The research for this post has been nothing short of delightful. When I wrote about Art Deco style homes, I think I mentioned that I would soon cover another architectural category. So, in this post I decided to share some information about French Provincial homes. The research has been fabulous because this style is one of my personal favorites. In fact, our city’s annual Parade of Homes featured an incredible French Provincial home this year that I almost didn’t leave! However, the $1.5 million price tag insured that I went on my merry way.
These stately homes are inspired by rural French manor homes from the 1600s. Initially, French Provincial style came from the country homes built for French aristocrats. The traditional French mansions were too stuffy and formal to serve as a vacation home, so the style was softened to provide a more rustic, inviting feel that we now identify as “French Country”. These warm, comfortable traits are likely why the style continues to be admired today. They manage to be quite grand without being stuffy — the epitome of country elegance.
French Provincial style is popular throughout the United States, found most often in homes built between the two World Wars and in new construction. The style’s popularity rose dramatically from the 1920s ̶ 1960s because soldiers who were stationed or fought in Europe saw these homes and were so fond of them that they brought their inspiration back to the U.S. The style is incredibly popular right now, especially for larger homes in affluent developments. Based on my research, there aren’t very many “starter homes” in French Provincial style.
So what exactly classifies a home as French Provincial? The most notable feature of this style is the roof. Its steep pitch is unique, so it is very recognizable for admirers. Let’s outline a few of the style’s key elements:
- balanced, symmetrical proportions
- exterior composed of brick or stucco
- steep pitched roofline, often made of slate
- tall second-story windows that typically feature an arched top
- copper trim and awnings
- tall chimney on one end of the home
- cube shape to the home, or an “L” shape for larger properties
- simple entry way, usually featuring an arch that covers a small porch
The interiors of French Provincial homes can vary as much at the exteriors. Some are modest and reflect the country influence on this style, often looking like a farmhouse. Others are much more formal, even grand, with wood beams, stonework, arched doorways, and detailed mill work which reflects the influence of the upper class French chateau.
As I mentioned, French Provincial is quite popular right now in new construction, but these new designs are actually considered French Eclectic. They are not as traditionally “French” as the homes built 80 or 90 years ago. These French Eclectic homes feature some design elements found in English Tudor homes, and the proportional symmetry that is so characteristic of French Provincial has also been adjusted and updated to create a new look that is totally unique. Occasionally, a tower is even added to the floor plan, reminiscent of medieval time throughout Europe but very rarely found in a country home.
The most famous example of French Provincial architecture in the U.S. is the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Although I’ve never been to France, I can imagine that there are some astonishingly beautiful homes and buildings throughout the countryside that feature this style. One day, I hope to get to see them in person!
What do you think of French Provincial or “French Country”? Is it a popular style in your market?