Interior Architectural Detailing Distinguishes “Classic” From Ordinary

April 9, 2010

Trim Detail by Wood & Co.

The interior architectural details we select make a strong statement about who we are and make the difference between ordinary design and “classic ” design.  The detailing makes a room whole – from the decorative beams, and the crown molding, baseboards, paneling, and chair rails to the stairs, and the floors under our feet – good detailing transforms a home from the ordinary to the “classic”. 

Guide to Architectural Elements

Usually these details are made of wood and center around molding and custom woodwork.  The warmth and character of wood architectural details distinguish a home, and can make it spectacular.   Typically these details in classic old world or European homes are derived from the “classical Orders” and attention to proper detailing is important. 

While the choices of materials and detailing are too numerous to cover in this blog, a good summary of the classical orders can be found in “Get Your House Right” by Marianne Cusato and Ben Penreath.  They point out how interior detailing can range from high-style, fully classical design to a modest trim selection and point out that the classical Orders relate to the size of the room and the other elements in it.

Plaster and stone were frequently used for detailing old world homes, but wood is most comonly used.  As with the exrerior detailing we have discussed in previous blogs, interior detailing requires careful attention to proportions and materials in the context of the space and purpose.  For the most part we are concerning ourselves with “traditional” detailing in discussing old world design.  That, however,  may vary depending on the style of home, be it French, English, Italian or classic American Heritage which may have characteristics of any of these.  Our purpose is to provide information that may steer you to a variety of sources to suit the home design you have selected.

Trim, inside and out, has a practical purpose as well as an aesthetic purpose.  It accents what we want to beeseen and covers potential trouble spots resulting from the termination of or joining of two materials or surfaces.   More significant trim may signify a more significant door or window, while less trim may provide a subtle accent wihout bringing attention to something less significant.  The size of the space may dictate the size of the trim as well.  It really is a matter of proportion and balance.  Likewise, the shape of trim pieces indicate a level of importance or compliment an adjacent element in form or style.   Trim detailing varries significantly from one area to another.  Here we will address some of the more “traditional” interior trim detailing.

Trim Profiles

Some of the trim or interior millwork that make up the overal composition of interior architecture include, the base (trim at juncture of the wall and floor), window and door casings (used to cover the joint between the wall and window or door), crown molding (where the ceiling and wall planes meet), sills, wainscoting, and chair rail (traditionally used to protect the wall from the backs of chairs).  Each of these have shapes or “profiles” with a variety of “terminations” that transition the trim at the top, the edge or at the base.

Window and door casings have three basic elements that result in distinctive, built-up profiles.  These are:  the termination in the form of a bead, quarter round or assorted profiles, the back band and the largest element, the flat.  The size of each will be proportionate to the size of the space and of each element to the other.

Bases can be flat or topped with a base cap in the form of an ogee, nose and cove or bead, ogee and fillet.  Your builder and building supplier can show you examples of each

If the choice of profiles for base, trim and casing was not enough to complicate your decision making process, the size of the trim is another issue.  One of the best ways to determine the best size trim is to mock-up two or three options at different sizes and shapes on site.  It may be best to determine the trim and molding once walls have been framed in so any necessary blocking can be installed where extra support or nailing surface is required for larger installations. 

Hardwood Molding by White River

Ceiling trim may be a simple crown or a much more detailed, five, six or seven piece large combination detail cornice (LCD).  It may help to know that a built up cornice may be composed of any number of components, but most combinations have similar parts depending on the size of the desired cornice.  These parts are typically crown, frieze, bed, facia, soffit, blocking and cleats.  Assembling and installing a cornice takes skilled trades people who are familiar with the process of assembling these parts and have the appropriate tools. 

Trim is available in a variety of materials affecting cost, usage and application. Consideration needs to be given to whether the trim will be painted or stained.   The choice of finish may determine what material you should choose.

Solid hardwood trim is a traditional standard for elegant, interior millwork,  famous for its warmth and character.  It has a reputation for quality and durability.  In addition to its benefits it can have some drawbacks such as cupping and warping.  Advantages include availability, strength, ease of coping, cutting, nailing, and finishing.  A wide variety of solid shapes and curved moldings are available for any profile in a wide variety of wood species, grades and cuts including antique, imported and domestic.

Finger jointed  wood is knot free and less likely to cup than solid wood.   It is available in 16 ft. lengths, and installs like solid wood.  The finger-jointed process involves the joining of short lengths of timber to produce longer lengths, which can then be milled to the desired shape and equivalent to the strength of solid wood.   If wood is to be stained, careful consideration should be given to the trim material as joints can show through the finish. 

Medium density fiberboard (MDF) may be a wise choice in lieu of wood if you are considering painted trim.  These are are pre-primed and can save time and trouble.  They have softer profiles, are easy to cut and take paint well.  They are not suited for moist areas, can be fragile in small pieces, and not as easy to handle in long lengths.   Some manufacturers provide a low emission Green Building compliant solution to MDF mouldings and boards.

Synthetic trim is extruded or molded and can be cost effective, lighter, durable, workable, immune to moisture and more dimensionally stable, but lack some desirable characteristics of wood or workability of MDF products.  For instance, they are more difficult to cope, require proprietary adhesives, and may not be available in lengths greater than 14 feet.  Some are available in molded shapes and a variety of curves or flexible options. 

Plaster medalions are available in a variety of styles and replicate historically accurate designs.   They are intended to complement  embellished mouldings and add architectural detail to the well appointed interior. These old world plaster medallions are usually cast and feature highly sculptured plaster motifs.

These are but a few of the many manufacturers of these products available today.  Your trim provider or builder can describe the benefits of each in more detail and help you select the best option.

Visit us at for more ideas relating to building your traditional or old world home and a wide selection of plans.

Wood Flooring for Old World Design

August 15, 2009
Carlisle Wide Plank Floors

Carlisle Wide Plank Floors

Once you have decided upon a style, period or region of the world that you want your new house to emulate, you will soon be faced with the daunting task of selecting finishes for everything from walls, ceilings and floors.  These must be complimentary to one another, create a sense of balance, yet provide enough contrast to provide interest within each room and from room to room.   


Mountain Lumber Reclaimed Flooring

Mountain Lumber Co. Reclaimed Flooring

Flooring materials will have some of the biggest visual impact of any of the interior finishes and therefore must be appropriate to the house style as well as for the use they will receive.  They also will get the most wear, so choose carefully!  Certain residential styles call for a select range of flooring possibilities.  “Old World” homes such as English cottage, French country, Italian or American classic, offer great opportunities for creativity with flooring materials and installation techniques.  The space will dictate your material options making your selection easier, yet many times wood, stone, tile or a combination of the same may be an appropriate choice.  It usually comes down to personal preference.  There are virtually unlimited possibilities available to you.

Southern Wood Floors

Southern Wood Floors' Heart Pine Flooring

Determining which material to use is of primary consideration.  Once that decision has been made, the variations within that material group are overwhelming.  We will start our discussion with wood flooring. Wood offers a wide variety of color and texture options.  Its warm, natural beauty compliments virtually any residential design.  From wide plank flooring to narrow, light, medium or dark, traditional, rustic, formal or contemporary, heart pine or hardwood, wood has a character to compliment any style.

It is a renewable resource and with proper prep, installation and care, will last for years.  When selecting a wood floor, it will be important to consider factors  such as wood species, cut, color, grade and finish. Many manufacturers offer “distressed” finishes to enhance the aged look often preferred in an Old World house.  On top of this, you can now choose from re-claimed antique woods, old growth wood, engineered lumber, and a wide variety of finishes.  If sustainability, conservation and preservation is of importance to you, there are many considerations when selecting wood flooring such as whether the wood was harvested from a “certified” sustainable forest or if it was reclaimed from historic structures.  With engineered wood, consider using wood “certified” as laminated with low emissions glue.

Proper Installation

Proper Installation

Your choice may make a difference in not only appearance but in the way your new floor performs once it is installed.  Installation is as important as the floor you choose and the floor you choose will dictate the way it is treated, prepared, installed and maintained.

