Aquitaine Maisons Landaises

The term maison landaise refers to a typical house from the Landes region of Aquitaine in South Western France. Unfortuantely there is no clearly defined architectural style and they can differ significantly.

The generally understood style for a maison landaise is inspired by the oustaù or oustaou, a traditional house that could be found in clearings throughout forest of the Landes de Gascogne. The Landes forest is an vast area bordered to the West by the Atlantic ocean, to the North by the Médoc, Bordelais, Bazadais and Queyran vineyards, to the South by the Pays d’Albret and the Gélise River. This area of forest was initially reclaimed and replanted by Napoléon in the 19th century.

The traditional Oustaù

The original oustaù is a half-timbered property, a house boasting a wood pigeon-wing shaped roof (called coda de paloma in the local dialect). A carpenter would generally build the whole house, using local wood and trees. The walls were generally made up of a clay mixture with straw, and filled with cob (torchis), that was gradually replaced with bricks or Garluche (a local stone).

An oustau house was traditionally oriented with the back of the house facing the dominant wind direction, typically coming from the West in this region of South west France. The techniques used to build these original houses are really similar to those used by Marine carpenters.

The main entrance hall of the house and the exterior canopy / porch area was generally built on the Eastern side of the house (similar to those on Breton, Vendeen & Charentaise houses, as a shelter against the wind). The house is oriented to benefit from the morning sunshine and avoid the heat of the summer months.

The rear of an oustau house, often oriented towards the West, had to be able to resist the strong winds and bad climate coming off the Atlantic ocean. This side of the house almost never has any windows or doors and the base of the roof almost touches the ground. This really protects the house itself from the rain and the wind. In the northern Landes and towards the Médoc and Arcachon, this wall was often painted with tar to maximise the protection.

The oustaù is built around the main central room, fitted with a chimney and connected with a small utility room. This main room is also sometimes the kitchen. The living area of the house would have boasted the highest amount of furniture: a long table, benches, chairs, cupboards and cabinets etc. Historically guests never had access to the bedrooms except for some special occasions like a birth or illness or death.

Similar to other typical rural properties, the oustaù was a house where typically several generations of a family lived, from the grandparents to the grandchildren. Young girls and other unmarried family members also tended to live amongst the family oustaù.

Maisons à Auvent (Houses with a canopy)

Some oustaù houses are variations of maisons a auvent. Traditionally a maison a auvent is a house fitted with a canopy area. Their primary purpose is to provide a place to receive friends and guests and a place to rest in summer. They represented the wealth of the owner, and were typically associated with Maisons de Maitre (masters’ houses or bourgeois houses) style houses in France. The auvent originally is a shelter against the wind coming from the Sea.

The outbuildings of the oustaù

The classic outbuildings of an oustaù are a wine store, cowsheds, and barns. These outbuildings were built not close to one another, in order to avoid fire spreading between them in case of an accident.

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