When you think of the French countryside, perhaps you envision bright sunshine on lavender fields. While there are elements that contribute to the French country style, the look is always charming, Old-World, rustic, and welcoming. This style has a warm and casual feel that fits beautifully into your home. It conveys a timeless luxury without being overly stuffy and ornate. The French country architecture style marries the rustic and refined, creating an elegant and comfortable vibe.
History of French Country Architecture
French country architecture is an Old-World style that was initially found in the countryside of France. The term is used to refer to rural manor homes and chateaux from the 1600s and 1700s. Sometimes, these structures are real manors for wealthy homeowners, while some are also business centers for tenants and farms who lived in the surrounding land. Others were built as vacation homes, and many of them were established during the time of Louis XIV. It brought about toned-down and simpler versions of what you can find in the halls of Versailles. The French aristocrats built these structures in the provinces, such as in Provence, Normandy, Brittany, and other rural regions of France.
The style first came to America after the First World War, as soldiers have admired the grand chateaux and quaint farmhouses in rural France. As they returned to America, they built several homes in a similar style. The French country style wasn’t as popular as many British-influenced architecture styles, but they became fairly common in the US, especially in the 1920s. The style
Characteristics of French Country Architecture
The French country style exudes an Old-World, warm, and welcoming charm with a relaxed feel. It makes use of natural elements, softly faded colors, and deliberate lines to create a comfortable home. French country, which is sometimes referred to as French provincial architecture, has several identifying features, such as:
1. Steeply pitched or hipped roof
One of the most distinctive features of a French Country home is its steeply pitched and often hipped roof. With a hipped roof, all sides of the roof slope downward towards the wall of the house. French country architecture also features barrel-tile, slate-tile, or copper-accented roofs.
2. Tall second stories
French provincial homes usually have tall second floors, and sometimes, these upper stories also have their tall windows with curvy, arching tops. In some homes, the windows even extend beyond the eaves of the roof or the cornice.
3. Roof dormers
Dormers are extensions that protrude out from the roof. The roof dormers typically found in French country architecture often have gabled roof sections that meet at a ridge.
4. Tall windows
The windows in a French country style home are tall and narrow. The windows of the first and second floors align symmetrically and feature either wood shutters or rounded eyebrow arches. The formal symmetry of the windows adds formal elegance to a warm and welcoming feel. The shutters can be closed to keep the sun rays out in the summer. Sometimes, the windows are encircled with wildly growing vines.
5. Beamed ceilings and walls
In a French country style home, exposed wood beams on the ceilings are typical. The pale plaster walls or ceilings are usually punctuated with dark wood beams.
6. Rustic flooring
The floors of a French country home is usually made of clay, stone, and brick. Old wooden boards blend well with this style, too. Limestone is another option. The focus is to go for old and charming.
7. Natural materials
Natural materials are essential elements in French country style decorating. The exterior walls are usually finished with either natural stone or red brick. Any detailing or trim work around the windows and doors is usually white stonework, and it’s rarely painted. The interiors are covered with smooth plaster. Rooms may feature some limestone mantels and fireplaces. Natural stone floors are usually covered with cotton or wool rugs.
8. Stone fireplace
No authentic French country house is complete without a stone fireplace. Its hearth is made of clay or brick, and accessories such as iron wall displays or copper pots hang on the side walls. Tiles, either ceramic or stone, are used to border the fireplace, and a massive beam is placed at the top to serve as a mantle.
9. Nature-inspired colors
For the exterior, the colors used for French country homes vary, but it is always inspired by nature. The interior color palette features calm, soft, muted, and relaxing shades. You can typically find shades of sunny yellow, soft gold, fiery red, burnt rust, light grays, warm antique whites, cobalt blues, soft ocean blues, bright grass green, and dark hunter green. These colors showcase the airiness of a French country look. Some intense colors are allowed to work as an accent, but they are not vivid and not widely used.
The Drawbacks to French Country Homes
The beautiful slate in French country homes make it so appealing by the curb, and it’s visible because the roofs are steeply pitched. But after many decades, many of the original roofs from original French country homes are breathing their last. Replacing the damaged portions of the roof with a slate tile can be so costly. The copper trim, which is a characteristic feature of the French provincial style, can be costly to replace or maintain. If the plumbing and wiring have not been replaced since the house was built, there’s always a possibility of significant maintenance expenses for a few years or a few months down the line.
French country homes are popular in the US, particularly in places where suburbs were built between the two World Wars. The style is also popular in new housing developments in the country. But since French provincial homes are typically built on a grand scale, you won’t find a starter home in this architectural style – unless you build a new one (which will make it not authentic). And with any big house, make sure to take the cost of furnishing and maintaining a larger home into your account when you’re budgeting.