Buying a Fine Property or Belle Demeure in France
If you want to buy a substantial character French property other than a Château, then this portfolio is probably the ideal place to begin your search. The phrase Fine Property or beautiful residence or dwelling, covers a plethora of different styles of property, from manoirs and bastides to maisons de maître, mas and even occasionally villas (qualifying more for their stunning coastal setting than their architecture). You will find examples of the different styles of property in the Sifex Fine Properties section where we feature especially beautiful properties.
A manoir or gentilhommière, was historically a stately home owned by a country squire or landowner. A fortified manor was one with defensive elements. Traditionally, the manoir was the home of the gentleman farmer who owned the agricultural estate upon which it stood, whereas the owner of a château would be likely to have a ministerial or military role or to be a member of the aristocracy. The role of the ‘lord of the manor’ as local governor for his tenants would have lasted till the Revolution.
A bastide is the Provençal name for a manoir, usually a square or fortified stone house often set in grounds shaded by mature plane trees with fountains, ornamental ponds and enclosed by imposing gateways. Generally quite substantial, they command a high price reflecting their imposing stature and rarity.
An attractive and pleasing building, generally originating from the XVIIIth Century, the petit château or chartreuse is usually built on one level, often with a courtyard on one side, terraces with balustrading, a tower or two and various outbuildings. There are many of these attractive properties in Poitou-Charentes, Aquitaine and the Midi-Pyrénées although they can also be found in other regions of France.
A domaine usually refers to a substantial estate of a number of hectares. This can be a vineyard, agricultural or hunting estate – but should not be confused with the gated domaines with developments of modern villas, to be found in the South of France.
Maison Bourgeoise/Hôtel Particulier
These were normally built for wealthy businessmen or professional classes to reflect the wealth or status of the owner. Typically built of stone or brick and facing the street, they generally have large windows and symmetrical rooms of good dimensions. A hôtel particulier is not as you might suppose an 'Hotel' at all but a private town house or mansion, frequently similar in style to a maison bourgeoise, which in turn is just a 'large impressive house'.
A mas is a Provençal farmhouse. It is increasingly rare nowadays to find an unrenovated mas, and due to their comparative scarcity they generally command quite a high price. These days it is more usual to find modern versions, built in the original style. Mas in particularly sought-after areas such as the coast or Luberon, made famous by Peter Mayle, command especially high prices reflecting the income brackets of the international community. Shutters painted in faded blue, green or French grey are typical and extremely attractive. The interiors of the original mas were quite dark as they were built with small windows to keep out the glare and heat of the midday sun.
Monastery/Priory/Convent - or Abbey
Buildings with ecclesiastical origins come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. They incorporate abbeys, priories, monasteries and convents and, depending on their original use, may feature cloisters or chapels besides the main building. They are often rich in architectural features and history and can be adapted to suit either private or commercial use.