Because wood floors are subject to movement, it is important that wood flooring be installed with consideration of moisture content, and what conditions they will be exposed to for the life of the floor.  The environment in which the floors are being installed is a contributing factor to the success of your floor installation. 

On a concrete slab or in a basement, moisture problems can be reduced by installing a class-1 vapor retarder over the concrete slab and attaching the wood flooring to a sub-floor that is installed over “sleepers”.  You may want to discuss the possibility of depressing your slab if this floor will run into a tile or carpeted area.  Shrink or swell varies with the orientations in the wood.  The cut (plain sawn, or quarter sawn), respond differently to moisture changes.  Conditions such as buckling, cupping and peeling can occur in certain atmospheric conditions.  



Cupping occurs when the bottom of a board has a higher moisture content than the top.  The edges warp up higher than the center and is caused when there is a moisture imbalance through the thickness of the board.  This can occur over a crawl space or basement.  Crowned flooring refers to just the opposite condition caused when flooring looses some excess moisture and shrinks on the underside leaving the edges lower then the center.  

Buckling is the result of flooring that is so wet it expands and actually moves off the sub-floor.  If  floor boards are not acclimated properly before installation, they may push together and lift up.   Our link here will show some examples of these various conditions so you can recognize and avoid them.  Shrinking and swelling can be reduced in “engineered” products by gluing layers together with the alternate layers turned ninety degrees to one another.  The look and feel of engineered wood flooring can be just as convincing as that of solid wood, if selected carefully.

Carlisle Engineered Flooring

Engineered Flooring

Be sure to ask your builder to install according to the written installation specifications of the flooring manufacturer and comply with the highest  installation standards established by current industry guidelines.  Manufacturers’ and Industry standards such as those provided by the Forest Products Laboratory offer guidelines to determine proper moisture content in given situations.

Floor finishes affect the wearability and appearance of wood floors.  “Distressing”  can further add the aged character so often associated with the “Old World” look.  Wood flooring material may be pre-finished or site finished.    There are advantages and disadvantages to each.  Check with your manufacturer and installer to determine what may be best in your situation.  Some of the sites we are referring you to have suggestions that address this question as well.  Proper cleaning, prep and finishing is imperative.

Finally, proper maintenance once the flooring is installed will do as much for your floor as proper instalation.  Be sure to follow manufacturer’s proper maintenance instructions.  Also, many manufacturers provide answers to their most frequently asked questions and may answer additional wood flooring product and installation questions you may have.

For additional material that may be of interest, be sure to visit New South Classics at

Bruce Eason, AIA

Window Design for “Old World” Homes

April 30, 2009
Segmented arch casement with authentic divided lights

Segmented arch casement with simulated divided lights (SDL) in French blue

New South Classics designs historically correct houses.  Historically correct details define a house and make it correct for a particular place or time.   As with doors, the selection of the correct window for your house, can make the difference between an authentic house design and one that simply claims to be from a particular period or style.

Windows come in all shapes, sizes, styles, materials and color choices.  Perhaps even more importantly, windows also are manufactured very differently depending on the source.  Other than the roof, perhaps no other component of residential design says more about the style of the house and does more to protect the occupants from the elements than the windows.


Classic French Casement Set In Hip Dormer

Therefore, when selecting windows, one must determine if the window style is appropriate or “true” to the style of home being designed and if the window manufacturer has adequately addressed the durability of the window for the conditions it will be subjected to.

While it is important to pay particular attention to correct proportions for the style and period home you have selected, other factors are equally important.

Custom French window with bowed muntins and authentic divided lights

Custom French window (Mediterranean revival)

The designer, contractor and owner should ensure that the right window is installed correctly.

The best window installed incorrectly, won’t do much good if water and air penetrate the window assembly or the wall in which it is mounted.

Intended use, durability, finish and appropriateness of style have a lot to do with the species of wood the window is constructed from.  New technology creating rot resistant products for the most severe weather conditions makes it possible for some windows to withstand rotting and related damage for longer periods.

Manufacturers offer a broad range of wood species and finishes from unfinished, to factory finished, primed, painted, stained and clad which is seen as a prerequisite for high end custom homes.

small English bay window

small English bay window

This blog will give some opinions regarding what you should be looking for when it comes to window selection for your Old World home and suggest a number of sources for researching more detailed information and products.  It is not intended to replace the manufacturer’s written instructions or address all possible conditions.  It is merely intended to make you aware of what you need to ask when you work with your architect or contractor and when you think about what windows may be right for your house.

Finally, the style of  hardware you choose will speak of the period home you are designing.  The right, period  hardware will add that special touch, creating an “authentic” window design for the Old World style home you are building.

We hope this information will help to get you familiar with window styles, window construction, installation, and hardware and prepare you to ask the right questions before selecting your windows.  You will find links to appropriate sites where you can get additional technical advice and find windows you may want to consider.  We are not endorsing the companies featured here, but want to provide a selection to get you started.

We will start by addressing window style.


Traditional design of bowed Palladian window with Gothic arch sash flanked by diamond glazed panels by Dynamic Windows

Basics of Authentic Traditional Window Style:

As with doors, window design should be consistent with the style of house you are designing.  Whether your house is Arts and Crafts, French Country, English Cottage, Italian, or one of the American classics, there is a window appropriate to that style.  Many manufacturers offer styles appropriate to each….some better than others.  Regional differences will be recognized by the overall composition and how the window unifies the style through basic proportions, unity and hierarchy, or implied importance of each window to the spaces in the house.

Traditional double hung by Norwood Windows

Traditional double hung by Norwood Windows

It is important to recognize the historical precedent using proportions and profiles based on traditional window design and construction techniques.    In short, traditional windows may be categorized as sash (double hung), segmented arch (popular in French country design, arched, casement (in-swing or out swing), round or eliptical, lancet (pointed arch) and Paladian, bowed and bay to name a few.  Then there are many variations of each such as tilt-in, swing -in, swing out, etc.  Proportional differences are extremely important if design is to be authentic to a particular time and part of the world.  Research material found on our blog post “Getting Familiar With an Authentic Classic Style” may help you understand how windows vary between various “Old World” Styles.

Engaged French Dormer on a New South Classics Home

"Engaged" French Dormer by Loewen on a New South Classics home

Historically accurate styles differ predominately with respect to shape, method of operation and how the glass is articulated or arranged.    Glass ,or glazing,  patterns and bead profiles can vary dramatically and in some cases very subtly.

Glazing refers to the glass which is available in every imaginable way from single, glazed panels with common mullions, to multiple “light patterns” created with a “multiple glazing bead” referred to as “true divided lights” (ADL) or “simulated” divided lights (SDL)  with snap or glued in grille inside, or profiled grille on inside and out.

Kolby segment head casement with diamond pattern

Kolby segment head casement with diamond pattern

Grilles can also be set between the the panes of insulating glass.  Virtually any glass pattern option is available to obtain the desired look.  The width and number of dividing bars or “muntins” that make up the divided lights determines the desired look.  Custom light patterns are available and some windows styles call for a combination of patterns mentioned above.

The diamond pattern casement with finely crafted glass like the example to the right  by Kolby Windows and Doors is frequently seen in “Old World” design and has the look of authentic leaded glass.

Classic Charleston double hung with "9 over 9 divided lights

Classic Charleston double hung with "9 over 9" divided lights

Glazing options are typically available  single glazed, insulated, laminated, Low E, restoration, art glass, and safety glass.    The dividers or “beads” between the glass are available in many profiles and widths depending on the style preferred.

The wood trim or “casing” around the window on the inside and outside is also available in virtually any size and profile.

Some residential styles call for wide casing, others narrow and still others require no casing but rather a trim or “brick mold” for use with masonry walls as shown here.

"Get Your House Right"

"Get Your House Right"

One of the better guides I’ve found on window design basics for traditional American homes is “Get Your House Right” by Marianne Cusato & Ben Pentreath, Sterling, New York / London.   It explains in detail what window design to use for traditional homes and what to avoid through detailed drawings and commentary.

