French Country Style: Elegant Simplicity and Old World Charm
Amid the horrors of the First World War, American soldiers – who trudged through the villages of France – etched in their memories the visions of the beautiful scenery and landscapes, the quaint villages, and rustic homes in southern France. The picturesque homes that dotted Provence and the rest of the French countryside inspired these soldiers to build their own homes in the French Country style when they came home after the war. With the soldiers settling – and building their homes – across the U.S., theres no particular region where there is a concentration of French Country style homes.
Lets explore the origins and key elements of the French Country style, and how it is interpreted in the U.S. – in the Acadian style, and in combination with other architectural designs such as Craftsman, rustic, farmhouse, and ranch.
An impressive two-story 4,376-square-foot French style home features the signature gable roof and brick/stone facade. The amazing residence includes a covered front porch, four bedrooms, 4.5-baths, fireplace, built-ins, gourmet kitchen, a 2-story living room with a wall of windows looking out to the rear, and other amenities (Plan #198-1054).
French Country Style Defined
With its origins from the rural valleys of southern France, French Country style is inspired by the enchanting homes in Provence, an idyllic region with rolling hills and picturesque fields. French Country is a mix of the simple, rustic, and classic refined French style – basically Old World charm – that ultimately creates an elegant and comfortable atmosphere.
It began in the 1600s during the reign of Louis XIV who established France as a country known for elegance and style. While the elaborate and exquisite styling of the Palace of Versailles, the rural manors, and the chateaux of the aristocrats were luxuries that people in the French countryside could not afford – they were able to emulate the design and adapt it according to the ideals of their quiet and relaxed country lifestyle.
In the U.S., French Country caught on after World War I – as soldiers who served in the European trenches brought its elements to American soil. And with the help of design books and home magazines, French Country became fairly common in the 1920s.
Visions of the French countryside are evoked in this charming one-story, three-bedroom, two-bath French Country style home. The 2,487-square-foot residence features a stunning exterior façade of brick and stone, gabled roof, and a covered front porch. The home has a walk-in kitchen pantry, walk-in closets in every bedroom, split master bedroom design, home office, large mudroom with lockers, as well as a covered rear porch (Plan #142-1171).
Key Elements of French Country Style
French Country style – with its soft colors and deliberate lines – exudes a relaxed, comfortable, and warm feel. The style is about the beauty and serenity of nature and its surroundings, natural elements, and a blend of rustic chic with simple but elegant décor touches.
Here are some distinguishing features of French Country architecture:
A tall, sloping roof in hip or hip-and-gable style is one of the most distinctive elements of French Country homes. In a hip roof, all sides slope downward toward the ground. Like the Spanish Mission homes in California, the hip-style French Country roof uses barrel-shaped clay tiles that come in beige, red, or brown. The style also features slate tiles or copper-accented roofs.
Look at the eye-catching rooflines of this spectacular one-story French Country style home. The hip roof features slate tiles that highlight the brick and stone exterior facade. The amazing home has 5,106 square feet of living space and includes six bedrooms, 6.5 baths, main floor master, mother-in-law apartment, porches, and other stunning amenities (Plan #193-1077).
Tall rectangular windows add to the elegance and symmetry of the French Country home, as windows on the first and second levels are designed to align perfectly. The upper windows are usually arched and often adorned with wooden shutters.
There are windows galore in this fabulous 1.5-story French Country style home. Tall arched windows are aligned from top to bottom in perfect symmetry. In addition to the amazing windows that provide unobstructed views of the gorgeous landscape, the 4,629 square-foot home includes four bedrooms – including a main floor master – a huge kitchen with walk-in and butler’s pantries, and other amenities. (Plan #120-2539)
Natural stone facades of brick and stone are usually flat and accentuate the simple elegance of the French Country style. And, just like the tall windows, the exterior facades emphasize the importance of symmetry in the French Country style.
Straight from a fairy tale. with its attractive brick and stone facade, interesting rooflines, and arched front door, this 1.5-story French Manor home is as enchanting as they come. Within its 3,080 square feet of living space are four bedrooms, 3.5 baths, Great Room with vaulted ceiling and exposed timber beams, a huge chef’s kitchen, mudroom/kids’ nook, and game/media room (Plan #153-1990).
Stone Chimneys give the French Country home a true provincial vibe and make it quaint and charming. The original French Country homes traditionally featured one chimney; but it is not uncommon to also find homes with two chimneys – one on each side of the house.
This stately two-story French Country home, featuring double chimneys, is reminiscent of the elaborate designs of the homes of the French aristocracy during the time of Louis XIV. Other outstanding features of the five-bedroom 3,331-square-foot home include covered front and rear porches, a porte-cochere, tall rectangular windows, gabled roofline, brick, and stone exterior, five full baths, two powder rooms, main floor master with a sitting area, vaulted ceilings, and a huge kitchen with a walk-in pantry (Plan #106-1292).
Wood-Planked or Exposed Wood Ceiling Beams - While exposed dark wooden beams are typical in the French Country home and provide a contrast to the pale plaster walls, there are also many homes that have wood-planked ceilings painted in white painted. The wood was intentionally painted white to match the smooth plaster walls of the home’s interior.
Exposed wood ceiling beams add character to the Great Room of a 1.5-story French Manor home – and a stunning contrast to the white walls cabinetry and kitchen island. The home has four bedrooms, three full baths, and a powder room (Plan #153-1990).
Wood or natural stone floors – Clay, stone, brick, and wood are the usual materials for flooring in the French Country style. A design trend that was quite popular in the original French Country homes that continues to be relevant today is a natural wood flooring design in a parquet or herringbone pattern.
