architectural history

French Country Architecture

Chateau de Gilly, Gilly-les-Citeaux, France Photo by Matt Lamers on Unsplash

Chateau de Gilly, Gilly-les-Citeaux, France Photo by Matt Lamers on Unsplash

French Country homes blend elegance and grace with rustic warmth and comfort. This architectural style comes from the rural, rolling hills of the French countryside, and effortlessly blends the Old World grandeur of a château with the modesty and ease of a farmhouse. French Country homes often include soft lines, curved arches, and hearty stonework, both inside and out. True provincial estates often developed over time, with additions and expansions constructed as necessary, leading to an asymmetrical shape and an eclectic yet elegant approach to decor that feels comfortable and sincere.

A focus on a gourmet kitchen and an ambling lavender or herb garden is more than appropriate here, as this style of home invites you to slow down and savor. Smooth plaster walls, exposed rafters and wood beams, and tall arched windows with shutters are common in French Country homes, along with cream painted distressed furniture and wall treatments, as this style is all about feeling perfectly worn in. Floors can be patterned terra-cotta tiles or signature wood parquet or chevron, and deep-set fireplaces with limestone mantels anchor living spaces. Lighter colored stone or stucco is traditional for the exterior, with tile roofs and palettes drawn from nature. This style of home exudes effortless warmth for generations to come, with a feel that is both refined and rustic.

French Country style features:   - Prominent, sloping, barrel-tile roofs    - Interior rooms feature high ceilings and symmetrical design    - Muted color palettes drawn from nature    - Stone or wood floors and deep fireplaces with oversized limestone mantels    - Asymmetrical shape and horizontal emphasis, well-suited to a larger acreage    - Crushed limestone paths or driveways and exterior fountains    - Shabby chic interiors and a sense of time-worn warmth

French Country style features:

- Prominent, sloping, barrel-tile roofs

- Interior rooms feature high ceilings and symmetrical design

- Muted color palettes drawn from nature

- Stone or wood floors and deep fireplaces with oversized limestone mantels

- Asymmetrical shape and horizontal emphasis, well-suited to a larger acreage

- Crushed limestone paths or driveways and exterior fountains

- Shabby chic interiors and a sense of time-worn warmth

Which Architectural Home Style is Best for You?

There’s plenty to think about when designing your home—location, how many levels, square footage, materials—but one of the most fun can be choosing an architectural style (or combination of styles) that speaks to you.

Architectural Style Rocky Mountain Plan Company

You’ve probably had a vision of what your dream home would look like since you were a child. Did it have soaring ceilings with timber trusses? A wraparound porch with rocking chairs? Expansive windows and clean lines? Turrets and balconies? Architecture can and should affect us on an emotional level, and it’s worth it to take your time and find out what design elements bring you joy and fit your lifestyle and priorities. 

In the past, residential architecture followed regional and historical trends for the most part, but homeowners today can more freely blend and combine styles for a custom fit. When planning your own home, Pinterest and Houzz can be great resources to start gathering images and ideas you like in order to find a style or a blend that is uniquely you.

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to be taking a deeper look at the history of some of the most popular residential styles in America, including the details and hallmarks that gave each it’s signature charm and appeal. We hope you’ll join us!

Also, keep in mind that the talented team of home designers and drafters at Rocky Mountain Plan Company can take any of our floor plans and come up with a re-designed exterior to suit your preferred architectural style. Get in touch if you would like to discuss changes to any plan.

Want more architectural style ideas? Follow Rocky Mountain Plan Company on Pinterest and Houzz.

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The Enduring Appeal of Courtyards

A courtyard, simply stated, is a fully or partially enclosed area that is open to the sky. Courtyards have a long architectural history, with examples found as far back as 6400 BCE in the Jordan Valley, and the reasons for their enduring appeal are obvious. Courtyard homes satisfy the human needs for security and retreat while bringing the restorative power of nature to your daily life in a soothing, intimate manner.

 Dating back many thousands of years, the original purpose for courtyards seems to be as a cooking area, allowing for both privacy through containment behind walls and for smoke to escape from cooking over open flame. As is still true today with modern kitchens, this made the cooking area a gathering space for friends and family from the very beginning. 

By the time of the ancient Romans, courtyards were often used to entertain, still through shared meals, but now with hosted parties and traveling musicians. This ultimately led to the notion of what we think of as a royal “court” a term that takes its most basic meaning from the trusted friends and allies who would gather in a royal courtyard.