Authentic French casement window with shutter

Authentic French casement window with shutter

Details make the difference and details are what separate styles from one another as well as what create similarities between regions or countries.

The French Country style is characterized by the classic French window with tall, narrow panels of divided lights and narrow muntins such as shown here on this home in the Loire Valley of France.  Notice how the shutters are hinged to fold back on themselves when not in use.  Often, interior shutters will do the same and are commonly seen in French and Italian residential design.

French Board and Batten Shutters with Diagonal Bracing

French Board and Batten Shutters with Diagonal Bracing

These windows can be flat topped or radius topped as shown on the windows in the dining room of this French Chateau,  below.  Typically they are set back to allow room for exterior folding shutters or set out flush to allow for interior folding shutters.  This was made practical because of the thickness of typical wall construction.

In-swing casement windows with radius top

In-swing casement windows with radius top

A prominent room such as one in the main living area or significant bedroom often has such tall windows indicating its importance in the house and allowing for maximum light and air.  Window panes may be large or small depending on desired look.

The use of the double hung window is seldom seen in France, while it is more common in American and often in English residential design.   Casement windows are commonly seen in both France and England as with this French home to the right.

The size of glazing may vary depending on the size of the window.  Often, true “Old World” casements fold in against pockets created by thick walls and they may be full height, resembling doors.  Hence, the term “French door” or French window as the windows often came to the floor and resembled doors.

Tudor house 1 cropped

Leaded casements in a tudor style house

In England, windows are often “leaded glass” in rectangular or diamond patterns.  Similar styled windows are often seen in Arts and Crafts styles as they have an English heritage.  Fan lights above entry doors are often seen in formal English homes and have a counterpart in French design as well.  The use of ornate windows is limited to larger, more formal homes in urban settings in both countries.  English design differs from French in several areas.  The typical English Country cottage is simpler in many ways from its French counter part including window design and ornamentation.

French board and batten shutters with strap hinges

French board and batten shutters with strap hinges

The use of shutters is fairly common in French residential design, whereas English homes rarely have shutters. As with windows on any house, the proportions of shutter relative to the window opening is an important design element.  Shutters, if operable or not, should be proportioned to fit in the rough opening.  Shutters that are oversized or undersized appear to be fake and distract from the authentic look you want to achieve.   Similarly, the radius of shutters for arched windows should exactly match the radius of the window rough opening.  If not, the shape of the window and shutter conflict and appear artificial.

traditional fan light over a Charleston entry

traditional fan light over a Charleston entry

Traditional Charleston homes typically incorporate shutters on virtually every window to  provide shade as well as protect against the strong hurricane winds as seen in the photo  below.  Quality, traditional shutters are available in wood or PVC with steel reinforcing.  Exterior shutter options include raised panel, recessed panel, flat panel, fixed louver, Bermuda, board and batten, and custom.

Segmented shutter adds detail and functionality

Segmented shutter adds detail and functionality

Again, details make the difference.  Look for historically correct hardware that simulates or allows for operable  shutters.  As can be seen with these shutters that are segmented to wrap around the window opening and also close to provide complete protection of the window, anything is possible in shutter design.

Here, clever design along with proper proportions add detail and interest while still being functional.  The operable shutter adds an architectural quality that lends to the authenticity of the period design of this classical home.  The shutter is in two vertical pieces hinged together.   It opens against the depth of the wall and folds back against the exterior creating a narrower profile easily fitting on the balcony.

Traditional Charleston style wood shutters by Withers Custom Made Shutters

Traditional Charleston style wood shutters by Withers Custom Made Shutters

Borrowing from the English and the French, homes in Charleston, South Carolina and other lower coastal areas of the United States frequently incorporate the double hung window, and shutter.  Entrances are often flanked with side-lights and delicate fan lights above the front door.


Hipped dormers on French country styled house

Our discussion of windows would not be complete without taking notice of dormer windows.  Dormers come in all shapes and sizes, yet, here again, dormers vary from country to country and design period to design period.  As seen above, French dormers can be a full dormer on the roof, an engaged dormer that is partially above the roof.  The roof can be barrel-vaulted, hipped, shed or gabled.  The house to the right and below are examples of engaged  dormers.  Each indicates a hierarchy of importance and, or, serves a specific purpose for the interior space which it serves.

Example of a gabled dormer window on a French country house

Example of a gabled dormer window on a French country house

Gabled dormers on French country homes are usually simple and often found on houses with roofs with a gabled end.  Windows on gabled or hipped dormers may be flat top or arched, and typically have a casement window with authentic divided lights as seen on the house to the left.  Some are shuttered if the shutters have room to fold back the depth of the wall to be authentic.

The English cottage typically has simple dormers that have less slender proportions.  They are usually hipped, flat or gabled with extended rafter tails and wide overhangs.  Windows could be casement or double-hung.

Again, size is based on the dormer’s purpose and importance.  dormers may be single window dormers, and are sometimes multiple windows assembled together in the form of what is called a “shed dormer”.  Shed dormers allow for more light and extend the usable floor area in the attic or second floor space into the dormer. Aside from shape alone, correct dormer placement is critical to the overall success of your design.  See the New South Classics Blog for more sources for classic Old World Design.

Typical English cottage dormer with double casement windows

Typical English cottage dormer with double casement windows

Classic Williamsburg Dormer detailing.

Classic Williamsburg Dormer detailing.

Perhaps most characteristic of our American Heritage in residential architecture is the early American home as designed by early settlers.  Among other classic features of these homes is the dormer window.  All good designers will tell you that there are rules for detailing, scale, proportion and placement of these features.  Hips and gables and sheds were used but when used correctly they adhered to certain classic detailing, which can be the subject of another blog.  This early Williamsburg house shows the importance of simplicity and proportions of even one dormer.  Note the positioning and slender proportions characteristic of this period.

A Classic Charleston Dormer with Full Cornice

A Classic Charleston Dormer with Full Cornice

Classic detailing and proportions of dormers can make the difference between an “authentic” look and a “sort of” period look of your Old World home.  Whether you prefer a shed dormer, gable or hipped dormer, remember to also select the right glazing and muntin combination.  The wrong shape is a dead give away that you understand the period or not.

This slender Charleston dormer with its fully detailed cornice and properly raking cyma is suitable for a classical roof.  Notice that the distance between the window head and cornice is minimized and the casing on either side of the window is narrow.  Siding may either be horizontal as shown or slope parallel with the roof pitch.

These details are all part of what make this dormer right for its period.

Melton Classics Cast Stone Architectural Elements

Melton Classics Cast Stone Architectural Elements

Windows and doors by themselves can make bold statements about the periods they represent as seen in the examples above.  These period styles have design elements that make up what we call the Classic Orders of Architecture.  Fine craftsmanship reflects the timeless beauty and unmistakable authenticity of good period design.

Added to the timless beauty of well designed windows, doors and surrounds, design elements such as columns, mouldings, keystones, and miscellaneous elements add character and help create a hierarchy of design importance.

These classic design elements can be of wood, cast stone, copper and other materials.  Whether castles or cathedrals, these elements create drama and add an element of elegance that traditional styling is noted for.

Avis Dormer by Custom Copper Designs

Avis Dormer by Custom Copper Designs

Specialty dormers such as this copper French dormer take windows to a new level of design.  Ornate, hand-crafted copper detailing duplicate architecturally correct proportions and period style.

For additional material that may be of interest, be sure to visit New South Classics at

Bruce Eason, AIA

Fireplace Surrounds and Chimneys Add Character

November 30, 2008
Hand carved stone surround adds interest to New South Classics' French Country home

Hand carved stone surround adds interest to New South Classics' French Country home

Your fireplace not only adds warmth to your house, it adds elegance and charm that reflects your home style and lifestyle anytime of year.  But like doors and windows, fireplace surrounds, mantels, over mantels and chimneys must enhance the Old World style you have selected to be true to the design, be it French country, English cottage, Tuscan farmhouse, Arts & Crafts bungalow, or traditional American design .

