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Country French Loggias
Tour these outdoor living spaces with a French twist
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Distinctively European in style, this screen porch by interior designer Linda McDougald is used year-round as an outdoor family room and crowned by a vaulted ceiling adorned with exposed beams and painted wood planks. Locally-quarried Swannanoa stone climbs the fireplace and grounds the floors. Upholstered furnishings are slipcovered in this room alone.
When Carolyn Hotham designed a domicile to share with her husband, Rich, and their children, she ensured it suited her Francophile preferences and the French antiques she'd accumulated over the years. The daughter of a contractor, Carolyn oversaw the construction of the family's previous home in rural Charlotte, North Carolina; when it was time to move into town 11 years ago, she worked with the construction crew over 18 months to produce a home in synch with her decorating vision.
"I love the building process and seeing things come together," says Carolyn. "Instead of a traditional style house, I wanted a home with an exterior that matched the way I decorate and my love of French antiques."
The one-story Mediterranean-inspired home does just that, outside and in.
The loggia supplies both alfresco seating and eating areas. An antique French mirror, boasting its original paint finish, sparkles behind a daybed made more comfortable with custom-designed canvas pillows trimmed with raffia fringe. A junk-store-found woven cube and new wicker chairs round out the conversation grouping.
Walk down this city block in Little Rock, Arkansas, and you might think you’ve entered another time and place. Behind a stone wall and through an arched gate, the Brokinton house appears aged and sprawling, as if added on to over time. And the architecture and materials—sun-washed stucco walls, slate roof, asymmetrical windows and wings—speak of a country house in the south of France. That’s exactly what homeowner and interior designer Kim Brokinton intended when she and her husband, Mark, built their new home. “We wanted a country French house that looked like it has been here forever, as though it had been transported right from a small town in Provence,” she says.
Landscape expert P. Allen Smith designed the gardens to complement the home’s architecture. Flagstone paths wind around boxwood hedges, flowering plants, and a formal parterre. “We tried hard to capture the feel of Provence,” Kim says, “to tuck the house into the gardens and the neighborhood as if it has been here a few hundred years.”
Flagstones edge the Mediterranean-blue swimming pool while a French-style pavilion provides shelter for outdoor dining.
Vesta and Dan Gray’s house was nearly a half century old and in need of a few updates when they bought it. “When interior designer Leo Dowell first saw the house, the wall color was the same pink it was in 1969,” Vesta says. “After giving us a more authentic South of France hue for the buildings, he concocted a mix of moss green and rust the painters sponged-on to simulate a weathered patina.”
The Grays’s devotion to achieving the total experience of a French manoir led them to tweak the existing English formal plantings with more French-flavored hard-and-soft-scaping around the house.
A bluestone terrace ideally cornered by the kitchen and family room makes the ideal place to entertain. Vesta designed a potager just opposite for its beautiful and practical presentation of vegetables and flowers.
Few would dispute that New Orleans is quite possibly America’s most European metropolis. At the heart of the city is the historic French Quarter, a Mecca of culture and cuisine, where cobblestone alleys lined with bistros and street artists are reminiscent of La Rive Gauche of yesteryear. In 2009, its unparalleled romance and revelry captivated Connecticut residents Lisa Donofrio and Brian Valzania, and inspired them to purchase the 18th century Creole cottage they now call their home away from home.
At the corner of Royal and Governor Nicholls, two of the French Quarter’s most colorful streets, stands the 2,800-square-foot cottage said to have been occupied by Catholic nuns in the early 1800s. Its unassuming stucco façade could easily be overlooked by many a passerby, but those lucky enough to enter are quick to discover that it’s an architectural gem.
"The courtyard looks as if it’s right out of a garden in Provence with its climbing vines, flowering plants and trickling fountain,” says Donofrio of the stone-paved retreat. “To expand on that provincial feeling, we chose French blue and straw yellow for the exterior of the house.”
Outdoor Living Area
A shiplap fir ceiling, hand-hewn beams, and reclaimed-looking brick conjure old-world architectural style in the well-loved outdoor dining area of this Texas home. Cotton duck-slipcovered chairs gather round a teak table; a ruffled runner nods to the fabric tablecloths synonymous with al fresco dining in Provence.
Less is more. It’s an age-old adage but one that certainly holds true—especially for Regina Lynch. When the New Orleans designer first stepped inside of the nineteenth-century Creole cottage that she now calls her home-away-from home, she instantly connected with its inner beauty.
“From the minute I saw it, I wanted to buy it,” says Regina, who lives part-time in the cottage with daughter and co-designer Destiny Cowdin-Lynch. “The outside was painted school bus yellow with hunter green shutters, and the interior was yellow and orange,” But beyond all of the distractions on the surface, I saw so much potential. I knew it wouldn’t take much to make it shine.”
When Regina purchased the home in 2011, her first order of business was to paint the exterior a warm white hue and to strip the original shutters and door down to its natural pine finish. The rich patina of an antique French wine tasting table and vintage bistro chairs stands-out against a crisp backdrop of painted European shutters affixed to the porch for privacy.
