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 section is probably a good place to start. The phrase fine property or beautiful residence, covers many different styles, including‘manoirs', 'bastides , 'maisons de maître', 'mas' and occasionally, 'belle époque' or luxury villas, many of which are here.
A 'manoir' or 'gentilhommière', was historically a stately home owned by a country squire or landowner, who owned the agricultural land upon which it stood – and fortified ‘manoirs’ had defensive elements. The role of the ‘lord of the manoir’ as local governor for his tenants would have lasted till the Revolution. The owner of a château, however, would be likely to have had a ministerial or military role or be a member of the aristocracy, regardless of how much land he owned.
A ‘bastide’ is the Provençal name for a 'manoir', usually a square or fortified stone house frequently set in grounds featuring fountains and ornamental ‘bassins’ or ponds, shaded by mature plane trees and often with elegant and imposing gateways. The high prices they command reflects their rarity and their substantial size.
An attractive and pleasing building, generally originating from the XVIIIth Century, the petit château or chartreuse was usually built on one level, often with a courtyard on one side, terraces with balustrading, a tower or two and various outbuildings. These are particularly prevalent in Nouvelle Aquitaine and Occitanie.
A 'domaine' is usually a substantial estate of many hectares whether a vineyard, agricultural or hunting estate – but should not be confused with the gated 'domaines ' of modern villas in the South of France.
Maison Bourgeoise/Hôtel Particulier
These were originally built for wealthy businessmen or professional classes to reflect the wealth or status of the owner. Typically constructed 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 a ‘Mas' in its original unrenovated state, and due to their comparative scarcity they generally command quite high prices compared to the modern replicas more readily available. The faded blue, green or grey shutters are typical. The interiors were traditionally quite dark as they were built with small windows to keep out the glare and heat of the midday sun.
Monastère/Prieuré Abbaye or 'Couvent'
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 for either private or commercial use.