Breaking Tradition: Our Traditional Georgian Home Gets a French Makeover

When we purchased our home in the Spring of 2013, we knew that while it wasn’t exactly our “style” it did have really great bones and character that we could work with to create our dream home. Everything about it was traditional – from the red brick Georgian exterior, to the matchy-matchy wallpaper and drapes on the interior. So we set about a plan to break the tradition out of it and give it a more French inspired feel.
While I am usually a fan of ironwork and Juliet balconies such as the one previously above our door, I am not a fan of rotting wood which we found all throughout the balcony area itself which meant it was going to need replacing regardless. To add insult to injury, the balcony wasn’t even real – those french doors (that don’t match the rest of the windows) are tinted because they actually are just stuck to a wall in my daughter’s room. It was all just a fake facade created many years ago - they don't open and have brick behind them.
We also didn’t like the oddly placed curved pitch over the fake balcony. Maybe there was a canvas awning there at some point? I don’t know, but with all the other angles and pitches being so defined, this seemed a little out of place. Then there were the cheap synthetic shutters that didn’t suit the windows, the urns that were removed from the front of the off centered sidewalk, the overgrown landscaping, and the multitude of unfriendly diseased pine trees riddling the front yard.
So we started talking about how we might do things differently if we were going to have to work on that area anyway, and a vision came about that presented a more regal and refined French inspired statement. After a couple of chatty dinners with some design friends of ours, and one really great drawing – created on simple tracing paper laid over a closeup of the house – from one of our friends who put our vision to paper, we had a plan.
Here’s the focal point before:
And here’s our vision on paper:
Now THAT has some wow factor! The plan was to have the new facade built in cast stone and would you believe from this one simple drawing, the company was able to reproduce the look almost to perfection. It was an amazing process. In a few short weeks the truck arrived carrying about 50+ pieces of cast stone that were put together like legos by some seriously skilled masonry craftsmen in a matter of days. Did I say amazing?
Next we went for a gray base paint on the brick. Gray is a real touchy color to master – not too green, not too blue, not too purple, not too brown. So many ways to mess it up, so we tried about 4 samples to get it the perfect neutral dark gray. I know some people are not fond of painting brick, but I don’t think the brick color we had would have done this new facade any justice, so paint we did, with a light cream trim and black window frames, doors and accents. We also knocked out the single front door with side windows, opened up the threshold and installed 2 larger solid wood doors, painted them glossy black, and added some chrome hardware, including a mail slot and hard to find oversized centre knobs and knockers more common in France and England. I actually had them shipped from England and paid about 1/5 the price I would have paid here to special order them locally – including shipping…AND got them faster. Go figure. Oh, and our roofer took care of that curved pitch, even reusing the copper from the original pitch.
After that, it was all about the yard. We took care of the tree problems and pulled out the diseased grass. We cut back and transplanted many of the shrubs to make better use of them elsewhere. With a clean slate, we could now frame things up nicely. The yard was leveled properly and a new walkway was created by framing in large concrete pavers and filling them in with black crushed granite. The granite was continued down the left and right side of the front of the house. All of this was then lined with a squared up boxwood hedge. we broke up the front of the house with 5 large zinc planters (a la Restoration Hardware‘s end of season clearance sale) and added the ornamental holly trees which we surround with flowers Winter – Spring and fill with sweet potato vine in the Summer and Fall when the heat is at it’s highest here. Here’s what it looks like now:
In the end, the look is now more refined yet still soft and inviting, and it reminds me of the French chateaus I dream of renting for a vacation some day in Provence. The neighbors have been in awe of the whole transformation, and it was funny to see people drive by and do a double take. It really is a completely different home!
What’s you’re favorite part of our new look? I'd to hear from you.
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3 of 208 comments
  • Christina Mazzei Christina Mazzei on Jan 28, 2018
    Wonder why they thought to remove windows and cut all the trees down? I like the paint job and the column removal.... but the rest was already lovely. Oh well -- they can make their house how they like... and really, it's nice either way.

    • BygoneVintage BygoneVintage on Jan 28, 2018
      Hi Christina-
      The trees had been consumed by beetles and posed a hazard to the home in high winds. It had been empty for a long while before we bought it so the previous owner had not been keeping up with their care. The fake French door windows were removed because they had a wall behind them and so they served no purpose on the inside. The glass was tinted on those so you couldn’t tell from the street they were false doors. Once we found out the ”balcony” area was rotting and served no purpose anyway, we decided to redo the whole central facade. You should have seen me trying to find those doors when we first went in the house! I was so disappointed there wasn’t a real balcony.

  • Cheryl Evans-Kent Cheryl Evans-Kent on Jan 28, 2018
    Looks updated and I like the new color theme. I wonder how the paint on the brick will do over time