel framing and were advised against it. Our architect wants to do board and batten.

  • PRO
    Mark Bischak, Architect

    Perhaps board & batten is a good solution.

  • beckysharp Reinstate SW Unconditionally

    I think seeing your elevations and knowing what region of the country you're in would be helpful for anyone trying to offer suggestions.

  • tsweigart

    Sophie, we actually have a lot of local architecture that reflects the style I'm looking for. The problem is- they have all utilized stucco in some form. I'm just wondering if anybody's seen it pulled off without using the stucco. I completely agree with you as far as building something suited to the area in which we live. There's just a really strange mix going on here. All the houses down the road, as you get closer to the ski resort, really do look like homes in the Alps. Thanks for replying, I respect your opinions.

  • tsweigart

    Becky, we're definitely going for more of a cottage feel than a French chalet.

  • tsweigart

    Mark, what makes you form that opinion?

  • tsweigart

    I'm looking for something a little like this- doing stone along the front, but then I'm not sure what to do with the rest, especially high up on the gables

  • dan1888

    http://imiweb.org/09-080-0101-stucco-assembly-sheathed-construction-steel-framing/

    Show this to your architect and get his opinion and basis for no stucco. Ask about adding exterior insulation. And you see homes with stone all the way up the gables.

    tsweigart thanked dan1888
  • David Cary

    Are you forced to do steel framing? I find it hard to believe that you can't find a way to do stucco with the steel. I would think exterior insulation would be very important regardless of cladding if you use steel framing.

  • Anna (6B/7A in MD)

    If you choose to do stone “along the front” then it would be more believable as a stone house if you do all sides in stone.

  • allison0704

    What about a heavy mortar wash (one that covers a tumbled brick, and no brick color shows through)? I agree about not just doing stone on the front, as that just comes off as you couldn't afford to do stone elsewhere. You could do stone up to the water table all the way around the house instead.

    Have you looked at Jack Arnold (Tulsa, OK architect)? Beautiful homes. We used him to build an English cottage. His original plan showed board and batten, but with mud daubers and carpenter bees, we did stone and mortar wash with cedar beams.

    In what zone are you located?

    Our current home is concrete and steel with metal wall studs. The exterior is sandstone with limestone around the doors/windows. It hasn't moved in its 32yrs, so why does he say no stucco?

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    "...I'm looking for something a little like this- doing stone along the front..."

    Something doesn't make sense. You have an architect, but apparently aren't listening to him. Your builder says don't use stucco, because the house is steel framed.

    I assume the builder is saying that because he fears stucco will crack, and perhaps moisture and freeze-thaw cycles will cause the stucco to deteriorate.

    If that's the case, then the grout of stone walls is notorious for cracking, and the moisture and freeze-thaw will certainly affect it.

    You need some more explanation and advise from your architect and builder. Folks here can't crowd-source a good answer for you, since none of us understand your specific situation.

    Good luck on your project.

  • PRO
    Mark Bischak, Architect

    My opinion is formed upon ignorance, and the assumption that the architect has vastly more knowledge about you and the site and area, and everyone here doesn't even know what country the project is in along with thousands of other bits of information that is needed to provide any worthwhile advice.

    tsweigart thanked Mark Bischak, Architect
  • PRO
    Patricia Colwell Consulting

    To be honest I have no idea what you want . Why not google french country one storey and see if you find something you can post here to give us a clue.

  • tsweigart

    Maybe it will help if I pose the question this way- This house is the closest I could find online to our exterior layout, at least the front elevation. Our roof pitch will be a little steeper. What design elements would you include to make this more French Country? Windows, doors, stone placement, cladding, etc. Thanks for everybody's feedback, I'm sorry I'm being so vague.

  • tsweigart

    Virgil- I don't feel like our architect really understands what we want at this point (we're pretty early on in the process), so I'm trying to go into our next meeting fully prepared by gathering more ideas. Thanks for pointing out the grout issue, I hadn't thought of that. I'll definitely ask about it.

  • tsweigart

    Patricia, I'm just trying to find a French Country style house that is clad in something besides stucco. My google searches have returned nothing and I was seeing if anybody else out there had seen anything. I feel like it might be worth revisiting the stucco issue with the builder.

