French doors (fr. portes-fenêtres) are usually exterior doors that have windows which extend for most of their body. They’ve been used since the 16th century, first in France and then all over Europe. They have an interesting history that spans many countries and historical periods, which all culminated in giving us these versatile and useful doors.
Why are They Called French Doors?
To understand why these doors are called French doors, we have to go back to the Renaissance. Italians developed architectural techniques that focused on proportions, symmetry, and put an emphasis on light sources – these designs were popular all over Italy – During the infamous Italian Wars that ranged for two centuries, France and Italy clashed many times, which often ended in Italy’s defeat. This opened the way for French troops, merchants, and travellers to explore Italy and bring back the designs and architecture to France.
What Makes a Door a French Door?
So, what qualities must a window have to become a French door? How did it fit into the Renaissance ideals? Why did they become so popular in France?
The French name literally translates to “windowed doors” and, as this name suggests, these windows are distinguished by the proportion of the glass panes to the door frames.
The classical designs usually checked all the marks for classical Italian designs, they were proportional, symmetrical and, because of the big windows, they let a substantial amount of light in.
And being great sources of lighting is what made them take off. It’s hard to imagine a world without electricity today, but we often forget how recent an invention it is, and how for most of our history, we’ve had to rely solely on natural light sources. That’s why French doors were installed in outward facing porches and patios. They were one of the best sources for lighting before the advent of artificial lights.
Why Have They Remained Popular?
You might be wondering what keeps them popular since lamps are so cheap now – well, there are a few unique things that French doors offer which keeps them very much in demand:
- Artificial lighting isn’t a substitute for natural lighting. Direct sunlight will make your furniture sparkle, your room appear fresher, and the ambience more lively. It gives a heart and soul to our often mechanical and cold rooms.
- If you have a beautiful garden or lawn, French doors are a perfect way to bring them into your home. The large windows will provide an unfettered view of your garden – giving your home a more natural and homely feeling.
- French doors have been around for half a millennium, and they carry a lot of historical value – if you want your house to appear more refined and sophisticated, a French door will help you achieve that.
Do They Have Drawbacks?
While French doors are popular and unequivocally great in many situations, they still have some drawbacks:
- They usually come with above-average price tags, which might deter some buyers.
- The large windows are hard and expensive to insulate, so you might experience excessive heat loss in the winter and receive higher electricity bills.