By Julie Pellestor, Intern from France
Like with any large country, houses in France come in all different shapes, sizes and materials. There is no single “French home” when it comes to architecture and design. However, there are features that are distinct and more common than most. They’re hard to notice if you’re there for too short a time, however, if you’ve been there as long as I have, they are easy to spot. Should you ever consider moving to France and are in search of authentic design and home features, here are a few to get you started.
The Parisian rooftops are truly distinct and recognized around the world. They are designed for maximum light, most likely adorned with chimneys and are made of zinc, which has been the case since Napoleon the First. Outside of Paris you will find roofs made of slate, red terracotta, straw or even stone. Roofs on French suburban homes typically have a steeper pitch than roofs covering homes in the U.S. and Canada.
Windows and Shutters
Windows on many French homes are vertical and open from the top to the bottom similar to the way doors do rather than sliding up and down. The shutters, known as violets, are often made of wood and sometimes metal and are a prominent feature on almost every French home. Not only are they pleasing to the eye, but they also serve several useful purposes. In the mornings, violets are open to welcome fresh air and sunshine and in the evening they’re closed to let others know you are home. Violets also keep in hot or cold air when closed, maintaining a room’s temperature and a home’s overall energy efficiency. Also, the way violets cover windows offers complete security and privacy for those inside.
Terraces and Patios
While certain U.S. and Canadian homes favor the classic porch where owners can sit,relax and welcome neighbors walking by on quiet tree-lined streets, French home exteriors are often designed to have a terrace or patio as an outdoor living space. The terraces are built with stone-covered flooring and provide space for tables, chairs and even barbecue grills.
French cooking and cuisine is world-renowned, so it’s no wonder that the dining room in a French home is designed with special attention and care. From classical to rustic, you will often experience an atmosphere that is elegant yet casual and as much an experience for the eyes as it is for the palette. High-backed chairs, long tables and complete table settings would be the norm as family and friends gather to share meals that can last for hours.
While most traditional bathrooms in the U.S. and Canada are single rooms, many French homes have two separate bathrooms: one with a shower and sink and the other with the toilet. Some of this has to do with the belief that the two spaces should remain separate, as it is with the kitchen and dining room. The other has to do with historical building and plumbing codes. Either way, it is one more feature that makes a French home unique. When looking at property descriptions in a French real estate listing, it would be worth taking a closer look at the number of bathrooms which might be described as “Toilets”, “WC” (water closet) or “Powder Rooms” to ensure this feature meets your expectations.