Paris of the 17th and 18th century developed a unique architectural style: the hôtel particulier, which might be translated as ‘town house.’ These were the homes of the rich in the heart of crowded Paris where land was no longer plentiful. It became the model for urban mansions for over a century.

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Floor plan for the Hôtel Lambert, built 1640-1644 by architect Louis Le Vau for the financier Jean-Baptiste Lambert

Given the irregular block shapes in Paris, the hôtel particulier rarely was square and did not stand apart from surrounding buildings so much as fit like a puzzle piece.

These town houses included a partially-opened courtyard that faced the street. Low-hanging servant quarters often surrounded the courtyard. They also enjoyed an enclosed garden that could only be seen or accessed through the living quarters. However, the form proved highly flexible to the needs of the location and the tastes of the time.

Courtyard of the Hôtel Lambert

Hotel Lambert, located on the Ile de Saint-Louis in Paris

Hôtel Lambert, located on the Ile de Saint-Louis in Paris

The floor plan for the Hôtel de la Vrilliere built 1635-38 by architect Francois Mansart

Floor plan for the Hôtel de Jars built in 1648 by architect Francois Mansart

The courtyard of the Hôtel de Beauvais built 1652-55 by architect Antoine Le Pautre

Note the highly irregular plot shape for the Hôtel de Beauvais built 1652-55 by architect Antoine Le Pautre

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