Monday, May 21, 2012

French Style Home Design: Exterior Materials

I want to briefly touch on the subject of exterior construction materials for a French style home. I bring this up because my wife and I were sitting out on the patio of a local restaurant this weekend when we noticed how much we liked the brick and stone combination on the outside of the building. This again brought up the conversation of what material(s) we plan to use on our home.

Originally we planned to use stucco, a common material used in French style homes. Our problem has been identifying a local craftsman that is skilled in applying this material properly. It also appears that none of the builders in our area have faith in the material itself. Indiana has very mild winters in comparison to other areas of the country, with average temperatures ranging in the mid to low 30's. Because we hover right at freezing, we go through many freeze / thaw cycles, which we are told long term is not good for stucco.

The material recommended as a substitute is Dryvit, a "synthetic" stucco if you will. Unfortunately we do not have faith in the material or process. For those of you who are not familiar, Dryvit is essentially a thick piece of insulation that is covered with a thin coat of stucco-like material. It eliminates several steps used in traditional stucco and minimizes the risk of wear over time.

So we turn now to brick and stone. There appears to be no end to the combinations that brick masons can perform. There are so many patterns and types that it can leave one overwhelmed of which to choose while also making them afraid that the wrong decision was made.

Our goal is to create a home with old world French charm. A home that looks one or two hundred years old and makes you smile when you pull up the driveway each evening. So here are a few samples of old world style brick and stone, with one stucco just in case we change our minds the next time we eat dinner outside.

This old world style stone was found at HGTV. We love the variation is both size and color of the stone. Brick was used as an accent above and below the window to break up the solid stone wall.

Is this entry just not great? Limestone was used under the windows, while the stone was arched above several of the doorways and windows.

We really enjoy this brick size and color.  To break it up a little, there was a soilders row placed at the top, and bricks were turn on end around the window.

It adds so much character when the bricks are uneven. (Great lanterns too!)

This image comes from  I am sure many of you have seen it before, but I just had to add it also.  It is a great example of a Gascony style home also using stone.

We took this picture while touring a home a few weeks ago.  It has a great stucco exterior with a rough finish.  I can look at this image and just picture the mason swaying his arm as the finish was applied.

Taken by my wife at the restaurant

We welcome your comments on using the materials discussed in todays post. Also, please join our blog so that you can follow along as we build our French inspired home.


  1. Oh I love the look of old world stone! That first house is gorgeous. Love all of these!

  2. I am thrilled to follow on your journey as you build your home. There is nothing that I love more than charm of stone and old handmade bricks...gorgeous images!!

  3. Beautiful stone facades... such inspiration for your project... I look forward to following along... xv

  4. I have just now found your blog and became a follower! I am looking forward to reading past posts to get all caught up! Beautiful photos!

  5. I am so excited to find your blog, I am a new follower. I think we are in the same boots

  6. So glad to find your blog and looking forward to your home construction process. We built our home sixteen years ago and used dryvit and have not had any problems with it. We are in northeast Georgia and get to freezing or below and then the warm up, but it has done fine. I love the images you shared with the stone.

  7. We went through the same decision process for our house. There are many very skilled stucco people in Atlanta, and it is a time honored surface. From what I understand, some high end houses in Atlanta do stucco over cinder block, or stucco over brick, which gives it much more durability. Another advantage of stucco is that you can create deep window openings, which has a great appeal on the inside.

    However, to me one of the down sides of stucco is how it ages. SOme people love this, but not me. I don't like that sooty/dirty look that sometimes occurs as stucco ages.

    We have freeze/thaw cycles here in Atlanta, but probably not to the extreme as yours.

    We decided to go with painted brick, which is a classic Atlanta look. We got Boral 17th century bricks, which are made in a wood mold, and have a hand crafted look - so you get a lot of texture. We used San Marco mineral paint on the exterior, which has a chalky look and is the paint that has been used in Europe on stucco and brick for centuries. San Marco also does a nice lime wash, which is frequently used in Atlanta.

    Overall, we wanted a light look to the house, which is why we went that route.

    We have both been commenting a lot of the same blogs today!

    - Holly

  8. I know exactly what you are going through. We ended up with stone and brick combo on our home and love the result. I'm sure you have seen this site before, but if not check out Garrell Associates houseplans. They have many houses with this combo on their site. I think you will like it. Good luck!

  9. I am computer illiterate and cannot figure out what a URL is, so I have to be Anonymous. But I am Joyce from Knoxville and we have been planning our French home and have looked into Jack Arnold, among others. I am excited to follow your progress. I just commented on your patio chairs (I do not like the large chairs). You may have already chosen your exterior material but #1 is pretty, but looks too new if you want it to look 200 years old. #2 is nice. I like the chunky brick. The Jack Arnold house is very pretty if you want a formal house. The stucco is OK. I don't care for the intentional "swipes" in such a repeated pattern. Really old stucco is rough, but more of a smooth rough, not so intentional and overly repeated, like this new furniture that people distress to look old, yet it is overdone and doesn't look good to me. And the picture of the restaurant brick and stone is horrible. You don't want anything like that.

    1. Joyce, Would love to chat with you more about Jack Arnold and some of the exterior materials we have found since making this post. Since you posted through blogger as anonymous I cant email back, but if you want to email me directly with your email address I would be happy to share more. The email address is listed under our profile which can be found on the right sidebar just below our Facebook likes. Hope to hear from you!

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