A room with a view?

What do the particulars really mean when they say your dream home has a veranda, terrasse, dépendence or balcon? FrenchEntrée sets out to decode the world of ‘outside space’.

BalconWhether searching for an old stone house in a village or an apartment in a modern block, most of us would like to get some outside space in the bargain. But as Caroline Hill explains, ‘outside space’ can mean many different things in France. The words used to describe these areas may not be translated literally, which can cause misunderstandings. Here are some explanations and translations that might help:

Veranda(h) – what we in the UK would call a conservatory, usually a room with lots of windows built to take advantage of the winter sun.

Jardin – it is unusual for a traditional village house to be described as having a garden and more often than not, it is a piece of land not attached to the house – rather like an allotment.

Terrace viewTerrasse – in larger villa type properties, a terrace may refer to the paved area around a swimming pool or even a flat-lawned area. With village houses, the terrace is usually a flat concrete, paved or tiled area at first-floor or roof level. As outside space is at a premium, terraces are sometimes made out of the most unlikely places and access can be a very hit and miss affair, sometimes involving climbing out of windows as there is not room for a full height door! A popular idea when renovating old village houses is to create a roof terrace in the eaves by removing half of the roof tiles, strengthening the opening and installing windows or sliding patio doors and then tiling the floor. This is known as a terasse a toiture tronquee.

Dépendances outbuildings that vary in size from a tiny area to store the barbecue to a two-storey barn ripe for conversion.

Balcon size matters. If the estate agent’s details don’t say much about the balcon, then sadly there isn’t much to say! On a recent viewing trip, I was shown a balcon that was just half a metre square, and accessed via the bathroom! Another consideration is the layout of the balcon – a 10m2 balcon sounds great but if it is long and narrow and runs the length of the building, your soirees are not going to be such a success.

Village housePatio an area enclosed by the walls and windows of the house, but open to the skies and very similar to a courtyard. It is very common to see comfortable seating areas and summer kitchens in these shady havens where you can escape the midday sun.

Patios are very rarely evident from the street as they are nestled within the fabric of the building and accessed by a private gate.

  • •With thanks to Caroline Hill
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