French architecture spans many years in history, beginning with the Early Renaissance Period in 1484 and ending with the Restoration Period in 1870. Most periods and styles throughout these years were named and influenced by reigning monarchs of France. Although each period had decorative changes, one thing remained constant in French architecture – the love of romance and architectural order.
Today, this same love of romance and symmetry can be seen in beautiful luxury homes that reflect French-style architecture. Whether you prefer a grand château, rustic country farmhouse, or quaint cottage, French home design always reflects a romantic, charming ambiance.
Architectural Features in French-Style Homes
One of today’s most popular French home designs, French Provincial, originated during the Baroque Period under the reign of Louis XIV with grand manor estates and châteaux built by French nobles. French Normandy, another popular style, reflects the half-timbered houses in Normandy and Rouen that date back to the Middle Ages. The Châteauesque style reflects a romantic, elegant building style found in many of the original châteaux build for French nobility. Although architectural details change based on style, certain features are characteristic of all French-style homes.A
- Stone, brick, or stucco exteriors
- Two stories with high-pitched roof lines
- Hipped roofs that slope down to the eaves on all four sides
- Mansard roofs with two slopes on each of the four sides
- Large towering chimneys
- Multi-paned windows
- Round towers or gables
- Curved arches and stonework on windows and doorways
Predominant features in this more formal architectural style are balance and symmetry. Homes are built of stone, brick, or stucco often with roof or eave detailing in copper or slate. Windows and chimneys are symmetrical and perfectly balanced. Defining features include a steep, high, hipped roof, rectangle doors set in arched openings, balcony and porch balustrades and French windows adorned with shutters. Second-story windows typically have a curved top that breaks through the cornice.
This style borrows it’s features from the Normandy region in France where barns were attached to the main living quarters. It is a more rural style of architecture with asymmetrical features. Windows and doorways are often surrounded by wood framing instead of stone or brick. Large stone fireplaces dominate the exterior, and the front entrance is often surrounded by a curved structure that resembles a turret or grain silo. The Normandy Cottage is a cozy and romantic style that features a small round tower topped by a cone-shaped roof.
The Châteauesque style reflects the look of old castles in France built for many of the country’s nobles and royals. This style, popular for well-to-do American homeowners between 1880 and 1910, can be seen in the famous Biltmore Estate built in 1895. Predominant architectural features include curved turrets, arched openings, and massive roof towers that create a castle-like effect. Although this rather flamboyant style is less popular than Provincial or Normandy, it reflects the romantic, authentic style of the original French châteaux scattered throughout the rural countryside.