Ariege Traditional Houses

Ariege has different types of traditional architecture. It is influenced by the neighbouring departments, does not have a real cultural unity and boasts different types of landscapes, this leading to different types of houses being built.

The architecture in Ariege is mainly that of a rural department. There is no big town in this French department. The traditional architecture of Ariege is simple and barely decorated. The typical Ariege house gives simple answers to basic needs: a shelter for people and animals, food warehouse – especially in areas where breeding was deeply developed. The materials used are obviously local, eg stones from the mountains to build walls, wood used for the roof beams made up of oak, poplar or ash tree. Very little wood is used outside the house except for balconies, doors and windows’ frames.

Three elements: the sun, the wind and the rain

  • The typical Ariege house is built to benefit from the sun beams through its localization and its orientation.
  • The wind is another element influencing these typical Midi Pyrenees houses. In the mountains of Ariege, winds are not powerful but the valleys of this French region receive both the Mediterranean and Atlantic winds. Thus houses are longer in this part of Ariege to reduce the wind factor on them. Trees, bushes and outbuildings are strategically placed for that same purpose.
  • The rain can also be a problem when living in this area of France. Ariege properties are thus almost often oriented with the back of the house facing the dominant wind (and thus rain) direction.
As in other French regions, the space dedicated to living is small, generally made of a communal room, a kitchen-dining room, one or two rooms upstairs when there is a first floor, or an attic instead. Sometimes small rooms were added to welcome the livestock or store some wood. The front of the Ariege traditional house has windows of small dimensions that insure a good insulation thus rooms are sometimes a bit dark. In the Soulane region where the climate is a bit milder, it was then common to let the main door open, even in winter to get some light from the outside. Balconies are areas that benefit fully from the sun, they were used to dry products. They were also a shelter for the lower floor (see image below).
Since ariege houses were mainly made of stones, the temperature inside the house remained low, in winter as in summer. Only the main room boasts a chimney, a particularity also seen in properties in North-Eastern France.
In Ariege, you will need to visit the countryside to see traditional houses for sale. Many traditional properties were modified and would be an excellent basis to start a restoration.

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