English cottage chimney pots

English cottage chimney pots

An amazing selection of fireplace related materials and decorative accents are available today at almost any price level to suit your construction budget.

There are authentic antique European surrounds, mantels of stone and wood along with antique clay chimney pots of all sizes and descriptions from the simple to the ornate.  These too are available in appropriate styles such as exclusively antique French or English chimney pots with their distinctive architectural signature.

Chimney Pots by Copper-Inc.

Chimney Pots by Copper-Inc.

Chimney pots of all sizes and descriptions are also available and can be found in a style and material that will give your house the distinction you want.

Many are made with the same standards that they were a hundred years ago.  As one manufacturer says; “Chimney pots provide the finish and add the crowning glory to the look of your house”.  Pots made of copper or clay add the final touch to your Old World plans.

copper chimney cap

Copper Chimney Cap by Custom Copper Designs

Many custom copper architectural products are also available to dress up and protect your chimney.  In addition to chimney pots, copper chimney caps come in a variety of styles, shapes and sizes.

Custom copper is a great way to highlight a feature of your house and add quality and value that will last a lifetime.

Antique Cheminee Gothic Surround from Authentic Provence

Antique Cheminee Gothique from Authentic Provence

The look and function or the chimney is a major portion of successful home design, but the look of the interior is of course just as important.  A fireplace surround, and overmantel must reflect the period home style you have selected.  Many regions have a distinctive look that is reflected in their fireplaces.

You can have that look in your house by using imported antique surrounds or good quality reproductions.

Some specialty shops offer authentic antiques from French chateaux to Italian manor houses.  You will also find antique fireplace accessories and other related items.

Classic Louis XV Mantel by Francoise & Co.

Classic Louis XV Mantel by Francoise & Co.

Hand-Crafted Limestone, crafted marble, and travertine surrounds, and mantels in the Old World tradition are available in many “Old World” styles.

These are revivals of ancient Italian and French designs and add unmistakable elegance to any room.   Francois & Co. has a collection of hand-carved mantlelpieces that are the mirror image of antique mantels discovered in France and hand-carved by French artisans.

They are made of hand-carved limestone or “Scagliola Stone”, some of the finest stone available.  The right mantel offers an opportunity to create a powerful statement that defines the architectural style of the interior decor. 

Stonelei by Old World Stoneworks

Stonelei by Old World Stoneworks

Similarly, cast stone mantels and surrounds are available in a variety of mantels that are very similar to those made of cut limestone that will look amazingly authentic.

These are made of a mixture of finely graded aggregates, silica, sand and a bonding agent.

All are mixed and hammered into molds. The finished product is noncombustible and can be used directly against the firebox.

Cast products are available in affordable copies that are easy to install and adapt to masonry, precast fireboxes or prefabricated gas log firebox interiors.  The difficult task is finding the right style and manufacturers suited to your needs.

mantel by Pinecrest

wood mantel by Pinecrest

If a wood mantle is what you are searching for, there are as many, if not more, sources to choose from as there are for stone mantels and fireplace surrounds.  Some manufacturers will even carve your crest, logo or emblem in the center of the over mantel if you desire.  These mantels are available direct to the trade and can be ordered by your builder or architect to suit your needs.  Antique wood mantels are often favorites with designers and are also available through antique and architectural salvage shops.

Rustic, Arts & Crafts look

Rustic, Arts & Crafts look by New South Classics

Of course, not all architectural styles and fireplace needs can be satisfied with pre-made mantels and surrounds.  Mantels crafted by skilled carpenters and, or, stone masons are often the best approach for many historic or Old World residential designs.

Arts & Crafts Bungalows and mountain lodge style homes are well suited for dramatic stone fireplaces with wood or stone mantels that blend with the architectural style and period of the house.

The inside, or the working portion of the fireplace, presents many other options too.  Traditional firebox and chimney design and construction is best left to a qualified mason experienced in the art of chimney design.  The performance of your fireplace will depend on a number of factors that need to be addressed by your contractor, and you have the option of solid masonry, metal and pre-fabricated masonry systems.

Isokern firwplace

Pre-Fabricated Firebox and chimney system by Isokern

Today, there are a number of  firebox and chimney options that are available to you to save money and still have an authentic looking fireplace.   

Pre-manufactured fireplace systems such as Isokern, make it easy and cost less than traditional methods.

These  systems are modular, masonry systems that can be assembled and installed in under a day.  Unlike traditional masonry units that can take weeks or months to complete,  experienced installers can install several of these systems in a day.  Isokern systems can be custom finished to satisfy homeowner, builder or interior design needs and the modular design of such a system allows for more diverse, lightweight applications for fireplaces and other appliances.

Gas Fireplace by Fireplacex

New lines of attractive, efficient gas fireplaces , ventless gas fireplaces, electric and wood burning inserts allow you to have  warm accents in any space in your home.  A wide variety of styles from two sided fireplaces to ones small enough to be housed in a bathroom or kitchen make just about anything possible. 

For additional material that may be of interest, be sure to visit New South Classics at

Bruce Eason, AIA

Select the Right Door for that “Old World” Look

November 23, 2008
choose a door to match the style

Choose a door to match the house style, as on this French Country by New South Classics.

Some details matter more than others, and the selection of the right doors can mean the difference in having an “authentic” Old World look or not.  In short, a door should embody the architectural character of the building.  Subtle differences in door design and construction point to the authenticity of French, English, Italian or American classic residential design.  Doors are often the focal point of a design and at least the element of your home’s design that will be noticed by everyone before anything else.  It says “welcome” and speaks volumes about you and your house before anyone even steps inside.  There is no better way to make a first impression. The question you have to ask is;  “what style is appropriate for my design?

French country paneled door

French country door by Pinecrest

Because doors can vary greatly in price based on whether they are exterior or interior doors, the material they are made of, how they are made, where they are made and whether they are new, or antique, it is important to shop around and learn all you can about the above.  The style of the house will dictate the style of the door and the importance of the main entry door(s) may determine the style of all the exterior doors.

I like to think that there is a priority of exterior and interior doors as in primary, secondary and tertiary importance.  That will help you select doors that say something about the spaces they serve.  For instance, the door above would be fine for the front door, but perhaps a little to elegant for the kitchen door, but it’s style may “drive” the choice for the kitchen and other exterior doors.

classical American door

classical American door

Where to start?  Door manufacturers usually have a number of styles available and categorized into groups such as “southwestern”, “French”, “Tuscan” or “English”.  Eliminating all doors that do not fit into your particular style home makes it much easier to narrow the choice down and focus on details of the correct selection of doors available.  You will find that several key elements of door design make it American, English, French, “Tuscan” or whatever. 

For instance, Historic American “frame and panel” solid wood doors (which replaced plank doors) are often composed of six raised panel construction and painted or stained.  These typically have standard proportions and placements for the vertical and horizontal elements around the panels known as “rails”, “stiles” and “muntins”.  All doors will be contained in the casing or door surround.  These, too, have styles that are traditionally correct for the door style you have selected.


Example of a portico with door by Historic Doors

Doors may be dressed up in a number of ways including the addition of a portico.  A portico refers to a covered entrance usually supported by columns.  Porticos are also called surrounds, overdoors and entablitures.hey add a refined element to an entrance by framing the door and adding an architectural element that is attractive and functional  as seen in this example by Historic Doors.

Note: You may want to take a look at some of the reference books I have suggested  in previous Blogs, if you want to learn more about the correct style door and surround for a particular place, time, or region (along with do’s and don’ts of proper construction).  You can also refer to many door web sites that offer a variety of interior and exterior door styles to get an idea of manufacturers and prices.  The choices are endless and like everything else, not all doors are made equally well and prices will vary depending on quality.

Classic Gothic style

Classic Gothic style

You will notice that each region of Europe and each region of a particular country has a door style that is specific to that region and particular time period.  While Old World European doors have many similar characteristics to one another, it is, again, the small details or variations that make one door more suitable for a house style over another.  These doors may be classical, rustic, Gothic, Arts and Crafts and many in between.

