Why sportsmen don't shave in France: l'influx nerveux
Doux: mild, temperate, sweet in French

A crush on architecture: le linteau

window expansion, lintel, façade, bouganvillea www.french-word-a-day.com (c) Kristin Espinasse
Beneath the façade, you can see what this 19th century mas is made of. When the demolition workers opened the stone wall sand came trickling out, like fallen seconds in an hourglass. Rubbing la terre sableuse between our hands, Jean-Marc and I marveled at the building materials of yesteryear.

le linteau (lun-tow)

    : lintel, girder

plural: linteaux 

Audio File: The following French definition is from Wiktionnaire. Listen to Jean-Marc read it: Download MP3 or Wav file

Un linteau, c'est une pièce de construction qui se met en travers au-dessus de l’ouverture d’une porte ou d’une fenêtre pour soutenir la maçonnerie. A lintel is a piece of building material that is placed across and above the opening of a door or window, to support the stonework.

Check out the book/CD Pronounce it Perfectly in French.  

un linteau en brique, en béton = a brick or concrete lintel
un linteau en bois = a wooden lintel
un linteau en pierre = a stone lintel

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

After renovating the kids' rooms, last spring, we have turned our attention to the next item on our To Do list: 

  1. renovate kids' rooms
  2. new fireplace
  3. expansion of the dining room
  4. renovate kitchen... 

Mas de la Perdrix-002
This old photo of the farmhouse shows the original openings in the building. Our dining room is behind the fourth opening, bottom right. The window you see below, may have been built in between the two door openings (one was since closed)....

French window with wooden shutters, pots of flowers on the window sill, an old wine crate holds a spider plant www.french-word-a-day.com (c) Kristin Espinasse
Happily, the expansion means reopening one of those doors. Sadly, it means giving up this cheery window. (But we can keep the beau-frère, or brother-in-law, Jacques.)

dining room, hydrangia, France, wicker chair, wooden beams www.french-word-a-day (c) Kristin Espinasse
Here is the living room, to the left. Picture taken the week we moved in (Notice the beautiful hydrangia that Maggie and Michael left us, after turning over their home to our care.)

stone mas, house, France, olive farm www.french-word-a-day (c) Kristin Espinasse
Maggie and Michael also gave us many photos of the mas. This one was taken in 1969.

In thinking over what sorts of "home improvements" were necessary, we vowed never to take away from the soul of the place

Each stone removed (or covered) has caused a lot of fluttering inside of both the walls and me. But we have a good feeling that the current project will only add to the place's charm.

The current project? We will be putting in a cozy window seat....

dining room, hydrangia, France, straw hat, fruit salad, wooden beams www.french-word-a-day (c) Kristin Espinasse
(Before photo) My mother-in-law taught me to work at the table. It's so much more enjoyable to prepare salad or soup this way. (Michèle-France likes to watch her programs while chopping.) I like to stare out the window, in between peeling potatoes... Once the window seat is in, we can work with the sun warming our backs. Or we can watch the boats go out to sea... while making minestrone....

Lintel installation. Stone walls, bouganvillea, vine trunk, mason www.french-word-a-day.com (c) Kristin Espinasse
The new linteau.

But back to those stomach flurries... it hurts to see this old house wounded. Even the old sunflower (left) has its head hung low. I think it's whispering to our builder: doucement, doucement.

I look forward to showing you the sunnier side of this project, once complete. Meantime, has your heart ever gone out to a crumbling building? Are you affected by inert matter, like a slouching roof or a broken window? Simply stated, are you in love with architecture?

P.S While finishing today's post, the windows here in my bedroom shook. I think the rest of the wall has now come down... Let's hope the new lintel has done its job (gulp).


French Vocab
le mas = traditional farmhouse in Provence
la terre sableuse = sandy earth
doucement = carefully, gently

lintels or linteaux in France www.french-word-a-day.com (c) Kristin Espinasse
More lintel pictures for you from here on down. This one, in Les Arcs-sur-Argens, sports a horseshoe..

cabanon and lintels or linteaux in France www.french-word-a-day.com (c) Kristin Espinasse
Lintels also hold information. This one is carved with letters that read "Faite en 1948" built in '48. It is a custom to list the date of construction across the lintel. (Picture taken on our family hike in Queyras)

This linteau is made of wood. A concrete slab covers it. Which do you prefer: hidden or exposed beams?

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michael callahan....rochester, ny usa

Hello Kristin and fellow Francophiles. You spoke of 'the soul of the mas' and I believe, too, that certain architecture has its own life within. So, may I recommend an excellent novel: 'The House I Loved', by Tatiana de Rosnay. In this story of the destruction and rebuilding of Paris by Haussmann, the house/home is the center, surrounded by the people who lived in and cherished her. It's an ode to old Paris and the souls of her homes.

