History lesson

This design by Peter MacDonaldtransports owners and guests to another time, another place
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Architects often borrow signature elements from classic styles to create a nod to that period or country. However, sometimes an architect will extend this ensuring every lintel, mantel and floorboard furthers the sense of the earlier time and aesthetic.

This project began when the homeowners asked builders Holly and David Erotas to bring together a team to design a new house on their property. The pair approached residential designer Peter MacDonald and interior designer Renee Hallberg to help create the new residence.

In terms of construction, the job presented some challenges, says David Erotus.

"These included working on a quite tight site while protecting an historic teahouse to the side of the property. In addition, substantial excavation was required to create the new driveway."

The owners lived in an existing house on the property which had outlasted its purpose. As the couple love French architecture and have an extensive collection of French furniture, it was no surprise that they asked Peter MacDonald to create their new residence in authentic French Provincial style. Prior to the project, the house designer had traveled extensively in Europe and specifically studied French rural architecture.

Every aspect of the residence was closely considered in these terms, says MacDonald.

"We didn't want a theme park version of the style. Apart from some local materials, the design faithfully reflects the kind of grand home you might see on a French hillside," MacDonald says. "Characteristic features include the steep roof, sweeping eaves, prominent shutters, round dormer forms and stucco wall finishes.


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White walls and crown mouldings. Neutral furniture colours. Exterior features a sweeping driveway and styled shrubs and expansive lawns

"Locally available cedar roof shingles were one clear material concession in France these would have been in slate."

The tones used on the exterior off-white, light gray and pale green are also true to the French Provincial color palette.

The only real departure from the classic look is a wooden screened porch on the upper level this was a much-loved feature from the old house that the owners wished to carry into the new design. It also enjoys the same views.

"The house comprises two substantial wings, centered around the arrival court. The layout is oriented to maximize views towards the nearby lake and to the historic teahouse to the side of the property," says MacDonald.

The interior of the house is as arresting as its exterior design. A double-height atrium sets the tone for the spaces to come. The house is divided into two wings the formal volumes are to the left as you enter, with the informal rooms in the right wing, behind the staircase. Up the curving staircase lie the generous master suite and two bedrooms one forming part of a guest suite.

"Consistent with the exterior, the interiors are faithful to the French style. Mouldings, baseboards and other architectural details are true to this aesthetic. These are all understated a restraint which is authentic in architectural terms and also allows the furniture and art works to shine," says MacDonald.

Detailing is even more pared back on the informal side of the house. MacDonald says the ceilings also show a clear demarcation between areas. Plastered beams and ceiling panels over the living room and dining area give way to stained timber beams in the kitchen-family room. The open-plan layout of these spaces is one of the few concessions to modern living although behind the scenes, the traditionally styled home offers every high-tech advantage.

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Interior designer Renee Hallberg chose period furniture appropriate to the overall style, much of which came from the owners' extensive collection.

"For example, we reupholstered the clients' French settee and found antique lion head arm chairs, the latter in a traditional coral damask.

"The color scheme is in ivory, chocolate, taupes and corals," says Hallberg. "These subtle Mediterranean tones are faithful to the period and don't overpower the spaces."

Hallberg says the positioning of pieces both organized areas of use such as the rug and grouped seating by the fireplace in the living room and maximized the sense of spaciousness. While the house is on a grand scale, the rooms are comparatively modest in proportion.

David and Holly Erotus and MacDonald worked closely on the complex kitchen layout, which incorporated two hoods, one for the range, the other for the pizza oven. Melding the extractor chimneys into the classic look was a complex job with input needed from the entire team a truly collaborative project.

Jul 20, 2012
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