A crush on architecture: le linteau

window expansion, lintel, façade, bouganvillea www.french-word-a-day.com (c) Kristin Espinasse
Beneath the façade, you can see what this 19th century mas is made of. When the demolition workers opened the stone wall sand came trickling out, like fallen seconds in an hourglass. Rubbing la terre sableuse between our hands, Jean-Marc and I marveled at the building materials of yesteryear.

le linteau (lun-tow)

    : lintel, girder

plural: linteaux 

Audio File: The following French definition is from Wiktionnaire. Listen to Jean-Marc read it: Download MP3 or Wav file

Un linteau, c'est une pièce de construction qui se met en travers au-dessus de l’ouverture d’une porte ou d’une fenêtre pour soutenir la maçonnerie. A lintel is a piece of building material that is placed across and above the opening of a door or window, to support the stonework.

Check out the book/CD Pronounce it Perfectly in French.  

un linteau en brique, en béton = a brick or concrete lintel
un linteau en bois = a wooden lintel
un linteau en pierre = a stone lintel

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

After renovating the kids' rooms, last spring, we have turned our attention to the next item on our To Do list: 

  1. renovate kids' rooms
  2. new fireplace
  3. expansion of the dining room
  4. renovate kitchen... 

Mas de la Perdrix-002
This old photo of the farmhouse shows the original openings in the building. Our dining room is behind the fourth opening, bottom right. The window you see below, may have been built in between the two door openings (one was since closed)....

French window with wooden shutters, pots of flowers on the window sill, an old wine crate holds a spider plant www.french-word-a-day.com (c) Kristin Espinasse
Happily, the expansion means reopening one of those doors. Sadly, it means giving up this cheery window. (But we can keep the beau-frère, or brother-in-law, Jacques.)

dining room, hydrangia, France, wicker chair, wooden beams www.french-word-a-day (c) Kristin Espinasse
Here is the living room, to the left. Picture taken the week we moved in (Notice the beautiful hydrangia that Maggie and Michael left us, after turning over their home to our care.)

stone mas, house, France, olive farm www.french-word-a-day (c) Kristin Espinasse
Maggie and Michael also gave us many photos of the mas. This one was taken in 1969.

In thinking over what sorts of "home improvements" were necessary, we vowed never to take away from the soul of the place

Each stone removed (or covered) has caused a lot of fluttering inside of both the walls and me. But we have a good feeling that the current project will only add to the place's charm.

The current project? We will be putting in a cozy window seat....

dining room, hydrangia, France, straw hat, fruit salad, wooden beams www.french-word-a-day (c) Kristin Espinasse
(Before photo) My mother-in-law taught me to work at the table. It's so much more enjoyable to prepare salad or soup this way. (Michèle-France likes to watch her programs while chopping.) I like to stare out the window, in between peeling potatoes... Once the window seat is in, we can work with the sun warming our backs. Or we can watch the boats go out to sea... while making minestrone....

Lintel installation. Stone walls, bouganvillea, vine trunk, mason www.french-word-a-day.com (c) Kristin Espinasse
The new linteau.

But back to those stomach flurries... it hurts to see this old house wounded. Even the old sunflower (left) has its head hung low. I think it's whispering to our builder: doucement, doucement.

I look forward to showing you the sunnier side of this project, once complete. Meantime, has your heart ever gone out to a crumbling building? Are you affected by inert matter, like a slouching roof or a broken window? Simply stated, are you in love with architecture?

P.S While finishing today's post, the windows here in my bedroom shook. I think the rest of the wall has now come down... Let's hope the new lintel has done its job (gulp).


French Vocab
le mas = traditional farmhouse in Provence
la terre sableuse = sandy earth
doucement = carefully, gently

lintels or linteaux in France www.french-word-a-day.com (c) Kristin Espinasse
More lintel pictures for you from here on down. This one, in Les Arcs-sur-Argens, sports a horseshoe..

cabanon and lintels or linteaux in France www.french-word-a-day.com (c) Kristin Espinasse
Lintels also hold information. This one is carved with letters that read "Faite en 1948" built in '48. It is a custom to list the date of construction across the lintel. (Picture taken on our family hike in Queyras)

This linteau is made of wood. A concrete slab covers it. Which do you prefer: hidden or exposed beams?

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