Traditional plank construction

Traditional plank construction

Some doors employ a combination plank and panel construction while others reflect a true plank tradition with arched tops and decorative, medieval hardware such as studs, and wrought iron strap hinges which come in a multitude of styles.  This style with its distinctive detailing is common in Spanish, and Mediterranean architecture and as can be seen below, in France.

cottage door with glass above

Plank storm door with combination panel door and divided lights above

Arched top or top radius doors are very common in France.  These may be solid with two to three raised panels, all glass with divided lights (window panes), or glass above a single or double solid panel as in the door on the quaint cottage in the Loire Valley pictured at right.  Note the vertical plank “storm door” on the outside with its diagonal and horizontal bracing.  The arched top is alao seen in double arch top doors for wider entries where two doors are desirable.

double radius top door

double arch top door

Of course double arched top doors are available in all the varieties described above. and lend themselves particularly well to French and Italian style architecture.  A similar effect may be achieved by selecting a double radius top panel (glass or wood) in a full arch, flat arched panel in square top frame and casing.

French door with transom above

French door with transom above

Nothing is more frequently used than the “French window”  which as become known here as the French door.  Its simplicity and practicality allows a space to receive maximum light and openness by swinging one or both door panels inward or outward, effectively doubling the width of a single panel door.  Again, these may be solid wood, all glass or any combination thereof.  French doors are often topped by a glass transom spans both doors below for a taller effect.  More elegant options include a fan light above and even flanking the doors with side-lights for more light as in this photo of a house outside Paris.

Simple glass panel door by Stewart Brannen Millwork

Simple glass panel door by Stewart Brannen Millwork

What if you prefer painted doors and trim?  Well, there are several options you may want to consider…..Solid Wood doors can be painted or stained.  If stained, be sure to see samples of the various wood species to see how the color stain you prefer affects the wood you have selected.  The manufacturer of the doors can provide samples for you to select from and offer advice on which stain and wood will result in the color and effect you desire.

Many woods and finishes are available for interior and exterior application.  Not all manufacturers offer the same selection.  It is important that careful attention is paid to the wood species that will be best for the intended use and selecting the right finish for that species of wood.  You should do the same with trim and casing to be sure that those and the doors match.  “Distressing” is often available to emphasize the aged look you desire for your Old World door.

MDF paint grade door

TruStile MDF paint grade door

If you plan to have painted trim and doors, MDF or medium density fiberboard may be the right choice for you.  Interior and exterior MDF doors are available in paint grade and are environmentally friendly.  MDF is an engineered wood product made from recycled and recovered wood fiber.  They are more stable and durable and more affordable than wood in many cases.  As with other doors, there are many variations of MDF doors with different construction details.  Better doors are solid MDF with solid wood edging systems along both edges for strength where hinges and door hardware attach.  Look for similar detailing along the top rail if doors are to be hung as is the case with pocket doors.

popular bungalow door detailing

popular bungalow door detailing

The Arts & Crafts or bungalow style doors ranged from plain to ornate.  The most common were frame and panel, and board and batten.  These doors often had decorative panels, beveled, leaded or etched glass in addition to the basic door.  Some, as shown in the door to the left had an iconic square shelf supported by square rectangular blocks with rectangular windows above.  French doors (single or double) were also common for exterior doors and usually had rectangular glazing and (or) rectangular panels.  Often exterior arts & craft doors had sidelights and transoms above.  English and Japanese influences are evident in much of the detailing of the bungalow right down to the doors.

Garage door

New South Classics French country style plank doors with flat radius top

Don’t forget the garage door!  Because they are large and there may be two or three of them, the garage doors will influence the character of the house and must be attractive as well as functional.

carriage house doors with diagonal planking

carriage house doors with diagonal planking

Even the garage should be designed in the detail you expect of an Old World home.  It must reflect the character of the house and look as much a part of the house as any other aspect of the design.  Sometimes it is good to pick a style such as plank or panel as the motif for your major doors and continue through with the garage so there is continuity. 

Garage doors on a New South Classics Mountain Home Garage

Garage doors on a New South Classics Mountain Home Garage

Often these doors are referred to as “carriage house” doors and they can have as much character as any other door.  The character may be determined by the color, materials, and detailing such as hardware.  Character can be added through careful consideration of paneling, whethre vertical, or diagonal, with cross bracing and the addition of windows. 

The window options are similar to other windows with respect to size of glazing, muntin width and spacing, etc. 

Strap hinges add character and may be functional or decorative.   

Hardware produced by the local blacksmiths at their forge and anvil was common to many early American homes.  Some sources today feature their own blacksmiths using 18th century tools and techniques.  This hardware is carefully built to ensure that it will function, as designed, for many years to come.

Garage doors may have the traditional appearance of carriage house doors, yet open vertically with an automatic garage door opener.  There are even openers designed to swing out on hinges.  If you use hinged doors, just remember to widen the opening by four to six inches to allow for the width of the door panel and hardware.

wine cellar doors

Apex wine cellar doors

Specialty doors are also available for most any need.  Often special rooms require a door that says something about that space while still adhering to the Old World door look you are after.  These doors may be solid, paneled, fully glazed or any combination of these.  Wine cellars, for instance, are great opportunities for a special door.  They add to the character of the space and provide an opportunity to make something special of the space that will enhance the experience of storing and displaying your wine collection.

Speak-easy grille

Speak-easy grille

This blog is not intended to explain all there is to know about door detailing.  It is hoped that this blog will make you more aware of the importance of selecting the right door for your house and give you access to a few of many sources to research options available to you.

Make sure that your architect or designer has considered all the appropriate door options in the right “style” for your new home.  This may get them started in the right direction.


Early American hand forged classic by Kayne and Son

The correct hardware adds to the distinctive appearance of your Old World door.  Many manufacturers offer stock period hardware from which to choose.  Others offer custom made hardware for handles, hinges, bolts and other forgings custom designed for your doors.

For additional material that may be of interest, be sure to visit New South Classics at

Bruce Eason, AIA

Roofing Says a Lot About a House

November 20, 2008

Not only does a good roof shield against the elements, it says a lot about your house.  A roof should blend with your style of architecture but not dominate it. Fortunately, today there are a wide variety of quality roofing materials that meet most budget and design requirements.  Pricing depends on the roofing material, features such as design, color, texture, thickness and its guaranteed life.  The owner must weigh the benefits of long life and style against material and installation costs.  In addition these and other factors influence the success of a roofing material in helping a design look “authentic” to a particular style.

split cedar shakes

split cedar shakes

Starting with timeless natural materials such as cedar shake and slate, other options include concrete, and clay tiles, as well as metal roofing.  Many options are now available that imitate the real thing quite convincingly and help reduce costs, if that is an issue.  Whether your home is Tuscan, English cottage, French Country, Italian or an American classic, attention should be paid to determine the best “look” for that particular style home.  Putting the wrong roof on the right house can have disastrous results.  A little research would be well advised before deciding. (See our Blog on “Getting Familiar With an Authentic “Classic” Style”)

With today’s emphasis on “Green” building, cedar shakes are a popular roofing material with environmental benefits attributed to using wood products.  Shakes also have precedence in Arts and Crafts as well as Old World residential architecture.  Synthetic shakes are available from a number of sources in a variety of colors and styles and come with up to a 50 year warranty in many cases.

greenstone-slate1What type of roofing is right for your design?  The French, English and American classics are well suited for natural slate which has precedence with all three.  Slate is one of the most durable roofing materials with benefits including longevity, appearance, durability and energy conservation.  If weight or cost are an issue, there are a number of good synthetic slate materials that convincingly mimic natural slate and are fire and impact resistant.

As an alternative to natural slate, concrete tiles offer some “green” benefits according to the manufacturer such as “a 50% reduction in the amount of heat penetrating the conditioned space” and “a 225 reduction in energy consumption” in addition to a variety of styles to imitate natural slate, wood shingle, and clay tile.