  • tsweigart

    Allison, I love Jack Arnold's designs. I have run across his homes in my searches. They are beautiful! I will look into the stone and mortar wash, thanks!

  • lake lover

    The photo you posted does not look French Country to me at all. Have you asked architect for French Country and this is what he gave you or have you chosen this design and trying to make it feel French Country?

  • cpartist

    The house you posted is not french country and nothing you do to it will make it so.

  • qam999

    France has many different regions and regional styles, ranging from cold northern areas like Normandy, down to the south and Mediterranean coast. The traditional materials used - other than stucco - include timber, stone, brick, and even tile. About 35% of new residences in France are constructed in brick, for example: https://www.archionline.com/construction-maison/dossier/maison-bois-ou-brique/ It can be very charming. Details are overwhelmingly important.

    http://www.maisons-caractere.com/maison-bourguignonne,0,178.html

  • redsilver

    120-181 is pretty! in your description, maybe this will help you visualize. I really like the stone set without mortar--it looks so neat , and I enjoy the vertical lines of the siding, and I LOVE the eyebrow gable over the entry, dormers, etc. Mortar does crack up. Using a bit of well coordinated stone with no mortar and the siding painted a very similar hue to the stone in softness, in this case, looks very inviting. https://www.dreamhomesource.com/collection/french-country-house-plans-french-provincial-house-plans

    tsweigart thanked redsilver
  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art

    As qam999 rightly points out, "French Country house" is such a vague term, that there's simply no obvious and agreed upon common aesthetic. It's like saying "I want a modern farmhouse", which so many people post and talk about...but there's simply no such thing.


    You can Google "French country house" and you will get a ton of images, but there's little that's appealing (IMO) and there's virtually nothing in common.


    The on-line plan factories and house designers list lots of houses as "French" something or other, but there's simply nothing French about them. These folks use "French" as a marketing term, not an architectural term. In other words, they list half a dozen designs as "French", to sell them to folks who like the term. It's about sales, not architecture.


    Your best bet is to find photos of houses with elements you like, or sit down and think about what is appealing to you about "French" houses...and describe that to your architect. Until you can define it, no one has a good idea what's in your mind, or what makes a true "French country house", since the term is so vague, and France has so many different regional vernaculars, just like the U.S. or any large country with varied climates.


    Good luck on your project.

    tsweigart thanked Virgil Carter Fine Art
  • beckysharp Reinstate SW Unconditionally

    I think what you need to do at this point is to investigate more about steel framing and what a house in your area needs; I would talk to some builders and engineers in your area (or the area where the house will be built, if those are two different places). Once you have that determined, you can then perhaps think about investigating a different architect who is more responsive to your desires.

    As several people have already pointed out here, with so little information, it's virtually impossible for anyone here to provide any useful advice.

    tsweigart thanked beckysharp Reinstate SW Unconditionally
  • tsweigart

    Lake lover and cpartist- this isn't from my architect at all, this is all I could find online that was even relatively close. We inherited family land and need to keep a pretty specific footprint and site(due to the water table) as the house we're tearing down. Our design is a single story with open gables. The roof pitch is fairly steep with tall ridges. I'm looking for design detail ideas to hone in on the French Country style. Thank you for your opinions.

  • tsweigart

    Qam999, thanks for this info!

  • tsweigart

    As usual Virgil, you hit the nail on the head. I'll take your advice and pick some specific things I like and go over them again with my architect. Thanks all!

  • cpartist

    Good luck and looking forward to seeing what your architect comes up with. Please make sure he is an architect and not a glorified draftsman

  • friedajune

    "why aren’t you building a vernacular style more suited to your actual physical location?"

    Sophie Wheeler - David Adler begs to differ. Here are examples of David Adler homes in the french country manor style. Not located in Provence, or outside of Paris, or the French Alps. Located on the North Shore area outside of Chicago, where the topography is Midwest Prairie combined with some ravines from being near Lake Michigan.

    Exquisitely proportioned and detailed.

  • friedajune

    ^^^No stucco. They're all brick. Stucco does not do well in a midwestern climate; not sure about yours.

