What is French Colonial Architecture?
French Colonial architecture encompasses many dreamy architecture styles used by the French during colonization. They are stunning and historical. While they have been around for hundreds of years, they have gone through significant periods of change and evolved into their own style unique from the architecture in France. Let’s explore where this style came from, and what makes it what it is.
Origins and Evolution of French Colonial Architecture
All colonial architecture styles come from inspiration from the home countries of the people colonizing. However, this also means that the French Colonial homes are less common in America because the French stopped colonizing the Americas in the very early 1800s. After the Louisiana purchase in 1803, there was no more colonization by the French. Naturally, French Colonial homes are most commonly found in the areas colonized by the French. You will see this style of architecture in the American Midwest, from Illinois to Louisiana. The style is also found in Canada. Some (although very few) still exist from this period, and a few are still being made inspired by the original buildings.
French Colonial architecture is one of America’s older architectural styles, as it began back at the start of the 17th century. However, as the style evolved over time in the Americas, some elements began to appear that weren’t in the architecture of France. For example, cast iron technology became expansive in the 1800s, over 200 years after French Colonial architecture showed up in North America. As it’s popularity spread, it began to be commonly used in this style of home, and now you’ll rarely see a French Colonial building without it. Another example is the French Colonial houses and townhouses of New Orleans, Louisiana. While typical homes in this architecture style are white or at least neutral colored, the homes in NOLA are generally bright colored, to fit in with the area’s sub-tropical climate and Creole culture.
Characteristics of French Colonial Architecture
French colonial architecture is first recognized by it’s balanced and symmetrical structure. They employ a simple, rectangular shape. The next defining feature is that they usually have full porches and balconies, whether it’s an entire home or a townhouse. The roof will usually be steep and sloping, usually hipped, and the windows are tall. Shutters adorn large, double French windows. And of course, French Colonial homes would not be complete without double French doors.
Materials used in French Colonial architecture included brick and sometimes stucco, and of course wood. Often there will be wrought iron detailing, especially on the porches. The layout of the interior would typically have just a few, spread out, spacious rooms. In larger versions of these homes, there is typically a large entryway and focus on a parlor, reflective of the importance of entertaining in the era these homes were built.
What is a French Colonial House?
A French colonial house refers to a style of architecture that was prevalent in the colonies and former territories of France, particularly during the 17th to the 20th centuries. This architectural style was influenced by the traditional French architecture of the time, but it also incorporated elements from the local cultures and climates of the regions where the colonies were established.
The specific characteristics of French colonial houses can vary depending on the location and time period, as the colonies were spread across different continents and climates.
However, some common features in French colonial house that can be identified:
- Balconies and verandas: French colonial houses often feature spacious balconies or verandas, which are typically covered and provide shade from the sun. These outdoor spaces serve as extensions of the interior living areas and are ideal for enjoying the outdoors in a tropical or subtropical climate.
- French architectural elements: The houses typically exhibit elements of French architectural styles, such as symmetrical facades, tall windows with shutters, pitched roofs, and dormer windows. These features reflect the influence of French design and add a sense of elegance to the houses.
- Tropical adaptations: In many colonial territories with hot and humid climates, French colonial houses incorporated adaptations to suit the local environment. For example, houses in French Indochina (Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia) often had high ceilings and large windows to promote airflow and ventilation, while houses in the Caribbean often had elevated foundations or “pilotis” to protect against flooding.
- Materials and construction: The materials used in French colonial houses varied depending on the location. In some areas, houses were constructed using local materials such as timber, bamboo, or adobe. In other regions, more durable materials like brick or stone were used. French architectural techniques, such as masonry and plasterwork, were often employed in construction.
- Colonial influences: French colonial houses also incorporated design elements from the local cultures and traditions of the colonized regions. These influences could be seen in the use of indigenous materials, decorative motifs, or adaptations to local building techniques.
Overall, French colonial houses reflect a blend of French architectural styles with local influences, resulting in unique and distinct architectural forms in different parts of the world. Today, many of these houses continue to be preserved as historical landmarks or have influenced contemporary architecture in their respective regions.
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