Authentic clay tile roofing is often the roofing material of choice for European or Old World houses.  Some clay tile roofs actually are available with an aged look to contribute to the “Old World” look you hope to achieve.  Some clay tile roofs are good for at least 100 years and actually look better as they age.

From lightweight clay tile to “cool” roofs, clay tile roofs have many benefits.  Clay tile roofs can help you save on energy costs and reduce heat stress, protecting your roof underlayment from failure.

Certainteed Grand Manor roofing

Certainteed Grand Manor roofing on a New South Classics home

Another modern roofing material is the composite shingle manufactured to simulate natural slate.  These asphalt shingles come in a wide variety if shapes, color and styles.  The most popular are the “Designer” or “Architectural” shingles emulate the look of slate and other natural materials.

standing seam roof

standing seam metal roof

 Metal roofing is lightweight and re-recyclable and comes in a multitude of profiles and colors.  The standing seam metal roof is predominant in many coastal areas of the eastern United States and made famous with the terracotta color roofs of Charleston and the “Low country”.  It also is available as a metal shingle in imitations of “slate”, “tile” and “wood”.

Properly selected and installed, metal roofing can  add beauty to any building.  Some, such as Follansbee’s TCS II, offer soft-looking, protective patina that’s developed after exposure to the elements. Yet, the metal is not degraded by heat or UV light and never needs to be painted. TCS II is oxygen reactive, so the patina is formed by exposure to even pollution-free air in rural areas and on coastal breezes.

Follansbee Roofing's TCS II Painted Charleston Green

Follansbee Roofing's TCS II Painted Charleston Green

Endureed Thatch Roofing

Endureed Thatch Roofing

For an authentic classic English Cottage “Old World” look, you may want to consider thatched roofing.  It offers timeless appeal and is applicable to many English cottages.

For instance, our English Cottage Classics offer an assortment of homes that would be a great opportunity to use a thatched roof.  Our Fireside Cottage with a thatched roof  is a good example.  Some manufacturers such as Endureed“, have synthetic thatched roofing materials that they claim are some of the finest available, with “benefits unmatched by inferior synthetic thatch products.”  Their specs claim that their materials have “a Class A fire rating, will not attract insects, rodents or birds, and can withstand a 110 MPH wind with no maintenance required.”  This material is manufactured in the United States and the price compares to natural thatch.

These are just some of the shingles, styles and sources available.  Hopefully this blog has made you more aware of the choices and unlimited possibilities available to you.

For additional material that may be of interest, be sure to visit New South Classics at

Bruce Eason, AIA

Details Make the Difference in Old World Design

November 19, 2008
Typical French detailing

Typical French detailing by New South Classics

Ever wonder what makes some houses really look French and others truly look Italian?  Of course traditional detailing of the period including roof pitch, building materials, and massing make up the bulk of what makes a particular style identifiable, but part of what makes an Old World design “authentic” is how the small details are handled.  Aside from the architectural detailing, there are countless other product details that will affect the ultimate success of your residential design.  The web has made it possible and easy to research any variety of products from hardware to lighting fixtures, doors to fireplaces, and fixtures to finials.  The difficulty is in narrowing down those choices to the select few that are appropriate for your “classic” Old World design.

Copper gutters and finials

Copper gutter and finial detailing

As a first step to get you going in the right direction, New South Classics has created a “Suggested Links” page to highlight a select group of products and services we believe may be among the best choices for creating the Old World effect you want to achieve.  This link may be a good start and serve as a “pattern” for other products from other sources and at all price levels.  This list is updated regularly as we discover new sources for products you may want to know about as you and your architect design your new home.

In addition to this page, we will let you know of additional building material or product suggestions we find that may or may not be on our suggested links page in future blogs.

If you’ve nailed down the architecture and your design for your old world home has the correct massing, materials, style, and feel of the authentic period you were hoping to emulate, you will need to be sure to follow through with the right details.  These details accent the primary elements of the design composition and make it interesting and authentic.  Because there are so many sources for everything you will need to dress up the house, I thought it may help to point out a few “standards” of Old World Design that will make your house look authentic.

french-roofing-5x7In my blog entitled “Roofing says a lot about a house” I addressed the issue of how important the roofing material is in any design.  I emphasized that roofing may be one of the most important design components of any house.  You will be able to find sources of appropriate roofing material there, and go to various web sites that will steer you to the region and style you are looking for be it slate, clay tile, synthetic slate, or composite material.

This blog will start at the top of the house by exploring the detailing that makes a French country house look more “French Country” from the roof down.

copper finials

copper finials

Many Old World homes especially in France, sport decorative elements called finials and ridge caps at the top.  Today, finials also serve as a decorative housing for lightning rods.  These are usually made of copper and come in all shapes and sizes.  They are a distinct feature of French architecture and turn a beautiful patina as they age.

copper roof vents

copper roof vents

Other accents that are not only decorative but functional in French architecture are roof vents.  These are more often than not made of copper and come in a number of shapes and sizes depending on where and how they are to be used.  Other copper ornamentation can be found frequently along the ridge of the roof in the form of ridge caps and weather vanes.


cupola by Copper-Inc

Many Old World Houses in America, England and France have incorporated cupolas atop their roofs for ventilation and decorative purposes, usually topped by a wood or copper finial or a weather vane.  These cupolas then and now were fashioned out of wood or sometimes copper which weathered to a soft green patina as shown in the photo to the left.

clay chimney pot

clay chimney pot

Chimneys were a very important part of the home and chimney detailing expressed the significance it played in family life.  Perhaps the most obvious ornamentation is the “chimney pot”which has a functional as well as visual purpose.  These caps or pots are available in copper or clay and come in a wide variety of styles typical of various regions of Europe and America.  These chimney pots come with a variety of optional accessories including wire screens for control insects and animals and caps to keep rain water out.

gutter and conductor head

gutter and conductor head on French Country house by New South Classics

Another functional yet aesthetic detail that helps make your house look authentic are gutters and conductor heads.  Typically, European and other Old World houses have copper gutters and downspouts.  Of course, there are many options available as “spin-offs” that look like copper in aluminum and other materials.  Nothing looks as authentic as copper.  Gutters can be rectangular, half round or shaped and gutter-heads are available in a variety of shapes and sizes.  Here, a 6″ half round gutter with copper straps is shown with a large copper conductor head to collect the water.

The leader pipe is strapped to the wall with copper strapping and completes the detailing to make this house look truly French country.

An English entry made inviting through attention to detailing

An English entry made inviting through attention to detailing

In considering the detailing of your Old World home, be sure not to forget the gardens, and other aspects that place your house in the setting that speaks of its design origins.  The smallest details such as plants, vines, rock walls, paths and lighting give the house character and make it believable.

In another blog, I discuss more ideas to achieve that authentic look with additional detailing suggestions and product sources.

For additional material that may be of interest, be sure to visit New South Classics at

Bruce Eason, AIA

A “Green” Lining to The Economic Cloud?

November 13, 2008

It may be a stretch, but perhaps there is a silver (or “Green”) lining to the housing and economic crisis.  Those considering a new or second home are fast learning the value in smaller homes that have been popular in all countries for centuries, but often overlooked in the rush for “bigger is better”.  Suddenly there is a growing awareness of the charm, practicality and cost effectiveness of smaller, sustainable houses proving that less is more.

In addition we are learning of the benefit to the world (and our finances) of “Green” building.  Many “Green” solutions are a result of common sense and cost little to achieve.  Higher energy prices, global warming and tight lending policies have provided incentives for us to seek something better in a lifestyle.  All this translates into affordable construction, quality design and sustainability.

This added to the fact that the “Baby Boomers” will be downsizing their empty nests and wanting to improve their health and quality of life at the same time.  You’d be surprised how functional, efficient and livable a 1,600 to 2,600 square foot house can be.  In addition you will have fun selecting or designing a new, efficient plan that suits your lifestyle.  These plans come in all styles and often have surprizing open areas with vaulted spaces that lend themselves to entertaining and comfortable living.  Consider the possibilities with English Cottages, Arts & Crafts Bungalows, French Country houses, and Mountain cabins!

