Provencal style villas to art deco; a guide to architectural styles on the French Riviera

One of the features that really sets the French Riviera apart from other coastal destinations is its long-established history, and, as a result, the stunning range of architecture on display. From the medieval perched villages and Provençal style villas to elegant belle époque mansions, glamorous art deco styling, and the more contemporary brutalist villas, there is a style to suit all tastes.

Which French Riviera villa style is for you?

Rural Provençal Style Villas

The rural architecture of 19th century Provence features two distinctive types of farmhouses, the mas and the bastide. A mas is usually rectangular, built of local stone with a sloping tile roof. They nearly always face south to shelter from the Mistral winds, with small windows to keep the heat out in summer and in during winter. Grander bastides were built for wealthier farmers and are usually square-shaped with an interior courtyard.

In and around St Tropez, there are many fine examples of Provençal style villas. They include the 6-bedroom Villa Bastide de Belieu, designed in traditional Provençal stone and set among vineyards.

In contrast, the 4-bedroom neo-Provençal style Villa Calimer, in Gassin, has high beamed ceilings and is set in lush gardens.

The Belle Epoque

The Belle Epoque period between 1871 – 1914 saw a boom in Riviera property construction, partly thanks to the British Victorians, who’d spend their winters on the sun-drenched coast. This resulted in simple yet sumptuous villas created in the Palladian style that incorporated pillars, colonnades and elegant staircases.

The Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild on Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat is a fine example of Belle Epoque style, as is Nice’s famous Hotel Negresco. Clearly influenced by this era is the palatial 11-bedroom Villa Louise in La Croix Valmer, set in 8000m2 of manicured private gardens.

Image copyright Andrei Antipov


Art Déco

The Art Déco style of the roaring 20s developed as a reaction against the exuberance of Art Nouveau and incorporates geometric lines, rounded angles, mosaics, patterned balconies and spiral and floral motifs. There are some 600 examples of the style in Nice alone, one of the most famous being the Palais de la Méditerranée hotel on the Promenade des Anglais, its stunning white facade bearing bas-reliefs of goddesses and horses. Others include Boulevard Gambetta’s residence La Rotonde, with delightful balconies and mosaics, and the elegant Gloria Mansions in the Rue de France.

Modernist Villas

Between the 1920s and 1950s, architects began rejecting traditional neo-classical styles and were choosing function over form in a style known as Brutalism or Modernism. Using concrete, this style is characterised by straight lines, cubic or cylindrical shapes, huge windows and little or no ornamentation.

A famous example of Brutalism is Eileen Gray’s Villa E-1027, completed in 1929 on Roquebrune Cap Martin, which is open to the public.

Other examples of Modernism include the 7-bedroom Villa Ama Pampelonne, which takes modern luxury to a new level and the 3-bedroom Villa Modern 55 in Ramatuelle, close to the iconic Club 55.

To find out about other fabulous villas available to rent, as well as exquisite Provencal villas for sale, contact the team at St Tropez House, who will be delighted to help you find the villa that best suits your style.

Top Tips