11 Essential Features of a French Provincial Home
Melbourne has a long-standing love affair with French architecture. In its earliest days, the style was popular with some of the city’s wealthiest and most well-connected residents.
As much a statement of status as an aesthetic preference, these homes were designed to impress. They were also built to last, with many fine examples still standing. Most of these properties remain significant local landmarks, having been lovingly maintained and restored over the years.
This fascination with French architecture continues today, as shown by the widespread popularity of French Provincial designs. While strongly associated with Melbourne’s exclusive inner east, evidence of this style can be found right throughout the city. Even on the edges of the urban area, new estates are dotted with these statement properties.
It is easy to see why this style, having become synonymous with prestige and luxury, is so popular. It exudes an understated elegance that is both structured and casual. Despite often being quite imposing, these properties somehow remain warm and inviting, making them suitable for families and entertainers alike.
There is also a comforting consistency to the French Provincial style. While these properties come in a range of shapes and sizes, they usually share a number of key features. Here, we look at the most important and widely recognisable elements.
1. The symmetrical facade
It is often said that beauty lies in symmetry. The French Provincial style leans into this, with properties usually featuring a pleasingly symmetrical façade. Most often flat and centred around a large entrance door, the overall shape of the front elevation is generally well-balanced.
Most of these properties are made from stone and feature some rendered sections. This is often used to reinforce the sense of symmetry, with balanced detail lines emanating from the doors and windows. Window placement is also important, generally being mirrored across the façade and over the different levels of the home
2. The structured landscaping
Many French Provincial homes also feature carefully planned and meticulously maintained landscaping. This usually enhances the overall symmetry of the property and is often designed around a central entrance path. Hedging and grasses are widely used, along with taller, more architectural plants, often evenly placed along the pathways and fences.
Many French Provincial properties also feature front fences made from stone and wrought iron, often with an intricate statement gate. Curved driveways are also common, as are steps and structured pathways. When combined, these elements create plenty of street appeal, highlighting both the grandeur and warmth of the property.
3. The steep roofline
French Provincial homes are known for their steep hipped roofs. Usually slate-tiled, they are generally flat-topped and slope down to each external wall. This gives these properties a unique and easily recognisable shape.
Many homes in this style also feature dormers. Dormers are a small extension of the roofline that may be gabled or feature a window. Often largely an aesthetic choice, dormers can also help increase the usable space and natural light on the top floor
4. The grand scale
‘Grandeur’ is one of the words most commonly associated with French Provincial properties. Homes in this style are generally larger family homes built over two stories. As they tend to feature high ceilings throughout, they are also often taller than other comparable homes in different styles.
Somewhat uniquely, the second story of a French Provincial home is often taller than the first. This helps to elongate the vertical height of the façade, making it seem even larger than it actually is. Together with the strength of the stonework and the liberal use of windows and doors, this creates quite an imposing look.
Most modern French Provincial homes also feature quite generous floor plans. Living areas are often large and open plan, allowing for an easy flow between the different spaces. Many designs are also quite flexible, providing plenty of options for accommodating and entertaining guests.
5. The large windows
As the name suggests, the French Provincial style originated in regional France. Here, views out across the surrounding countryside were both a luxury and requirement. As a result, large windows became a key feature of these designs.
Generally made up of multiple smaller panes, these large windows usually open like doors. As such, in addition to providing plenty of natural light, they are also great for airflow and ventilation. However, modern privacy expectations do mean that window treatment choices are important.
More traditional French Provincial designs usually feature a combination of square and arched windows. Generally, these are used on the first and second floors, respectively, and help highlight the height of the ceilings.
6. The statement doors
Unsurprisingly, classic French doors are a big part of a French Provincial design. Usually opening out onto a terrace or balcony, they help bring in further light and airflow. They also help minimise the barrier between indoor and outdoor spaces, allowing life to flow easily between the two.
Much like the windows, most external doors are usually large and multi-paned. Many French Provincial designs also feature a prominent, primary entry door that leads into a grand reception area. This door is usually heavier and often features an intricately wrought iron inset or other detailed design feature.
7. The designer floors
High-end flooring is a big feature in the modern French Provincial home. Parquetry is particularly popular in living spaces as it adds yet another layer of detail and luxury. Understandably, French Oak is a very common choice for this, though most hardwoods can be used.
More traditional French Provincial designs feature flagstone flooring, reflecting the style’s regional roots. This creates a more rustic, lived-in feel, making it perfect for more utilitarian spaces, like kitchens, bathrooms, and laundries.
Other common flooring options include wide-board timber flooring, other natural stones, and even brick. Rugs are also widely used in French Provincial homes, particularly in bedrooms, where their warmth and softness is especially appreciated.
8. The entertainer’s kitchen
The kitchen is truly the heart of a French Provincial home. It is often a significant design feature and usually seen as an area for both living and entertaining. It also often blends rustic and modern elements to create a space that is practical, comfortable, and elegant.
A large island bench is a key feature of most modern French Provincial homes. In addition to increasing the available bench space, this helps make the kitchen more social. As such, it is a perfect addition for everyday use, as well as entertaining.
The styling of a French Provincial kitchen is generally kept quite clean. Think classic shaker cabinets, chrome or aged brass hardware and tapware, and natural stone benchtops.
9. The mixed materials
Most modern French Provincial homes feature a range of materials throughout the design. While most are more natural, like wood and stone, it is the variety that creates a sense of charm.
As previously mentioned, the external construction of a French Provincial home will usually be some form of stone. Generally, stone will also be used throughout the home, particularly in the kitchen and bathroom (benchtops, splashback, etc.). As also noted earlier, stone floors are also common in more traditional designs.
The cool strength of this stonework is often offset by the softer warmth of natural wood. Wood is widely used throughout a French Provincial home for floors, internal doors, and most furniture. Traditional exposed beams are also common, particularly in homes that have a more rustic feel.
Other materials often featured throughout a French Provincial home include brass and wrought iron, linen and woollen fabrics, and glass and crystal.
10. The warm colour scheme
Colour is an important consideration in a French Provincial home. While the general palette is quite subdued and refined, most designs will also incorporate some moments of vibrancy.
Externally, French Provincial homes are usually more natural tones, like creams, browns, greens, and greys. Sometimes contrast is created through the use of more crisp whites or deeper natural colours on door and window trims.
Inside, the muted palette tends to continue, but with a greater sense of warmth. While lighter shades of white, grey, and blue are popular, blush tones are also widely used. These tones are often offset with a bolder feature colour, like a deep navy or rich gold.
11. The luxury furniture
The furniture used in a French Provincial home should bring the whole look together. Generally more intricate than the structure itself, furnishings often feature detailed designs and patterns. This added texture and visual interest is usually brought in through the use of carvings, plasterwork, ironwork, and fabric.
Understandably, antiques are widely used to help reinforce the sense of grandeur and history. Increasingly, these are being paired with more contemporary pieces to create a “modern-classic” vibe. More traditional furnishings, like armoires and console tables are also widely used, for both practical (e.g. providing more storage) and stylistic purposes.
Need help designing your perfect French Provincial home?
As one of Melbourne’s leading custom home building companies, Carmel Homes appreciates the appeal of the French Provincial design. We understand the intricacies of this style and have helped many clients incorporate elements into their new home build. We also pride ourselves on the quality of our finishes and the ability to create a truly luxurious home.
For more information on Carmel Homes, or to book your free design consultation, give us a call.