Here are a few good books on cottage living:

“Not so Big House, A Blueprint for The Way We live” by Sarah Susanka and published by The Taunton Press tackles the question of why we are drawn to smaller, more personal spaces.  “The Not So Big House proposes clear workable guidelines for creating homes that serve both our spiritual needs and our material requirements, whether for a couple, with noi children, a family, empty nesters, or one person alone”.

“The New Cottage Home” by Jim Tolpin and published by The Taunton Press explores 30 cottage designs from the East coast to the West coast.  If you want to find inspiration for a simpler, scaled down lifestyle in a cottage home, this book may prove interesting.

” Cottages By the Sea” by Linda Leigh Paul and published by Universe Publishing explores the handmade homes of Carmel, America’s first artist community.  This area is home to some of America’s most charming but rarely seen cottages.  270 color photographs document the private world of 34 homes.

“Cottages on the Coast, Fair Harbors and Secret Shores” by Linda Leigh Paul and published by Universe visits private cottages on the coasts of the United States to inspire you to live the cottage life.  Beautiful color photos of these private homes display their interiors and exteriors and each is accompanied by the story that makes them special.

Here is a short list of easy to achieve Green building suggestions to help you be more “green” (and therefore more healthy and save money) when you build your new home:

  • Low “E” and argon gas filled windows
  • High performance foam insulation such as “Icynene”
  • Tankless water heaters
  • Southern orientation (light and heat)
  • High Albedo roof coatings
  • Advanced heating and cooling systems
  • Non vented (conditioned) attic space
  • Conditioned and sealed crawl space
  • Fresh air intakes
  • Low or no VOC finishes
  • Radon prevention and venting systems
  • Advanced indoor air filters
  • Rain water collection and filtration
  • Dual flush toilets
  • Native, drought resistant plants
  • Reclaimed hardwood flooring
  • Local stone
  • Local, sustainable wood
  • Recycled drywall
  • Certified lumber from a sustainable hardwood source
  • Light sensors
  • Minimize waste to landfill (have your contractor recycle what is not used)
  • Concrete with fly ash
  • Mulch timber cut on site for use on property.
GreeN Home Guide

Green Home Guide

“Green” construction standards established by the  United States Green Building Council (USGBC) provide guidelines for sustainability for builders to follow that will result in health and economic benefits for home owners.  Take a look at their “Green Home Guide” In addition,  the forthcoming National Green Building Standard proposes even higher standards for sustainable construction for builders to achieve certification on a voluntary basis.  It is expected to be approved by the American Standards Institute (ANSI) by 2010.  These standards will help builders realize efficiencies in water, energy, building materials and air quality.  The goal is to help builders construct homes that perform better and cost less.

For Green renovation ideas, check out this site from the USGBC:

ES_LogoAnother helpful web site for “Green” home solutions is: Energy Star is a joint program between the US Department of Energy and The US Environmental Protection Agency.

  • Now may be the best time to build a custom home and build in energy savings!

At least in some parts of the nation, the economic crisis is actually improving some segments of the housing market! Check out this article on the custom home market:

……………..Here’s some of what it says:

“The buyers sinking their money into upper-end homes now “see real estate as a good investment,” McLeod said. “They know what they’re doing when they invest their money.”

Lumber prices are on track to drop to a 10-year low, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, partly because demand for homes is declining. Builders in the Columbia area have taken out 35 percent fewer building permits in the first 10 months of the year than they did during the same period in 2007, and home sales in the Midlands are down 17 percent for the year.

Oil-based products, such as carpeting and shingles, are still high, builders say, but should see a drop soon, too, as the price of oil falls.

Labor costs also have dropped, Dunbar said, because so many subcontractors are scrambling to find work as home buying has slowed amid a credit squeeze and financial turmoil sweeping the nation.

“People with money are taking advantage of the diminished economic climate that we’re in,” said home builder Steve Baudo, owner of Baudo & Associates in Lexington. “People with the financial ability to do it, not only are (investing) in stocks, but are also doing it in real estate.”

Baudo said people already are reserving slots with him for next year to build homes in the near-$1 million price range. One customer even gave him a check for $10,000 to hold a March time slot and he doesn’t even have an architectural plan yet.

“I’m busier now than I’ve ever been,” Baudo said.

Local builders said some people who took money out of the stock market are investing it in real estate instead.

“They know it’s going to go back up soon,” Zeigler said. “It’s safer than the stock market.”

Look for other “Green” building ideas by visiting our New South Classics’ web site!

Bruce Eason, AIA

Getting Familiar With An “Authentic” Classic Style

November 10, 2008

With French Country houses, English Cottages, Tuscan villas and classic houses of our great American residential heritage being among the most popular house styles today, there are many possibilities for your new or second home.  With that in mind, what style is appropriate for your site, setting, and lifestyle?

This can be a daunting question if you are not an expert on residential design history around the world.  Ever wonder why some houses “just don’t look right?”  Or had the feeling that this house looks “sort of ” Italian?  With so many house plans claiming to be French country, English cottage, Tuscan, or other there are thousands of poor imitations.  You may have an idea of a style that appeals to you, but do you really know how to tell a French Normandy farmhouse from an English cottage and what similarities they have in common?  How about the differences in design, materials and detailing from from one region of a country to another?

There are fabulous sources of information available to help you understand and get inspired by residential design options from any period and any part of the world in addition to our web site of old world plans.  Here are a few helpful resources to get you started:

American Residential Design:

Classic Charleston Doorway

Classic Charleston Doorway

If you want to get familiar with the history of American residential design heritage, there is a particularly helpful and concise book entitled American Homes, An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Domestic Architecture”, by award winning architect Lester Walker, and published by Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, New York.  This work contains written descriptions and “drawings that are so clear, they explain construction details at a glance.”

"Get Your House Right"Another great book about historic American houses and how to recognize authentic period detailing is “Get Your House Right, Architectural  Elements to Use & Avoid.” by Marianne Cusato & Ben Pentreath and published by Sterling, New York and London.  This is truly a highly detailed (over 1,000 meticulous line drawings), clear and informative  work that will help anyone wanting to be sure that their “historic” American home is designed correctly.

creating-the-old-house1If you’re looking for a survey of authentic, historically designed homes rooted in the design principles of the past you may want to check out “Creating the New Old House, Yesterday’s Character for Today’s Home” published by The Taunton Press. The author shows it is possible “to craft a new home with familiar forms and harmonious proportions of tradition that is also tailored for modern living”.  Photographs of each of the eighteen homes featured in this book are examples of classic regional style of new homes across the country.

9780394739694“A Field Guide to American Houses” by Virginia and Lee McAlester and published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York will enable you to identify in their Historic and architectural contexts, the houses you see throughout America.  Black and white photographs and detailed sketches trace the history of the American house from the 17th century to the present. Each chapter treats one of the major architectural styles that have been popular over our country’s past.  Identifying features, principal subtypes, variants and details are thoroughly explored.

143619mAn essential small book that is large on detail about residential design details is “Architectural Details” by Marcia Reiss and published by Thunder Bay Press, San Diego. It is a concise visual guide for recognizing architectural styles and features.  With over 300 drawings and photos it discusses a vast range of contemporary and historic houses.

Visit New South Classics’ Postcards from Charleston from our most recent tour of Charleston, South Carolina for a tour of some of America’s most admired classic residential design.

The American Bungalow and Arts & Crafts Cabin:

Craftsman Style

Craftsman Style by New South Classics

A few references that will help you define the classic Arts & Crafts Bungalow and what makes it different from other small houses are suggested below.  These books may help you learn the basic elements that define these small, one or one-and-a-half story houses.

Typical design elements that set this style apart from others are low-pitched roofs, exposed rafter tails, low, gabled or shed dormers, shingle siding, the use of rustic native stone, brick, and fixtures of wrought iron, art-glass, and interior hand-crafted detailing.  Maybe you can apply some of these design elements to your own classic bungalow.