  • Joe

    Just my two cents but stop googling photos on the web that claim to be the "French countryside" style . Instead, google actual real estate listings in France and see if the esthetic in your mind is what exists in real life and if it is, you'll have excellent examples for your architect.

    tsweigart thanked Joe
  • beckysharp Reinstate SW Unconditionally

    To be fair, though, David Adler, who designed houses from 1911 until his death at age 67 in 1949 and who also enjoyed fox hunting, was working at a very different time with a very different (elevated) budget and very different (elevated) level of workmanship. As the recent book on his work notes, Adler "was one of the most important architects designing homes and estates in the United States during a period known as that of the 'great American house'."

    Fun fact : ) -- apparently Adler failed the architect's exam and never received his license. So his partner had to sign off on Adler's drawings because legally they had to be signed by a registered architect.


  • chisue

    My home isn't 'French' or 'English', but it might be called either -- or neither. It's one story (9' ceilings). Our attic is a future owner's potential second floor, with the addition of dormers. The roof is 10/12 -- blue-grey asphalt that mimics slate. The exterior alternates rough off-white brick (coated red brick) with off-white lightly-troweled stucco. (Projections are entirely one material or the other.) The bluestone chip driveway echoes the roof color.

    We wanted to 'fit in' with our teardown replacement among much larger homes, but we wanted one-floor living.

  • redsilver

    For Fun, only, I looked into the world of 'net for "French Architecture".....Some of the first pictures were the Louvre, and Notre Dame Cathedral. The modern sculpture in front of the Louvre, is about as French as an empty bottle of California wine. I would say, if you HAVE to have a steel frame, you certainly should be able to install a standing seam metal roof or the decorative metal roof that mimics terra cotta tile?? You will not be happy with the expense of trying to find a roofing crew to replace shingles on a steep roof. There are metal roofs that appear to be tile(really) and Country French, --is a metal roof appropriate surely. It makes a home much less susceptible to FIRE also, as does stone or masonary construction on the exterior...and if you have humidity or termites, there is just no reason to endure wood siding on the exterior of a home unless it is code, and in that case? I don't know why steel metal construction and a wood exterior and an asphalt roof is anything BUT a ticket to lots of future expense, replacing wood rot near the foundation and repainting it also..like wooden windows with divided light?? why??. If it's steel on the stud side of building, why in the world would you want wood and asphalt on the EXTERIOR?? It's seems very odd.

  • Holly Stockley

    What qam said. It might be worthwhile to Google for "vernacular architecture" and the various regions of France. Also look at the New France colony along the St. Lawrence and some of the early French houses in the US. You ought to be able to find something that suits your environment and your taste.

    redsilver - two words: Steel tariffs.

    We've looked into Matterhorn steel roofing for our new build. It's very good looking. (It was invented by a local company, lately sold to Certainteed. So there are some local examples), Though some installers are less than fond of some of the accessory items and how it goes together on more complicated rooflines. It IS worth considering for this style of home if you can afford it.

    OP - Try putting together something like a Pinterest board to share with your architect. Just make sure to not only save the images, but also note WHAT ABOUT each image appeals to you. That may help you communicate better what you would like.

  • Love stone homes

    Just thought to share old French Country homes in Eastern Canada, just love this architecture and the stone...!

    tsweigart thanked Love stone homes
  • redsilver

    I would think Steel Framing is also affected by tariff levies? But there are just so many options in asphalt shingles color wise, it just may be the best choice for the steep roof they want to have.

  • tsweigart

    RedSilver, I would prefer a metal roof but we are going with asphalt from the builder and architect's recommendation. The thought being that the snow won't slide in the winter. We don't have termites or humidity issues in our area. After this discussion, I will be revisiting using stucco though.

  • Love stone homes

    @tsweigart, metal roofs up in snow country are common..

    https://canadianmetalroofing.ca/metal-roofing-prices/amp/

  • beckysharp Reinstate SW Unconditionally

    Lots of metal roofs here in Alberta, on the prairies and in the mountains : ) .

    Folks around here use snow guards on roofs to keep the snow from sliding off.

  • lyfia

    Stone or brick looks like the more authentic materials of choice just doing an image search on google using ferme.


    https://www.google.com/search?q=ferme&client=firefox-b-1&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjizov8y43dAhVPPK0KHaQ7B8QQ_AUIDSgE&biw=1344&bih=705#imgrc=_

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