French Architecture


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French architecture swings from formal in the city to unfussy in the countryside. While almost all French architecture employs symmetry, the more relaxed aura of homes in the provinces — hence the term French Provincial — has made it an extremely popular style in American suburbs, especially in the 1920s and ’30s and again in the 1960s. The style is rooted in the manor homes, or chateaux, built by French nobles during the reign of Louis XIV in the mid-1600s. “Many Americans,” writes Dallas scholar Virginia Savage McAlester in her seminal book, A Field Guide to American Houses, “among them both architects and builders, served in France during World War I, and gained a firsthand familiarity” with houses in the French countryside. “During the following decade, the 1920s, Americans were entranced by France, having helped rescue it during the war.”


Symmetrical façades, symmetrical one- or two-story wings, brick or stucco walls, tall hip roofs of slate tiles or wood shakes, tall front doors set in gently arched openings, tall mullioned windows with wooden shutters and second-story windows whose tops often break the cornice line. Detailing is usually minimal, perhaps just some decorative masonry around the entry or quoins at the house’s corners.


The Elms, the magnificent 1901 mansion in Newport, Rhode Island; the now-gone French Village in Hollywood, California, a 1920s enclave of charming French Provincial bungalows and artist studios by architect brothers Walter Davis and Pierpont Davis; and, loosely, the house of Tony and Carmela Soprano in The Sopranos.


Today, French Provincial–style homes can be found all over North Texas. Your Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty agent can find the perfect one for you.