Growing up in Greece and Turkey provided John Henry, architect and owner of John Henry International, the opportunity to be inspired by true classical architecture and buildings that are thousands of years old. Now living in Orlando, Fla., Henry is passionate about utilizing and bringing to life classical design in the United States.
“It’s difficult to be inspired in this country because we don’t have any good classical examples that are over 100 years old,” Henry says. “There are few architects that can produce accurate period design because we have to learn on our own.”
The project in Orlando shown on these pages is a great example of Henry’s ability to design true period buildings. The style of this house is Country French because the client specifically asked for it to be that way, Henry says.
The client came prepared with a rough engineering sketch of what he expected upon asking Henry to design his house. From there, Henry developed the design featuring classical architecture. “A unique feature of the house is that in the middle of the design, the client asked for special geometries — a golden section and Fibonacci series,” Henry says. “The golden section was used by the Greeks, originally in the ideal proportions of a rectangle. The Fibonacci series is a collection of numbers that also relate to architectural proportions.”
Henry used the golden section in the front elevation of the house. The Fibonacci series also was used in the front of the house. “Fibonacci series is found in the room layouts — rooms have different lengths to widths. Proportions are small and get larger as you progress from the living room to the foyer to the library and to the bedrooms,” Henry says.
The most elaborate rooms in the house are the foyer, dining room, living room and library. “Normally people look at the ceiling treatments, the wall and then the floor. The ceiling treatments in the foyer have a glass groin vault lit by a skylight with leaded glass in the intersection of two vaults,” Henry says. “The living room features a coffered barrel vault ceiling with rosettes in the coffers, and the ceiling in the library includes cherry wood beams.”
The dining room includes an elliptical ceiling with two chandeliers and associated mouldings. “Because the room was elliptical, the wood trim was difficult. Every piece of moulding had to be kerf-cut or specialized,” he adds.
These also are the rooms that Henry is most proud of. “I had the privilege of decorating them because the interiors are typically done by an interior designer now-a-days, but to maintain overall integrity I decorated the foyer, dining room, living room and library,” Henry says. An interior designer decorated the rest of the rooms in the house.
The lot chosen for the house includes oak trees and adds to the French style of the design. “We used hand-carved stone details on the front entry porch, windows on the front and columns on the rear,” he adds. “Natural stone details on the exterior combine with a thin stone veneer of a rustic cast concrete on the base with stucco on the second floor. Tile roof simulates slate but it’s really concrete tile.”
The same stone detailing used on the exterior was used in the foyer. “Walls in the foyer give it a castle feel with the use of stone veneer to simulate stone blocks — three quarters of the walls are stone veneer,” Henry says.
Henry didn’t experience many challenges while designing this house. “The client communication was very good and they were happy with everything we showed them,” he adds. “However, we did have a challenge getting the finishing trades to do the project. Very detailed homes tend to be bypassed for quick and easy projects.”
At the end of the day, Henry is proud of his ability to design a true period building. “This building has proportions of a real French mansion,” he adds. “There is a place for classicism in the modern world as there is a place for modern architecture.”