french provincial

French architecture






French provincial

One of the most distinctive characteristics of many French buildings is the tall second story windows, often arched at the top, that break through the cornice and rise above the eaves. This unusual window design is especially noticeable on America’s French provincial homes. Modeled after country manors in the French provinces, these brick or stucco homes are stately and formal. They have steep hipped roofs and a square, symmetrical shape with windows balanced on each side of the entrance. The tall second story windows add to the sense of height.

French Normandy

In Normandy and the Loire Valley of France, farm silos were often attached to the main living quarters instead of a separate barn. After World War I, Americans romanticized the traditional French farmhouse, creating a charming style known as French Normandy. Sided with stone, stucco, or brick, these homes may suggest the Tudor style with decorative half timbering (vertical, horizontal, and diagonal strips of wood set in masonry). The French Normandy style is distinguished by a round stone tower topped by a cone-shaped roof. The tower is usually placed near the center, serving as the entrance to the home. French Normandy and French provincial details are often combined to create a style simply called French Country or French Rural carved or embossed on mouldings, sconces, and banisters.

Second Empire

During the mid-1800s when Napoleon III established the Second Empire in France, Paris became a glamorous city of tall, imposing buildings. Many homes were embellished with details such as paired columns and elaborate wrought iron cresting along the rooftop. But the most striking feature borrowed from this period is the steep, boxy mansard roof. You will recognize a mansard roof by its trapezoid shape. Unlike a triangular gable, a mansard roof has almost no slope until the very top, when it abruptly flattens. This nearly perpendicular roofline creates a sense of majesty, and also allows more usable living space in the attic. In the United States, Second Empire is a Victorian style. However, you can also find the practical and the decidedly French mansard roof on many contemporary homes.

Beaux Arts

Another Parisian trend rose out of the legendary École des Beaux Arts (School of Fine Arts) where many American architects studied. Flourishing during the early 1900s, the Beaux Arts style was a grandiose elaboration on the more refined neoclassical style. Symmetrical facades were ornamented with lavish details such as swags, medallions, flowers, and shields. These massive, imposing homes were almost always constructed of stone and were reserved for only the very wealthy. However a more humble home might be said to show Beaux Arts influences if it has stone balconies and masonry ornaments.


Although we use the term "French" Creole, the mix includes Spanish, African, Native American, and other heritages. French Creole architecture is an American Colonial style that developed in the early 1700s in the Mississippi Valley, especially in Louisiana. French Creole buildings borrow traditions from France, the Caribbean, and many other parts of the world. French Creole homes from the Colonial period were especially designed for the hot, wet climate of that region. Traditional French Creole homes had some or all of these features:

  • Timber frame with brick or "Bousillage" (mud combined with moss and animal hair)
  • Wide hipped roof extends over porches
  • Thin wooden columns
  • Living quarters raised above ground level
  • Wide porches, called "galleries"
  • No interior hallways
  • Porches used as passageway between rooms
  • French doors (doors with many small panes of glass)

See also

French Colonial Architecture

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