The Courtyard of the Maidens at the Alcázar of Seville  By Cat from Sevilla, Spain - Patio de las Doncellas, CC BY 2.0

The Courtyard of the Maidens at the Alcázar of Seville

By Cat from Sevilla, Spain - Patio de las Doncellas, CC BY 2.0

The sprawling, sumptuous courtyards of royalty and the elite are bound to impress any visitor, but courtyards can provide just as much peace and calm on a much smaller, more personal scale when designed as a central feature of your home.

The Courtyard of Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is the heart and soul of the museum, showing off everything Isabella loved most and conveying her aesthetic in a harmonious, light-filled space. It is at the center of the museum, visible from nearly every gallery space, and features an ancient Roman sculpture garden, a medieval European cloister, and a Renaissance Venetian canal-scape along with a stunning garden filled with flowers that change to reflect the season.

The Courtyard of Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is the heart and soul of the museum, showing off everything Isabella loved most and conveying her aesthetic in a harmonious, light-filled space. It is at the center of the museum, visible from nearly every gallery space, and features an ancient Roman sculpture garden, a medieval European cloister, and a Renaissance Venetian canal-scape along with a stunning garden filled with flowers that change to reflect the season.

Courtyards are a lovely way to bring a shared sense of serenity to your home, particularly because the walls and windows of many rooms form its enclosure. That means, for example, that you will be able to enjoy your sun filled sanctuary as a view from your office, your bedroom, and your family room, allowing you to enjoy nature and the changing seasons in your daily life.

Courtyards are a particularly common feature in Italian, Spanish, French, and Moroccan style homes, given the fact that outdoor living spaces have always been prevalent in temperate climates like the Mediterranean region, but they are just as lovely in more wintry environments as well. There are few things in life more serene than snow falling gently on an enclosed Zen garden.

Truly, the beautiful thing about courtyards and all outdoor living spaces is how they can be customized to your preferred style and scale. To see what this looks like on a floor plan, check out our petite Douglas Fir, or take a look at Cottonwood Lake’s contemporary ease. You may connect with the Tuscan warmth of Yampa River, Castle Lake’s French Country charm, or prefer the larger scale of Flint Lake with its dual courtyards.

We’re in the process of updating our website right now and adding our full collection of plans, but you can still see our extensive offerings here or browse through the pages of The Complete Home Collection, available on Amazon

Neoclassical Architecture

Neoclassicism is an artistic movement and approach to architectural design that takes inspiration from the principles and proportions of Classical Greek and Roman architecture. Neoclassical architecture was an exceptionally popular international style, dominating the 18th century, with particular resonance in England, France, and the United States.

One of the most important hallmarks of Neoclassical architecture is the use of columns and the revival of the Classical orders, Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. These styles follow artfully crafted ancient standards of proportion and beauty.

Two of the best examples of the Classical architecture of antiquity that inspired Neoclassicism are the Pantheon in Rome and the Parthenon in Athens. These ancient structures were viewed as the pinnacle of culture, design, and purity, and they collectively feature the often imitated signatures of the Neoclassical approach, including columns that rise the full height of the building, symmetry in design, domed roofs, and triangular pediments.

Neoclassical as a term also encompasses Greek Revival, Federalist, Georgian, Antebellum, and Beaux Arts architecture. Neoclassical homes show principles of symmetry and balance, with windows equally dispersed on each side of the front door, and often feature columns and pediments.

Due to the romanticization of the ancient orders and simplicity of forms, entire cities were designed around Classical principles, including Washington D.C. and areas of Paris and Milan, cities that promoted Enlightened values. Neoclassicism represents a rational order and an aesthetic link to the principles of Greek democracy and Roman republicanism, linking the present to a past that valued philosophy, culture, and equality. Conversely, the Gothic Revival style tended to demonstrate a link to the monarchy.

Neoclassical architecture remains popular on college campuses and with banks and monuments, and is also the typical style for city capital buildings and courtrooms. The style truly is an international classic and has had a resurgence in the past several decades.

Explore this plan, Jewell Lake, an opulent Neoclassical mansion in our new Mansions and Millennials Collection

For more on Neoclassical architecture, be sure to check out our Mansions and Millennials Collection, the latest house plan book from Rocky Mountain Plan Company, available next week on Amazon!