Heather in Arles

Tehehe--has my heart ever gone out to a broken building? Just take a gander at my post today! Great minds, great minds, I tell you...And there was so much to love here, most certainly the older photos! But will you truly have a view on the sea? And a window seat? Those two together sound just heavenly. Will the puppers be allowed on the window seat? I hope so. It might keep them from wandering off and scaring you to pieces. ;)

Bon Weekend!

Nancy Mulloy-Bonn

I love your writing, and all the info it imparts to improve our vocabulary. Merci! I suggest to you that "lintel" is the correct word, rather than girder, for the piece above a window or door. A girder is what an American architect might call the long beam under a floor, or bridge, especially in commercial work rather than residential.

The photos you offer us are stunning!
Nancy MB, Philadelphia

Fay Plauche' Butler

Love your articles!

We bought a 25 year old house five years ago and love it. Inside, it is mostly made of recovered cypress with yellow pine floors, Very welcoming. Porches up and down, front and back and art room with north light.

fay butler

Pat Cargill

I love architecture, the older is especially appealing. I like seeing exposed lintels and appreciate the French way of carving information into them. Look forward to seeing finished project--window seats are the best!

Sarah LaBelle near Chicago

Hope this project turns out as you want it. It is so amazing how thick are the walls of your home. Are all of them like that?

Cannot wait to see the finished project !

Kristin Espinasse

Michael, Thanks for the book recommendation. I read Sarah's Key and can now see how author de Rosnay has a crush on architecture, too! Here is the link to The House I Loved, for those interested: http://www.amazon.com/o/asin/1250012880/mdj-20

Heather, you definitely have a crush on architecture. Beautiful photos.

Nancy, thank you for the information about the difference between lintel and girdle. I have fixed the post.

Fay, Wood floors? Porches all around? Swoon!

Sarah, yet, all exterior walls are this thick -- making for a nice deep window seat.

Debbie Ambrous

I adore old architecture. I noticed a transom window above the door in the picture taken in Les-arcs-sur-Argens. Recently, I read that the transom window is making a come-back in homes and other buildings. Light and ventilation from the windows are a practical feature with a bonus of attractiveness. Lovely story! I hope your home comes together just right for you.
Debbie Ambrous

catharine ewart-touzot

Love homes with a soul!..Yours has that but most modern homes lack it altogether...the first property I ever looked at in France, the realtor was so pleased to show me because it was renovated by Americans and he evidently though that I would rejoice in having aged element removed and replaced by new and shinny. At the moment I am in the process of relocating to what I hope will be my forever home so I am exceptionally picky. My favorite is a home built in 1720..but as you might imagine it has many elements I wonder about living with, and at that age in the US no exterior element can be changed...and in realty would I want to? You question wood or covered..that I feel would be entirely up to the rest of the exterior..how exciting to be recreating a new home within an old one!


I adore architecture and was admiring Frank Lloyd Wright's contributions to the world of architecture even as a 10 year old. My husband and I live in a "1950s contemporary modern" home copied from Joe Eichler's 1950s homes (CA) -- a ranch, post and beam architecture, walls of mahogany with tongue and groove ceilings, floor to ceiling windows. It has a distinct personality unlike a tract home.
I like exposed beams in answer to your question. I enjoy seeing the bones of a home.

Julie Farrar

Oh, I definitely have a crush on old buildings. I live in one (although 100 years isn't old by French standards) and have driven myself crazy on every detail that will expand and update the place while still maintaining everything that makes an Arts and Crafts bungalow such a work of art. I fear when I start the renovations it will cost a fortune to, for example, to keep and reuse any original window that is taken out to expand out the back. But I love my wavy glass and wood trim. I also want to save all the bricks when we tear down the wall because St. Louis bricks are unique in color and texture. I will sit there and clean the bricks myself if necessary if only to put them back into the building in some way. I also have old doors in my garage that I found in alleys that I plan on finding a place for in my renovation (shh, don't tell my husband all of this).


I love your house! I know the changes will only make it better. You have inspired me to try another renovation.

Cynthia Lewis (Eastern Shore of Maryland)

It does my heart good to read all of these comments and know that so many people love old (and really old) homes. We live in a home similar to Heather's with over sized windows almost to the floor and one room has thick mahogany paneled walls and ceiling and a fireplace.... a small den where I read FWAD. We couldn't bear to destroy the lovely mahogany when we moved here twenty years ago and have kept it just as it was.

