The history of Mansard loft conversions

While Dormers and Velux loft conversions might be the most popular types of loft conversions in the UK, Mansard conversions also tend to be very popular. It’s clear to see why, as these conversions, normally situated to the rear of a property, not only create a great deal of space to your conversion, but also look discrete enough to still be aesthetically similar to having a regular roof! If you’re interested in learning more about Mansard conversions, here’s a quick little run-down on their history!

Why are they named Mansard loft conversions?

Mansard loft conversions are named after the architect that first popularised them; Francois Mansart. Creating designs in the 17th century in (you guessed it!) France, Mansart was an architect of French Baroque buildings, and this roof style was very popular in Baroque buildings. The name Mansard refers to the roof style as opposed to the loft conversion style, however, the changes to the roof of course affect the space on the inside of the conversion. While Mansart wasn’t the first to create a roof in this shape – the earliest known roof built this way was the Louvre, having been built around 1550 – he was around during the time of the French empire under Napoleon III. Due to this, many buildings were springing up due to the new found wealth of the country and Mansart gained fame within the right circles and built many buildings with this style of roofing. His profligate use of the roof style of course inspired others in France that were apprentice architects at the time and the cycle continued with more architects taking up the roof style.

The Mansard roof then got a renaissance in the 1850s when an architectural movement called the Second Empire style became popular during the renovation of Paris. This style then made its way around the world with architects becoming more international and cosmopolitan, especially the US and Canada, often in the form of civic buildings and large homes and mansions, mainly on the moneyed east coast.

Finally, in the 20th century three big things happened to make Mansard roofs as ubiquitous as they now are; a zoning resolution in NYC in 1916 that promoted the use of the roofs due to their aesthetic, civic (allowing daylight and wind down to ground level) and functional purposes, the drive in the 1970’s by commercial builders to postmodern styles in their buildings, and McDonald’s taking on the design in their restaurants as a staple feature in the late 1990s and early aughts.

 

What makes a Mansard loft conversion so desirable?

Mansard roofs (and conversions) have very specific rules and traits unique to them, with 2 very distinctive hallmarks, steep sides and a double pitch. This means that often, when viewed from the ground, Mansard roofs look as if they are just one, very steep surface, however they are two, which enables proper drainage, at the same time as keeping the aesthetic of one sloped roof from the outside. This gives them the dual advantage of creating a much higher headroom and natural light in the form of windows for the inside space of the conversion & doesn’t create an eyesore from the ground in the same way that a dormer conversion can.

In America, these are commonly mistaken for Gambrel roofs, however, they differ in one major way; Mansard conversions have slopes on all four sides of the building, as they are curb hip roofs, while Gambrels only have two slopes as they are curb gable roofs. The curb is the part in the middle of the roof where the angle changes, and is a piece of strong timber that lies directly under this intersection.

We hope you learned something from this blog post about the history of Mansard roofs and loft conversions! Why not visit our page on our Mansard Loft Conversions in Manchester, or contact us to have a casual, no obligation chat about your dream loft conversion?

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