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Modern or French Provincial Home: What is the Best Design for You?

When planning a new home, your preferred architectural style will significantly influence your experience of the design and build process. Having a clear view of the look you want to create will make many design decisions much easier. It will also give you a framework for choosing everything from your colour and material palettes to your building team.

But what do you do if you are not a devotee of a particular style or specific look? How do you narrow down the long list of potential influences and choose the ones to work into your design? And how can you be sure you will be happy with your new home design once it is finished?

To help with this, we want to take a closer look at two of the most popular design styles – modern and French Provincial. As part of this, we will explore why so many homeowners find them appealing and the challenges each presents. We will also share our advice on choosing the best style for your taste and lifestyle.

The pros and cons of a modern home design

Drawing influence from Scandinavian and Bauhaus design principles, modern homes are known for their sense of understated minimalism. Designs in this style preference function over form, with space used efficiently and ornamentation kept to a minimum. They also give careful consideration to every inclusion, making sure each detail of the design serves a practical purpose.

To many fans of modern home design, the biggest benefit of the style is the feeling of light and space. Modern floor plans tend to be very open, with an easy flow between the different areas. This makes them quite social and an ideal choice for large families and those that regularly entertain.

Maximising the natural light is also a significant focus, with many designs featuring multiple large windows or sections of glass. This is especially common in living areas, reinforcing the sense of openness and making the space feel bright and airy. It also minimises the barriers between indoor and outdoor areas, making internal spaces look bigger and increasing the connection with external entertaining areas.

Many modern home designs pair the liberal use of glass with a notably natural material palette. Like with other design styles, stone and wood are widely used to add warmth, texture, and a feeling of luxury. However, modern designs often also use more structural materials, like steel and concrete, as both practical and aesthetic finishes.

The simplicity of these choices is usually further accentuated through the use of clean lines and crisp edges. These are generally adopted in both the home’s architecture and furnishings, giving the design a sense of formality and structure. Storage also plays a critical role in modern homes, allowing surfaces to be kept clear and uncluttered.

It is important to note here that, while balance is important in modern homes, designs are often deliberately asymmetrical. This often reflects the considered use of space, with structures carefully tailored to suit the lifestyle of the residents. It also means that a modern home design provides plenty of opportunities for customisation and personalisation.

Moreover, owners of modern homes are increasingly looking to maximise their green credentials through both their home’s design and build. Thanks to many of the common features, this style is particularly suited to a focus on energy efficiency and sustainability. There is also a range of products designed to suit modern homes that help reduce the need for heating, etc.

But, for all the good points of a modern home design, there are a couple of negatives. Most significantly, modern homes do not suit everyone’s taste, with some people saying that they feel cold and sterile. Some people also believe that the minimalism of the style leaves little room to add individual character or personality.

Also, given the simplicity of the lines and materials, getting the balance of a modern home right can be tough. Every detail needs to be carefully thought through to make sure it contributes to the overall design. This is where an experienced custom home builder can help, guiding your choices and making sure the design comes together.

The pros and cons of a French Provincial home

As the name suggests, French Provincial homes draw influence from the country estates historically seen throughout rural France. Considered a more traditional approach, homes in this style are much loved for their sense of relaxed luxury. They are generally quite grand in scale, and the best designs strike a balance between simplicity and ornamentation.

To many fans of French Provincial homes, it is the unique combination of comfort and refinement that they find most appealing. They appreciate that designs in this style feel aspirational while remaining highly functional and suitable for daily life. They also like that it is a style that has withstood the test of time and remains extremely popular today.

French Provincial homes are usually instantly recognisable from the street, with traditional façades featuring several key characteristics. For example, most have a mansard roof (flat-topped with steep slopes to the external walls) and flat front profile. They also have a strong sense of symmetry, designed around a central entrance door and evenly spaced windows.

Moving inside, French Provincial floor plans are usually split over two storeys and feature an easy flow and generously proportioned rooms. High ceilings are also common, as are open plan living areas, particularly in more contemporary designs. However, despite the scale, spaces are usually quite light and airy, thanks to the use of large doors and windows.

Interestingly, by capitalising on their vertical height, most French Provincial designs fit a lot into a relatively small footprint. As such, this style is especially popular with those looking to knockdown and rebuild their existing home. That said, knockdown and rebuild projects come with several other important considerations which may impact the suitability of a French Provincial design.

When designing a French Provincial home, the colours and materials you choose to use will also be extremely important. Traditionally, homes in this style feature softer, more subtle base palettes, with warmer whites and light greys and greens common. This is often offset with richer, bolder accent tones, like terracotta and gold, which are generally brought in through fixtures and furnishings.

Acknowledging the style’s modest, country roots, natural materials are also widely used in French Provincial designs. Traditionally, floors would be flagstone or brick, with wood becoming popular more recently, usually in a detailed laying pattern (herringbone, etc.). However, stone remains a common choice for kitchens and bathrooms, with luxuries like marble benchtops and tiling highly sought-after.

French Provincial interiors are also well known for bringing together clean lines and more detailed ornamental features. For example, cornicing and other moulding are often used to add depth and subtly enhance the overall design. More traditional fittings, like lever taps and antique brass handles, are also often used to offset sleeker, more modern surfaces.

All that being said, much like modern homes, French Provincial designs are somewhat of an acquired taste. To some people, the style is a little too traditional and ornamental and can feel “fussy”. Traditional French Provincial designs are also quite specific in their details, leaving relatively little room for personalisation.

It is also worth noting that, without careful planning, French Provincial homes tend not to be overly energy efficient. Due to the grand scale and the large number of windows and doors, a good heating and cooling system is generally required. That said, sustainable building products are increasingly being produced specifically in the French Provincial style.

So… which design style is best?

As the above shows, both of these styles have their strengths and unique appeals. Also, the main weakness of both is that their appeal really depends on your individual taste. As such, choosing the best style for you is really a matter of personal preference.

With that in mind, when trying to pick your perfect design style, it is important to do your research. We believe display homes are a great way to get a real sense of how different styles actually look and feel. They can also be a source of significant inspiration for your own new home plans.

If you are still struggling to pick a single style, you could also consider combining features of a few favourites. Both modern and French Provincial design principles can be easily integrated with other styles to create something new and interesting. This also allows you to plan a home that is truly unique and tailored to your specific taste and lifestyle.

Want to discuss this further?

For more information on different design styles or help choosing the right one for you, give Carmel Homes a call. As one of Melbourne’s leading custom home builders, we have significant experience working with a wide range of design styles. We are also experts in drawing influence from different styles to create unique designs tailored to individual homeowners.


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