Defining Style: French Colonial

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by Jeff Smith

As French settlers moved into the Mississippi Valley in the early 18th century, they adapted their native housing style to the hot, wet climate of the South. Following tradition, the French Colonial style typically featured porches on three sides, but raised them for protection from flooding in their swampy locales. Unlike English house styles, French houses have a tradition of being externally focused. The French Colonial style’s external emphasis is frequently expressed by featuring many narrow door and window openings, often using paired French doors and paired windows. Designs typically have a steep, hipped roof that extends over a wide porch with slender columns supporting the porch roof.


French Colonial houses frequently feature clapboard as the dominant exterior cladding. Durable vinyl siding clapboard comes in a variety of configurations including 3″ to 8″ reveals. Beaded and Dutchlap styles are also used.


Cladding shapes are not typical for the French Colonial style. In rare cases, shakes or shingles may be found as the primary exterior cladding.


A light to medium color palette – especially soft island and southern colors – is frequently used for French Colonial houses. Vinyl siding is available in more than 400 colors, including many that are ideal for the French Colonial style.

Trim and Accessories:

A wide variety of architectural trim and accessories are available for use with vinyl and other polymeric siding. Options suited for the French Colonial style include crown molding for fascia or friezes [or both]; decorative front door surrounds and pilasters; window crowns and lineals; band boards between floors or at the foun­dation; gable vent covers; shutters; and beaded soffit.

Customizing Style:

To achieve a variety of looks and color motifs inspired by the French Colonial style, today’s designers are using versatile vinyl siding, trim and accessories. Vinyl and other polymeric siding are helping to create traditional beauty, combined with lasting durability and minimal maintenance.

Topics: design   performance