French Country Architecture Characteristics and Style

French country architecture is a domestic architectural style that arose in the rural areas of France.

French County architecture is distinct from French provincial style, which features grand and elegant homes that aristocrats built in the country during the reign of Louis XIV. Instead, French country homes are rustic and informal and feature a homey look that is comfortable yet stylish.

Rise of French Country Architecture in the United States

French Country Architecture

French country architecture was a building style practiced by communities using local materials. Locals produced the charming and earthy house style most people think about when they hear “French country house.” These earthy country houses are distinct from grandiose villas and chateaux, more common in grand French house architecture.

It is unclear who popularized the French country home style in the United States. Many experts believe that American soldiers returning home from France in World War I started the trend. These soldiers saw the elegant and comfortable country houses that dotted the rural areas of France and helped to popularize the style of these houses in the United States.

French country design became fashionable throughout America during the 1920s and 1930s. French country architecture had a revival period in the 1980s and remains a beloved style today.

Characteristics of French Country Architecture

French Country Architecture
Characteristics of French Country Architecture

Modern French country-style homes in the United States are more refined than most traditional country-French home architecture.

Exterior Features:

  • Cladding materials – A Traditional French style home features natural cladding, including brick, stone, and exposed half-timbers. More modern French country houses may have stucco cladding with a rough texture.
  • Roofline – Country French houses have steep, hipped roof lines with or without dormer windows. They feature traditional roof materials, including terracotta tiles and wood shingles.
  • Window design – A country French home will feature tall windows, some with an arched design and protected by shutters that open and close.
  • Doors – Some French country homes include French-style doors with glazing
  • Exterior colors – French country houses have muted colors that reflect the natural environment.
  • Double chimney – Many French country houses have two chimneys to give the home a symmetrical appearance.

Interior Features:

  • Plaster walls – Historic French country houses had plaster walls.
  • Natural material floors – Traditional and modern French-style country houses feature natural floors like wood or slate.
  • Exposed wood beams – The wooden beams on the ceiling and walls give a French country house an authentic “Old World” look.

Other Types of French Home Architecture

Country homes are just one type of French-style housing. French provincial architecture and French Eclectic architecture are two other styles.

French Provincial Home

French Provincial architecture has existed since the 1600s. It developed as French aristocrats in the time of Louis XIV sought to escape the rigors of city life. They were inspired by the designs of Versailles and wanted to create their own grand homes.

French Provincial architecture has some of the same design features as French country homes, like brick and stone cladding, but they are more symmetrical and larger in scale. French Provincial architecture includes grand manor houses and chateaux homes.

French Eclectic Home

French Eclectic style is the American form of French Provincial and French country style that was popular in the United States beginning in the 1920s. As signified by its name, French eclectic houses will vary in appearance.

French Eclectic homes feature steep, hipped rooflines, two stories, exterior cladding of brick, stone, or wood, a symmetric shape, and the incorporation of classical detailing like columns of pilasters.

French Country Home Decor

French country home style is one of the most enduring interior design types, as it is both chic and comfortable.

  • Natural Textures – The French housing style incorporates a variety of natural textures, including hard materials like wood and stone and soft textures like wool and leather.
  • Rustic Room Features – Rustic elements like interior stone or brick wall cladding or exposed wood beams create the look of a home in the French countryside.
  • Natural Colors – A typical country French home will feature a soft color palette with warm, earthy hues. Gray, ivory, light blue, sage green, and creamy yellow are all standard.
  • Traditional Furniture – An authentic French country-style house features traditional vintage and antique furniture. This furniture will have soft and flowing lines rather than sharp edges. Upholstered furniture and pieces with a rush or cane seating are typical.