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.