Articles / Apartment Design

French accent

Want to know more?

Contact us

Authenticity was a priority for both the design and construction of this French Provençal house – a Masonry Design Solutions project

French accent


Spend even a little time in the south of France and it's easy to fall in love with the country. For some people, that passion sparks a life-long affair that influences their lifestyle and their surroundings.

The owners of this new Coatesville house are a prime example. Having lived in the south of France, they knew exactly what style of house they wanted back home – a traditional French Provençal country house, built with similar materials and to a similar design.

Designer Mark Wilson of Masonry Design Solutions says authenticity was a priority.

"The house, which is on 3.4ha of land, is designed to reflect the gradual changes that are made to these traditional buildings," says Wilson. "We started with the main house in the centre of the property, and added the outer wings to look like outbuildings that had been added progressively over time."

In keeping with the vernacular, the house has a solid masonry construction, which provides a sense of permanence, as well as extra thermal and sound insulation, and deep reveals.


Other Provençal features include a large bell tower with keyhole cutouts, timber detailing, a portico, and a low-slung hipped roof with aged clay tiles in a large barrel profile. Shutters on the main house, painted in French Grey, have a classic styling, while the vertical boarded shutters on the side wings are more rustic – in keeping with the notion of the outbuildings.

On the other side of the building, facing the view, both formal and informal living areas open to a traditionally styled loggia.

For more details, contact Masonry Design Solutions, PO Box 300-252, Albany, phone (09) 448 1101, mobile 021 597 347. Or visit the .

With a land area in excess of 3ha, an early involvement by the landscape design team was crucial to the success of the Coatesville project. Mike Jack of Natural Habitats says the company was called in at the planning stages to help determine the overall design.

"The site was broadly based on the concept of a French village," says Jack. "From this, we determined a very simple strategy – the outer extremities of the land would remain as rolling hills with long grass and a few specimen trees, much like a traditional French village. As one moved closer to the house, the detail would intensify."

Jack says the house, with its three main wings, has a similar layout to a village, and the forecourt can be seen as a form of village square. To this end, it needed a focal point.

"The labyrinth was specifically requested by the owners, and is the result of extensive research. It's a traditional design, and completely in proportion. Each element in the design is symbolic – from the arc of the curves, to the minor crosses."

Jack says the ancient formulae of the labyrinth was plotted with autocad software. A printed pattern was then overlaid onto a concrete pad.

"The labyrinth features dressed, semi-polished white concrete. To create the pattern, the concrete was temporarily masked and overlaid with a black epoxy resin."

The rest of the forecourt has exposed pebble panels on the outside, and concrete banding. It is bordered with buxus hedging, climbing roses, port wine magnolia, clivia and native hebes. Similar low planting edges the large patio that extends from the loggia on the other side of the house. Here, the sandstone paving was designed to link the loggia with a pool house – and a pool that will eventually be built at the side of the house.

Jack says there has been a noticeable trend in recent years for landscape architects and designers to become involved in projects at the early planning stages.

"Whether it's a residential or commercial project, it makes good sense, from both an economic and design point of view, to start the landscaping planning early on in the process," he says.

Natural Habitats also has an ongoing involvement, maintaining many of its landscapes.

For further details, contact Natural Habitats, 240 Orakei Rd, Remuera, Auckland, phone (09) 529 0190, fax (09) 524 1266, or visit the .

While the French look is much in evidence in the home's architecture, the interior has a more contemporary feel – with both local and European influences. Designer Suzanne Arts of Smart Spatial custom designed much of the furniture to suit the clients' needs, with living room chairs and sofas, and kauri-leg dining chairs, manufactured by Colin Foley Upholstery.

Working with the clients' preference for pink, Arts specified a variety of textured furnishings. The two living room chairs are upholstered in a rich ruby cut velvet fabric, while the sofa features a complementary ribbed cut velvet. Silk cushions in matching tones add a luxurious accent.

Walls throughout the house are painted in either Resene Canterbury Clay or Resene Double Spanish White.

Masonry Design Solutions director Mark Wilson says the company always specifies Resene paints for its projects.

"The Resene colour selection is well suited to the type of homes we build," he says. "For this house, the earthy tones were particularly appropriate – they replicate the interior of a traditional French Provençal farmhouse."

Wilson says providing interior design services for clients is a key part of the company's business.

"Our design services don't end with the architecture," he says. "No matter what style of home a client has chosen, it is important that the interior enhances the overall theme. This applies to colours, flooring types and furnishings. Masonry Design Solutions consultants are experienced designers who know exactly how to put a look together, and work closely with clients to achieve the desired outcome."

For further information, contact Suzanne Arts at Smart Spatial Design Ltd, mobile 0274 596 272. Email:

The family hearth is just as much a part of a traditional French Provençal house as the kitchen – as a source of warmth and comfort, it cannot be beaten. The sense of togetherness engendered by a fireplace is also much in evidence in the Coatesville house.

Designer Mark Wilson says the house features three interior fires – in the library, formal living and family rooms. In addition, there is an outdoor fireplace providing warmth to the al fresco dining area in the loggia.

The family room also features a traditional, large timber mantelpiece, and a raked timber ceiling, similar to those seen in country villas in the south of France.

Other features in keeping with the Provençal look include the use of sandstone-coloured tile flooring throughout the ground floor. Large rugs help to enliven the interior.

The use of traditional materials does not compromise the owners' lifestyle however. There is underfloor heating throughout the ground floor.

For more details, contact Masonry Design Solutions, PO Box 300-252, Albany, phone (09) 448 1101, mobile 021 597 347. Or visit the .

First published date: 27 April 2007

More news from Trends