“I always let a home speak to me,” Regina says. “From there I base the décor on what the bones of the home have to offer. Fortunately, New Orleans has a strong French influence that makes this Creole cottage perfectly suited for French design. Neutral walls and furnishings provide a serene and simplistic space without ever feeling overdone.”
After years of living amid colorful interiors, a Houston couple were ready to embrace the softer side of the color spectrum when building their three-story home, nestled in the city’s museum district—a cultural mecca of 20 museums. Thanks to its French-infused façade of honey-hued limestone and stucco, slate roof, and wrought-iron enclosed balconies, the home exudes an aged allure far beyond its youthful one year.
The patio is a favorite place to enjoy evening cocktails. Its limestone fireplace is an inviting extension of interior living space. The area’s Versailles stone flooring creates a seamless connection between this outdoor haven and the interior, where it is also used in the main level’s dining room and powder room.
This European cottage-style home in Little Rock, Arkansas, sure looks naturally handsome, as though its elegant stone façade, cozy spaces, and layers of lavish texture came together effortlessly. But in reality, every last bit, from foundation to furnishings, was carefully considered and crafted.
“Our clients didn’t want it to look or feel like a new house,” declares interior designer Mona Thompson, one-half of the design duo that pulled together the home’s interiors. “We wanted that mix of old and new, elegant and comfortable—but not overdone.”
“We don’t like a home to look decorated, even though it very much is,” adds design partner (and sister) Talena Ray. “We strive for it to look effortless. Nothing is effortless, of course, but that’s how we want it to look!”
Nestling the sizable screen porch at the front of the house—so it’s one of the first things visitors see upon entering—says a lot about the welcoming attitude of the homeowners. “It speaks of hospitality and relaxation, that they’re not stuffy, formal people,” declares Doug Enoch, the architect who designed the home with a relaxed country cottage in mind. The gray wicker chairs and sofa are softened with pillows that coordinate but do not match. “We used really muted colors for a soft, relaxed feeling,” Thompson notes. “And those pillows can go from season to season.”
Regine Laverge-Schade's preferred palette of calming whites, grays, and beiges complements the exterior views and the terrace's French-inspired furnishings of her Connecticut home. Many of the outdoor pieces are reproductions of French garden antiques that Regine produces with her brother through their company, Jardins Paradis.
"You always want the outside to be an extension of the indoors," says Regine. "So, I connected the terraces by using furnishings with a French feeling. Like inside, it's a mix of formal and country French. I love those terraces; I am out there day and night."
Guests spill from the kitchen out to the alfresco dining room, furnished with a massive stone table, reproduction antique chairs, which are part of Regine's furniture line, and a candle chandelier from Belgium.
"I decorate the terraces with containers planted with white- or pink-flowering plants, like hydrangeas and geraniums, that won't distract from the dramatic views," she says. "Country French is not so much a statement, but a way of life. It's a style I really love!"
After living amid the hustle and bustle of Atlanta, Elizabeth Aiken Barnetter and her husband Marke Barnette recently built a home in Daniel Island, South Carolina, and welcomed a slower pace of life on the 4,000-acre island nestled in Charleston. “As much as I love the city, the fresh feel of the countryside is really where my heart lies, and that’s exactly what I wanted our home to reflect,” says Elizabeth, who designed the interior. “We wanted a casual place where we really could put our feet up on the furniture.”
Warm and cozy in the winter and cool and breezy in the summer, the back porch offers a welcome extension of the home’s living space. The cobblestone fireplace pays homage to the ancient ship ballast stones that pave the streets in Charleston’s French Quarter.
Like the furnishings, fabrics were selected for their textural appeal. “I love the nubby, open weave of washed linen but mainly in the same neutral tones that remind me of the countryside’s cobblestone streets and rock walls,” Elizabeth says
Shabby Chic Terrace
A large elm farm table with sleek-lined legs sets an inviting scene for alfresco dining on this loggia. On the tabletop, French flour sacks sewn together make a simple yet fresh table runner for a casual summer cookout.
Accessed from the foyer and the kitchen, a large central courtyard supplies private entertaining and relaxing spaces in this Arizona home. A vintage mirror brings light into seating arranged around a stone fireplace embellished with brick details. Two French-style windows opening to the laundry room handily illustrate the homeowners' devotion to getting every detail right.
From French limestone-capped courtyard walls to richly ornamented wood gates and intricately wrought iron stair railings, the exterior of this reclaimed stone and plaster, clay tile-clad home reveals old-world craftsmanship reminiscent of the finest architectural traditions of Europe. Where in Europe, exactly, is integral to its mystery—and its charm. “The owners didn’t want a house that screamed French, or Italian, or Spanish,” says Jim Smith, who consulted with the design team to evoke an authentically Mediterranean feel. “We just wanted it to feel old and European, like it might have been at home in any rural village along the sea.”
Masterfully celebrating the art of al fresco living, the outdoor kitchen and dining area is grounded by French limestone. Vintage metal chairs surround an antique bluestone table. The kitchen features new—but aged-looking—cedar cabinets, an antique stone farm-style sink, and reproduction plumbing fixtures.