Bungalow_Details_Exterior“Bungalow Details: Exterior” by Jane Powell and Linda Svendsen and published by Giggs Smith, Salt Lake City is “the ultimate book that will teach you how to incorporate these elements into your home’s design.  Included are historical sidebars and general how-to information that will enable you to anticipate, re-create, or apply them to your unique bungalow.”  Detailed photographs of building materials, windows, doors and the smallest elements of bungalow design are included along with the author’s own list of resources for where to find authentic elements of the arts & crafts home.

“The Bungalow, America’s Arts & Crafts Home” by Paul Duchscherer and Douglas Keister and published by Penguin Studio focuses on the popularity of the California bungalow, one of the most popular housing styles in America.  The book contains 197 illustrations covering everything from exterior detailing and interior architecture, furnishings and decorative objects.  In addition, the book touches on many other craftsman style like the Swiss chalet, Spanish Colonial, Prairie and Oriental.

Arts and Crafts Cabin“The Arts & Crafts Cabin” by Robbin Obomswain and published by Giggs Smith, Publisher focuses on the today’s hybrid cabin design.  These are homes inspired by the original Arts & Crafts movement of the 1800’s and relate to the natural environment and are simple in design.  The book is filled with plans and inspirational interiors.  Line drawings, sketches and rich color photographs bring the current arts & crafts trend to light.

American Bungalow Cover“American Bungalow” is an excellent magazine featuring just about everything to do with preserving, restoring and building an arts & crafts bungalow.

Another magazine that may prove interesting is the bi-monthly “Cottages & Bungalows” which covers everything from design, landscape, interiors and more.

Style_1900 Cover“Style 1900”  is a quarterly magazine exploring the antiques, architecture, philosophies, and personalities of the Arts and Crafts movement in America and Abroad.

Note: If you’re interested in the Arts and Crafts style you may be interested in attending the Grove Park Inn Arts and Crafts Conference on February 19-21, 2010 in Asheville, North Carolina,

The English Cottage:

English Cottage

English Cottage

If you’re looking for English cottage design, it may be helpful to start by taking a look at actual photos of English villages with their subtle differences.  English houses have distinct differences depending on the period and region of the country.  Hugh Palmer has produced what I call “coffee table books” with stunning images of those ancient towns “in which the true heart of England lies.”  His book, The Most Beautiful Country Towns of England”published by Thames & Hudson, New York will let you see true English cottages in their natural setting and serves as a traveler’s guide to England’s glorious countryside.

15054562A similar book by James Bently entitled “The Most Beautiful Villages of England” published by Thames and Hudson Ltd., London.  You will be able to appreciate the different regions by county (northern, midland, eastern, southern and western) with its rich color photographs and absorbing commentary.  Hugh Palmer is a leading British photographer of architecture and gardens and has masterfully captured the architecture of each.   As the author says, “history,location and local building materials have etched the distinct character of each region and each village”.

14805367Other books worth noting that zero in on specific English styles popular in America include “Tudor Style, Tudor Revival Houses in America from 1890 to the Presentby Lee Goff and photographs by Paul Rocheleau and published by Universe Publishing.  The Tudor house is “one of America’s keystones” and is a type of house that has attracted homeowners in England for centuries and in America for over a hundred years with their easily recognizable steep gabled roofs, leaded windows, half-timbering and intricate brick work.

French Country Houses:

French Window

French Window

As with the other house styles, perhaps the best way to become familiar with classic French residential detailing is to take a trip to France.  That way you can experience first hand what French country design is all about and experience the variety of styles from region to region.

In lieu of that, there are many fabulous books of stunning photography and narrative to bring French Country architecture to you.  From the half-timbered houses of Normandy to the splendid Renaissance chateaux of the Loire, or the beauty and distinction of the small towns of Provence, France has a residential style for all tastes.

Loire Valley Cottage

Loire Valley Cottage

Our New South Classics’ Postcards from France from our last trip to the Loire Valley region of France may get you in the mood!

The following list should prove helpful (and fun!) if you want to become more familiar with classic French country houses:

25119902“Manor Houses In Normandy” by Yves Lescroart and published by h.f. ullmann

  • “The Most Beautiful Country Towns of Provence” by Helena Attlee and published by Thames & Hudson
  • “French Villages” by Suzanne Madon and published by Molier
  • “The Most Beautiful Villages of Normandy” by Hugh Palmer and published by Thames & Hudson, Ltd. London/New York
  • “The most Beautiful Villages of the Loire” by Hugh Palmer and published by Thames & Hudson, Ltd. London/New York
  • “Undiscovered France”  An insider’s guide to the most beautiful villages by Brigitte Tilleray and published by Cassell
  • “Living in Provence” by Dane McDowell and published by Flammarion, Paris
  • “The Provencal House” architecture and interiors by Johanna Thornycroft and Andreas von Einsiedel, and published by Stewart Tabori & Chang, New York
  • “The French Touch” by Jan de Luz and published by Gibbs Smith, Salt Lake City

20779839Living in Normandy” by Serge Gleizes, and Christian Sarramon (photographer)   This book contains a wealth of information including a first hand glimpse into typical Norman homes with half-timbering, thatched and slate roofs, mansard windows, turrets and balconies.  If you like food, it even offers restaurant guides, hotels, brasseries, bed and breakfasts, antique dealers and tips on where to sample the famous local products.

Italian and Mediterranean residential design:

Northern Italian Villa

Northern Italian Villa

As with American, French, and English houses, Italian and Mediterranean houses vary in style, materials and technique depending on the region of the country.  Ranging from private villas, castles fortresses or farmhouses, the private residences of Italy seem somehow connected to the land and reflect the richness of the Italian lifestyle and history.  The beauty of one region, Tuscany, in particular, with its vineyards, rolling hils, lush valleys, and clusters of red tiled villages embody the ancient artistic and architectural heritage of this region.

In an effort to help you get familiar with Classic Italian residential style ,  I have listed below some of the best books I have seen that beautifully portray the Tuscan lifestyle in elegant color photographs and fascinating narrative:

100% Italian

100% Italian character

If you want to focus on Tuscany and surrounding areas, two books by James Bently portray the remarkable variety of this region through stunning color photographs and accompanying written commentary.  They are “The Most Beautiful Villages of Tuscany” and “The Most Beautiful Country Towns of Tuscany” by Thames & Hudson, Ltd., London.

61H82S8CA9L._SL125_“Living in Tuscany” by Bruno Racine and published by Flammarion, Paris, is a more detailed look at Tuscan life.  Beautiful photographs and accompanying narrative cover topics as varried as the vineyards and rolling hills, gardens of Tuscany, Tuscan interiors, artistic heritage, places of special interest, and even a visitor’s guide with the best addresses to discover the true Tuscany beyond the tourist trail.

italcoun“Italian Country Hideaways” Vacationing in Tuscany’s and Umbria’s Private Villas, Castles and Estates by Kelley F. Hurst and published by Universe Publishing, New York, offers a glimpse into gracious estates and their owners. ” Following an introduction to the local food and wine, historic sites, and other points of interestin each region, the book presents a selection of unique estates, highlighting their most memorable features, from their delectable food and noteworthy decor to their impressive architecture…and fascinating history”.

14780561If it is the Mediterranean style with Spanish influence that appeals to you, you may enjoy reading “Red Tile Style” by Arrol Gellner and published by Viking Studio, The Penguin Group, England.  This book is a vivid exploration of the historical roots and modern-day applications of Spanish Revival architecture in America.  Over 300 brilliant photographs trace the style of small houses or casitas to large estates in many variations including Monterey, Moorish, Mediterranean, and Pueblo.

tuscanstylebigmag2009Chances are that there is a Barne & Noble near you that sells the magazine “Tuscan Style” .  I have found this magazine to contain interesting articles and fabulous photographs of Tuscan and Mediterranean homes featuring exterior details and sumptuous interiors. It is pricey at $9.95, but you just may find some great ideas for your housE.

For additional material that may be of interest, be sure to visit New South Classics at

                                       Bruce Eason, AIA