Walk through the double doors of this impressive 1.5-story French Manor home and prepare to be wowed by its features. The dramatic staircase with the intricate details on the rails and beautiful wood finish on the steps is truly an eye-popping sight. There are arched entryways, vaulted ceiling, and fine workmanship on all the built ins (Plan #153-1990).
Shutters are fascinating staples of the French Country style. They can come in vibrant colors like blue and green or have a worn and weathered look. While they serve a decorative purpose, in the typical French Country home, shutters - like the hipped roof - are functional. They can open and close - to allow breezes and sunlight in, and to ward off cold air, rain, and high winds.
What’s in this 1,715-square-foot French-Acadian style home that spells charm and curb appeal? Let’s start with the hip-style rooflines, and those attractive shutters that frame the glass-paned windows and complement the exterior of brick and stone. Then, there are the details on the welcome porch and front door. Inside are 10-foot ceilings, three bedrooms, two full baths, s Great Room with fireplace, sliding glass doors to the rear porch, and a spacious kitchen (Plan # 142-1069).
French Country homes emphasize a calming neutral color palette. Soft and subtle hues - white, cream, gray, pale yellow, baby blue, warm pink - are often used. And accent colors are vibrant shades of dark green, red, deep blue, and even black. To provide warmth and depth to the color palette, think natural materials like wood and stone.
Soft hues that bring comfort and warmth are essential in French Country design. And the Great Room of this 1.5-story home exudes all that – with the cream background, exposed wood beam and brick wall, and furniture in solid tones complemented by patterned fabrics. The 2,854-square-foot French style home features a striking blend of stucco, wood, and brick in its exterior and interior. It includes three bedrooms, two baths, fabulous kitchen, covered front and rear porches and other delightful amenities (Plan #142-1209).
Can you imagine a French Country home without outdoor space? Whether it is a courtyard, a garden with large pots of plants and colorful flowers, or a charming porch, the beauty of the French countryside is often captured in this style.
The beautifully landscaped courtyard lined with plants and flowers, and a welcoming front porch with an arched entryway of a 1.5-story French Country style home capture the essence of the design. The spectacular 4,629- square-foot home has four bedrooms, 4.5 baths and other great features (Plan #120-2539).
French Country homes often have gabled extensions or dormers that project vertically from the roof. A gabled roof dormer is formed by two sloping sections that meet at the top of a ridge. Simple gable dormers serve both an aesthetic and practical function. They add to the beauty and style of the home and add light, air, space, and symmetry to the home.
A pair of roof dormers add to the charm and curb appeal of this one-story French style home with Acadian elements. The gabled dormers include functional windows that provide air and light to the space. The charming home has an inviting front porch, 3273 square feet of living space and includes 4 bedrooms (Plan #206-1024).
French Country Style in the U.S.
In the U.S., the French Country style may be combined with another style such as Craftsman, Rustic, or Farmhouse. It is immensely popular throughout the South and the Gulf Coast Region because of French and Cajun influences in the culture and architecture. In Louisiana particularly, the design is expressed mainly in the Acadian style – a branch of French Country and French Provincial architecture.
All the charming exterior elements of the French Country style are displayed in this lovely one-story Acadian style home. The gabled rooflines, a shed dormer, tall, narrow windows with attractive shutters, a soothing color palette in its brick façade, covered front porch, and a landscaped courtyard. The 2,210-square-foot home includes four bedrooms, two baths, high ceilings, spacious kitchen, bonus room and mudroom (Plan #142-1154)
Like the French Country version, Acadian design features mostly one or 1.5-story structures with tall sloping rooflines, brick exteriors, and front porches. The hipped roofs not only enhance the charm and appeal of these homes; they are also functional since they make it easy to shed rain, snow, leaves and small branches.
Ranch Style with French Country Vibes
If you love the Ranch style but want a little Old World flair with the traditional design, then think of a French Country Ranch plan. The hip and gable roofs, natural stone facades, arched windows, doors and entryways, decorative shutters, dormers create unparalleled curb appeal for the typical Ranch style.
The one-story layout, with its simple footprint, convenience, and accessibility, is also practical across all age demographics, particularly for empty nesters and young families.
Here’s a Ranch with a French accent! With its gables, exposed wood beams, a welcoming covered front porch leading to the arched doorway, this stunning home is a sight to behold. The fabulous one-story home has 2,537 square feet of living space that includes four bedrooms, 2.5 baths, kitchen with a walk-in pantry, bonus room, family room and a covered rear porch (Plan #193-1174).
Craftsman with a Touch of French Country
With similar elements such as simplicity of form, use of natural materials, gabled rooflines, and exposed wood beams, it is not surprising that the French Style is also seen in combination with the Craftsman style.
An amazing Craftsman style home combines its signature horizontal lines, thick columns on stone pedestals, gabled roofs with French Country features like dormers, narrow windows with shutters, brick, stone, and wood exterior facade to create a fascinating home with tremendous curb appeal.The one-story home with 2,641 square feet of living space has four bedrooms, 2.5 baths, a vaulted covered front porch, walk-in pantry, plenty of storage, a laundry room and mudroom with lockers (Plan #142-1170).
There is much to love about the French Country style. Think about the simple elegance, Old World charm, comfort, and warmth it brings to the home. And far from being ornate and overly elaborate, the French Country style blends well with other architectural styles to create an aesthetic adaptable to modern times.
Footnote: The lead image in this article is a magnificent 1.5-story, 2979-square-foot European style home with French characteristics. For more details on the 4-bedroom, 3.5-bath residence with all its spectacular amenities, go to Plan #193-1007