Aquitaine Maisons Basques - Basque Country Houses

With its white, red colours, its door exposed to the east, that traditionally displays the date of construction and the name of the owner above the entrance, the Maison Basque is unique. It is of rectangular shape, is often of large dimensions and represents the very strong Basque identity and culture.

The Maison Basque is called etxe in the local Basque dialect. When translated this word means brand new house. It is found in the Basque country, a historic region in the western Pyrenees that spans the border between France and Spain. It roughly corresponds with the homeland of the Basque people and their ancient language and culture. Houses in the Basque country often vary a lot, depending upon the location where they were built. The main feature they all share is to provide warm accommodation for the occupying family and their livestock. The original Basque house was often directly build on the ground without proper foundations and no real groundwork structure even if nowadays, this has changed. The first Basque houses were built using wood. Over time wood was replaced by stone as the main construction material. However wood continued to be used on the first storey to decorate rooms and as part of the roof structure. The wars of religion destroyed many houses in this part of France, so really few examples can be seen that date back to before the end of the 16th century.

  • Basse-Navarre House (Lower-Navarra House)

    It is often even more massive than the other styles of Basque houses and uses red and white colours. This style of Basque house displays a strong Spanish influence, a result of Spanish rule of this region of France until 1530. These houses are often complete made of stone, with a flat front facade and no half-timbering. The presence of clay in the area also influenced the style of these houses. Flat bricks were also used to fill the walls of these traditional Basque properties.

  • Souletine House

    Similar to the Béarnais house, it generally boasts grey walls and a slated roof. Built closer to the Pyrenees mountains, it is cleverly adapted to the specific needs of the location. Differing from the classic Basque house, these Aquitaine properties are similar to the béarnaise properties found in the neighbouring region of Bearn. A Souletine house often boasts a L shape and can be made up of several buildings surrounding a courtyard, similarily to Bearnaise houses. Walls are traditionally made of stones or pebbles from neighbouring rivers. This again is a characteristic they share with Bearn houses. Roofs are foremost slated and the main door can be oriented in any direction since it does not have to face strong winds coming from the Atlantic.

  • Labourdine House

    It has walls of torchis (cob), white facades made of lime plaster, with red or green panels. The front of the house is particularly nice and much attention is paid to it during the building process. The northern side of the house boasts few windows. The southern side is wide open, to benefit from the sun beams. The wooden roof structure is often made up of oak, a really tough wood that can resist the rain and wind pressure. Even inside the house, wood is foremost used and often painted. Windows often boast a piece of stone inserted just above in the wall on the outside of the house, that was meant to avoid rain from entering the house through them. Shutters were added only later on.

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