This house was designed for a client who wanted a house in the French classical manner. Though the practice has been asked to design a number of French style buildings, none have so far been built. This one was designed by Francis on the basis of a thorough study of both the theory and practice of French architecture during the reigns of Louis XIV and Louis XV. This period was characterised by avoidance of the orders in favour of walls with continuous horizontal rustication which can be seen on buildings such as the Ecuries at Versailles of 1679 by Jules-Hardouin Mansart, which Francis and Martyn Winney measured in 2013 and became the inspiration for the house.
Other features of this language include the rich carving concentrated on features such as the sculptural consoles carrying balconies, the voussoirs carved with heads over the large windows, and decorative sculpture in the pediments. French architects had long been masters in the art of cutting and dressing stone, and their style was quite unlike that of the contemporary neo-Palladians in Britain. In addition to visiting Paris, Francis and Martyn drew inspiration from Jacques-François Blondel (1705-1774). They thus follow in the footsteps of Sir William Chambers who had been a pupil in 1749-50 of Blondel at the Ecole des Arts, at his celebrated school of architecture in Paris. Blondel himself looked back to the great seventeenth century masters, François Mansart, Claude Perrault, and Jules-Hardouin Mansart, for in France that century is regarded as the ‘grand siècle’, unlike England where it was thought to be marred by the Revolution and the eighteenth century is seen as a more important model.
Blondel’s plates provided sources for the house in Surrey such as the canted bay on each façade, the four urns with cherubs crowning the façade, the busts on consoles which enliven the walls, and the extreme width of the horizontally rusticated piers at each end of their façade. They also took from current and traditional French construction the use of zinc instead of lead for the roof dressings and dormer windows. Also, the small size of the slates on the roof is in contrast to the larger English type. Interestingly, the client did not want the interior to be in the classical style to match the exterior but engaged a designer to create a Modernist effect.
Taken from The Practice Of Classical Architecture by Professor David Watkin, Published by Rizolli