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Design Focus: Southern Style

It’s the epitome of everything that’s good about the American South: inviting — open to invited guests and casual drop-ins alike — ideal for hosting long, leisurely garden parties, and embracing Southern people’s penchant for hospitality.

With sprawling majesty, the high facades of homes built in this style could be seen as intimidating or, with a little shift in perspective, simply imbued with grandeur and a hint of drama. The style borrows heavily from classical architectural styles, while adding that uniquely Southern charm, gentility and personality to it.

Defining the Southern style

Southern style is a fairly broad term, and can include various architectural design styles, including Greek revival, Neoclassical and Antebellum. What most of these homes do have in common, however, are the classic deep porches — often wrapping themselves all the way around the house — a love for grandiosity, and symmetry, whether it be in the tall columns framing a manse, or the neatly placed windows and arches that let the light and air in.

A Southern style home will often have high foundations, or even be raised to allow for the regular flooding that occurs in many of the Southern US states. This is just one of the features that makes Southern Style an ideal choice for many Canadian areas as well, helping keep your home high and dry during the spring and summer thaw.

The traditional deep porches that feature so strongly on Southern homes serve their own purpose. They keep homes cool in the summer by promoting airflow and cooling the air before it reaches indoors. In the winter, they help keep the home warm by keeping the worst of the cold, sinking air at bay and providing a cushion of warmer air around the house.

Origins

As the name of the style suggests, Southern style originated in the American South, also known as Dixie and the South. The South is a grouping of sixteen US states, which includes the Old South — those seven out of the original thirteen colonies that lie south of the Mason-Dixon line, and the Deep South — the seven states that seceded from the US before the Civil War.

Many of the early homes built in this now-classical style were the first plantation houses and, soon, the townhouses that sprang up in the nascent cities that now characterize the region. Because these plantation homes belonged to landowners who were making a considerable income out of their farms, they frequently emulated the more opulent of the European architectural styles, particularly drawing influences from the Italian and Greek styles, as well as, of course, the French, who colonized large sections of states like Louisiana.

How to recognize Southern style

The plantation houses from this era that remain standing today, as well as newer homes that echo the style in which they were built, are often characterized by towering columns that frame a vaulted double-height porch-type roof around a centred entryway. This style is what’s known as Neoclassical, and it also includes Greco-Roman ornamentation, and symmetrical and balanced windows. This style doesn’t feature the full-width or wrap-around porches, however.

While the Greek Revival style includes several similar elements, like the symmetrical display of windows and the gabled or hipped roofs, the columns around these homes are usually just one storey high and offer support for the porticos or full-sized porches. A considerable number of townhomes and more modern Southern style homes are built in Greek revival style.

The third and probably best-known of the Southern styles is Antebellum, which draws heavily from both Neoclassical and Greek Revival, but are recognized by their boxy and symmetrical shape. Antebellum refers more to a time period than a very specific style, dating back to before the American Civil War.

Inside the Southern home

Because these homes were and are built to accommodate the warm and, in places, almost tropical climates of the Southern states, one can expect to find high ceilings, large, airy rooms and sizeable windows throughout. Likewise, double-width doorways often feature, especially in the larger homes.

The South doesn’t shy away from decorative elements, either, with many homes featuring a variety of ceiling moldings, door and window frames and attractive mantelpieces framing their fireplaces – because as warm as it may be in the South in winter, you can rest assured these homes feature fireplaces for the chilly winters.

Regardless of the size of the home, Southern style houses all offer an air of majesty and gentility in equal measure – the people of the South have an appreciation for beauty and incorporate it into their homes wherever possible. Staircases will feature carved balustrades, attics will include beautifully framed dormer windows, and fittings and fixtures will be anything but plain.

Southern style in Canada

While it may seem counter-intuitive, Southern style architecture and design is incredibly practical for some areas in Canada, particularly in those areas where summer temperatures can soar. This style of architecture is ideal for homes close to rivers, lakes or the coastline, as they invite the breeze in during summer, and offer considerable protection from excess rain or snowfall during the wetter or colder months.

The sprawling single-storey homes are ideal for country or farm living, while the double or two-and-a-half storey homes with a smaller footprint are more suited to town or city living.

Southern style homes are perfect for the Canadian who enjoys the idea of an open, inviting home that encourages outdoor leisure time or relaxing on the porch and watching the world go by. While the Neoclassical, Greek Revival or Antebellum styles are often sought by those in a higher income bracket, the somewhat less formal – but nonetheless recognisably Southern – Lowcountry or Tidewater styles are ideal for most middle-income suburban, semi-rural or rural areas.

Introducing a Southern element to your home

If you are building a new home and opting for the Southern style, or if you simply want to introduce a Southern feel to your home, consider using manufactured stone in certain areas, as a feature or an accent.

For example, the Neoclassical style of homes were — and still are — often built using fine stone, which gives these homes a sophisticated look and feel. While you don’t necessarily want to build your whole home from stone – partly because of the cost and partly because of the extra weight placed on the foundations – choosing a fine stone cladding option, such as the easy-to-install Versetta Stone® panelized range, will not only round out the look of your Southern style home, but also enhance the protection against the harsher elements of Canadian weather.

Indoors, those fireplaces we mentioned earlier would do well with an accent of manufactured stone. In a Southern home, much as in a Canadian one, the fireplace is typically at the heart of family time, and the stone cladding provides an attractive — and functional — finish. Cultured Stone® manufactured veneers are ideal for this.

To add the finishing touches, Cultured Stone® is available with trims and decorative details, like lintels and window sills, keystones, capstones and hearthstones, and stone surrounds for your electrical boxes.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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