Property in France - Types of houses in France

A guide to the types of property in France

Types of French Property

There are many different types and styles of property in France, which may confuse those unfamiliar with French property terms. This article attempts to describe the main ones and offers advice as to where they may be found.


The name "bastide" originates from the name given to certain fortified mediaeval towns built in the 13th and 14th centuries. The most famous of these is Villeneuve sur Lot in Aquitaine. A key feature of many of these towns was a practical Roman grid-layout, which helped to revolutionise organisational structure and tax collection. Although most of these bastides were located in the Aquitaine and Midi-Pyrénées regions, in terms of property, the word is used to describe a style of detached stone-built property found as far west as Aquitaine and as far east as Provence, which have very practical layouts, square features and tiled, almost flat roofs. Some also have archways on the ground level leading to garages and verandas (reminiscent of the archways or arcades which were common in bastide towns). Bastide-style properties are found in both towns and in the countryside.  


Not to be confused with charentaises, which are old-fashioned carpet slippers with felt-like uppers! A charentaise property is one built in the traditional style of the Charente region. Although they vary greatly in size, they are very similar in style to bastide-style properties in terms of the practical layouts and square features, although they rarely have archways.  


Domaine translates roughly into English as "estate". A domaine is a large plot of land (normally with a specific purpose, e.g. wine-growing, hunting, golf etc.) or a property, or group of buildings belonging to the same property with a large amount of land.  


A fermette is basically a small ferme or farm in the countryside. These are often built in stone and consist of a main farmhouse (which can be quite small, unlike English farmhouses which tend to be mostly large), and a few outbuildings, such as a barn (grange), shed (hangar) etc. Many also have a reasonable amount of land, although often much less than would have originally been with the property (it would have possibly been sold off in previous years as building plots).  


The longère is one of the most quintessentially French property types. It is a rural property type found in many regions of France and, as its name suggests, is built in a rectangular shape, normally with its back facing the most likely wind direction. As traditional properties, they are commonly built with regional materials (granite in Brittany, for example). They are most common in Brittany and Normandy. Many are one-storey and have converted attics to make a first floor.  


The term "mas" can be used to describe any medium-to-large property (normally in the countryside) in the southern regions of France, but is particularly used for properties in Provence. A mas can also be in bastide-style, a farm or part of a domaine. 

Maison à colombages

A maison à colombages is essentially a half-timbered house, where the framework is visibly wooden, between which is either brick, or lighter material such as torchis (cob) or plaster. Many longères are "à colombages", as well as certain townhouses. Colombage houses are reminiscent of English Tudor architecture. 

Maison de maître

The maison de maitre which literally means master's house, is any bourgeois town or village house, although there are certain styles of house which are more likely to be called "maison de maitre", such as the one pictured. Like bastides, maisons de maîtres are known for their practical layouts. Many have high ceilings and typically four main rooms on each floor. 


A pavillon is a detached house, but the term is mostly used to refer to detached properties built in the last 50 years or so, which have a cellar and garage on the ground floor, a first floor and a mansard top floor. Modern bungalows are also referred to as pavillons. This style of property is particularly common in the north of France. 

Villa d'architecte

I'm not sure why, but the French refer to any villa designed and built in the last 50 or so years as a villa d'architecte or architect's villa. The designs of these contemporary villas can vary from box-like one-storey houses to very obscure looking residences.  

your questions...

1. A question about logis and Charentais property (added 25/7/13)...

Thank you for explaining the different types of French property. I am wondering if you would explain the difference between a Logis and a Charentaise, please?

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. I understand a logis just to be the name for any dwelling, but more so now a days they are usually characterful, charming places to stay, and are often either hotels, B&Bs or gites. So unlike Charentaise property, they are not in the style of any particular area, nor do they have any particular layout or specific features.

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