Kristin, the ongoing renovations of your home are so interesting. You and your "belle-mère" are going to love the new window seat. Only you would have thought that the dried sunflower leaning toward the worker was whispering "doucement". You write with such true sentiment and,happily, share your thoughts with us. Thank you so much. A good weekend to all.

Pennie in Canada

I follow all your home projects with great interest. I've lived in several older homes, and especially loved the 1909 Craftsman Bungalow in California--such a homey, welcoming home with extra wide front door, stone fireplace, and leaded glass doors in the built-ins in the dining room and breakfast rooms. Our little bungalow in Canada has lovely oak floors that were covered by the old "wall-to-wall" carpeting, which we've removed, hand scraping the gooey old carpet padding off. The book on Paris sounds delightful. Old houses have stories in them.

Stacy ~ Sweet Life Farm

Yes, Kristi, I do love old buildings; their beauty, charm and soul. This written from the coziness of my 85 year old farm house while looking out my office window (the sole original window: beveled glass like the front door’s window could not bear to part with it!) onto 80 plus year old fields and apple trees :) I am slowly and carefully bringing back her loveliness after the previous owner subjected her to a late 60’s “upgrade”. Eeek! My garden shed’s (formerly for milk/food storage) walls are filled with sawdust for insulation.

I’ve always wanted a window seat, but have not yet found a way to incorporate one here. I can picture you relaxing and day dreaming in the comfort of your new perch. Looking forward to the stories you will dream up!

Nancy, San Antonio, Texas

Well - you really hit a note with me today. The architecture is the first thing I see in San Antonio, Paris, Chicago, New York, Boerne, San Francisco, Jakarta, Bali, London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Houston, anywhere I have ever been lucky enough to live or travel to. I have redesigned my house mentally many times. Architecture alone is a superb reason to travel.

Looking forward to seeing your window seat and watching the boats go in and out sounds wonderful. Have a wonderful weekend. Will they finish this weekend? or next week? Nancy

Nancy, San Antonio, Texas

Just realized how late it is there. I have been touring some Texas wineries today and wishing I was in France or Napa. Going to Houston next week - will pick up some of your red then. Sorry for the late response. N

Cheryl in STL

My heart reacted to the sitting at the table, preparing food. I rented a rez-de-chausee room from a loving French family the year I lived in Grenoble. And Madame always, always worked at the table. Thanks for this sweet reminder of the hours I spent reading aloud to her, having her correct my pronunciation, all while she was working! Those were special moments.


Some amazing/beautiful pictures of deserted buildings:

Audrey Wilson

Definitely exposed beams . We restored an old agricultural barn (dirt floors, piles of farm equipment etc ) and made it our home here in Roussillion. We kept all the original beams and stone walls which we had 'picquaged'We decorated with crépérie ,all to try to keep the feeling of this old building, which we love.
Bonne chance with your renovation . I look forward to photos !


Our dear Kristi,
Beautiful photos and another wonderful post!(as always!)
If anyone can tackle these renovations and complete such an undertaking with fantastic results, it is most definitely you and Jean Marc. Your home will be glorious! (and maybe best of all, the way you want it to be!)
Sometimes I only wish the walls could talk!
What stories they could tell! My grand mere and grand pere built their place,filled with loving hopes and aspirations,brick by brick, only to have it confisicated during WW2.They eventually were able to buy it back,minus all their land (they were farmers)which had been taken over by the government. A hard,devastating blow.
Especially enjoyed your dear belle mere's idea about the table! (I do the same thing!)
THANK YOU for making our weekend bonne!
Love, Natalia XO


Oh I wish I was there to see the workers restoring your beautiful Mas.
For 15 years,I would buy and restore historical homes in PA and Ct.
One linteau that had to be removed,I used as a mantel.
Your home is so special.Can't wait to see the end result.

Eleonore Miller

Looking for a place to stay in Versailles we came upon the royal stables now an auberge. Each chambre faced out to the open courtyard and all had exposed beams. That evening the skeletal structure of this ancient ecurrerie allowed me to "see" the arrival of Louis's carriage with its contingent of boisterous French soldats-gardiens clip clopping into the courtyard. Almost as exciting as Versailles itself! YES! Keeping elements of an original structure does wonders for the imagination of us history buffs!

Joan Linneman

About transom windows... I have no idea how I know this, but apparently les Francais did not have a word for that type of window, and when German visitors asked "Was is das?," when visiting France,there was not a word for it. Ever since it has been known in FRENCH as a vas-is-das. It's in the dictionary!
Joan L.

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,
I love architecture! I took so many pictures this summer on our trip to Europe of buildings, windows, bridges, etc. I just love it! I love the exposed beams. The half timbered homes in the little town of Miltenberg, Germany were so charming.

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