What’s Old is New Again

Vancouver’s elite are acquiring a taste for Old World architecture. Merging stylistic elements from Parisian chateaus and English country manors, the panache of European design is en vogue and enjoying a revival on the West Coast.


A Design Marque creation, this French country-style estate conveys a sense of timeless luxury with its natural stone façade, wrought-iron railings and formal symmetry of windows. Gardens and statuary are distinctly integrated with the design.


Glistening at dusk, the impressive estate-like chateau with its porte cochère, rusticated arches and stone balustrade is the very symbol of a prosperous life. Refined with Old World character, grand European-inspired homes such as this one are experiencing a renaissance on residential streets from White Rock to West Vancouver. That’s great news to architect Marque Thompson, who would like to see more interesting architecture in Vancouver.

While his firm, Design Marque, is renowned internationally for both Modern and Old World home designs, as of late he notes that his local clients — who are generally well-travelled and well-educated, with an eye for impressive and timeless architecture — are requesting beautiful home designs that incorporate traditional European elements.

“The Old World appeals because of the depth of its cultural and historical past,” says Thompson. “Proportion reads like feng shui, and it is comfortable and impressive at the same time.”

Like fashion — which invariably repeats itself, but with a fresh twist, be it a new fabric or a new way of accessorizing — architectural styles spiral back into popularity. The trend towards traditional European architecture has been realized internationally in exclusive communities around Los Angeles, New York City and Toronto. While not always historically accurate, the dignified home designs are impressive yet playful, borrowing from a variety of classical architectural forms. 


There’s a feeling of solidity and permanence to this English manor home. Built with beautiful stone and stucco, architectural elements that enhance its Old World flair include mullioned windows, medieval-looking hardware and symmetry of chimneys.


Brought together in a coherent combination, the homes may have Dutch elements: red brick or stone exteriors, steep-pitched roofs that flatten out on top, and rounded gables. Flamboyant Parisian influences include vertical emphasis with tall doors and windows, rusticated arches and stonework. British ideals like the bespoke garden orangery inspired by Kensington Palace in England, or Tudor themes  — steep roofs punctuated by dormer windows, large elaborate chimneys often topped with decorative chimney pots, painted glass and embellished entries with statement doors often bearing medieval-looking hardware.

Here on the West Coast, European designs are also making an impression as they show a commitment to old materials such as slate, copper and natural stone.

“If we can adopt the best of our past to improve the culture of today, I’m all for it,” says Thompson.

There’s the impressive estate that’s underway in South Surrey that is equal parts Mediterranean (arched entry porticos, casement windows and covered verandahs), French (steep pitched roof) and English (formal interior and garden). And the French country-inspired home in West Vancouver that Thompson calls “Adera,” with its historical references to the past, incorporating rough stones at its base and more refined stonework above. With comfort his ultimate priority, he is further inspired by the legendary Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869–1944), renowned for the grand country homes he designed in the 1900s, often integrated with a beautiful garden featuring stone fountains and borders of lavender. 

Standing the test of time, Lutyens’ masterpieces – Little Thakeham in West Sussex, England, Marsh Court in Hampshire, England, and even the British Embassy in Washington, D.C. – are a showcase of his fondness for mixing styles and eras. The architect’s homes are oft described as works of art, with handmade brick exteriors, marble columns and stone-mullioned windows. Corridors run the width of the homes and formal rooms are paneled in walnut and complemented by tapestries.

“They stand the test of time because they were well-thought-out and well done when they were built,” says Thompson. “There is a lot of personality behind this kind of architecture. When people see it they go, ‘Wow that’s impressive!’ That’s the beauty of it. It’s not that it’s new, but it has been forgotten.”


 Castle in Chenonceau, France, c. 1513. Characteristics of Chateauesque estates include smooth stone exterior walls, steeply pitched roofs and stylistic elements like round towers and arched doorways. 

A revival of historical style, this neoclassical home evokes an air of elegance and formality by incorporating traditional elements drawn from Greek and Roman architecture. Note the symmetrical arrangement of multi-paned windows and the hallmark feature of a stately front porch supported by stone columns extending two stories. 

Images courtesy of Design Marque / shutterstock.com / Images courtesy of Design Marque