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Mansard Roofs For Dollhouses, Model Buildings and Haunted Houses


The mansard roof features in dollhouses designed to have a French chateau style, or traditional Second Empire Style (1855-1885) when French fashions in architecture were much in vogue. Made popular by French Architect François Mansart in the early 1600's, the roof design is one of the main features of the buildings used to redevelop the main avenues of Paris in the major city redesign by Baron Haussmann between 1852 and 1860. The "Second Empire" gets its name from the reign of Napoleon III (1852-1870) under whose rule Paris was redeveloped. To view larger photos in this list, click on the thumbnails below to enlarge them.

1. Basic Design of a Mansard Roof

Cross section of a mansard roof showing roof assembly
Photo © 2009 Bill Bradley, Wikimedia Commons

The standard mansard roof design features a steep pitch on the sidewalls (matching on all four sides of the roof) with a second shallower pitch towards the top of the roof. This creates an attic with a lot of useful space, which is why the style is often used in a modified form for dollhouse attics. The roofs often feature dormer windows, with Traditional French style second empire buildings often having arched dormers or dormers with rounded windows, known in France as Oeil de boef or 'bull's eye' dormers.

2. Classic Second Empire 'French' Style The Custom's House / Malahat Building

Classic second empire civic building with mansard roof, 'custom's house' in Victoria B.C.
Photo © 2011 Lesley Shepherd

For dollhouses the mansard roof often consists of slightly angled sides with a flat top, avoiding a more complex construction. These roofs give a maximum room area under a roof, and can be easily hinged or have roof 'gardens' and decks set on top. A Field Guide to American Houses by Virginia and Lee McAlester, describes five different mansard roof styles: straight, straight with a bottom flare, concave, convex, and s-curves.

This photo of the 'Custom's House' or Malahat Building in Victoria, Canada, shows a classic civic building built of stone and brick, with simplified versions of many basic features common to second empire design. The mansard roof on this building features a bottom flare, and has a roof deck to overlook the harbor. Missing from the design is a crested railing, which was often found on mansard roofs, especially ones with decks, where the railings often enclosed a 'widow's walk'. The building has corner quoins, arched hooded windows, bracketed eaves, a slate roof, and brick and stone detailing.

The details of this simplified 'second empire'building are often seen in dollhouse designs for 'town houses' or French mansions.

3. Mansard Roofs on Imposing Civic Buildings - Victoria's City Hall

Mansard roof with pedimented dormer windows on the second empire style Victoria City Hall
Photo © 2011 Lesley Shepherd

The second empire styles with their useful space under the mansard roof were also very popular for civic buildings and institutions. Victoria City Hall designed by architect John Teague, was constructed in Second Empire Style between 1878 and 1891. It features a metal mansard roof, pedimented dormer windows, clock tower, arched windows and doorways and quoins.

4. Mansard Roof Houses - The Classic "Haunted" House

Shingled Mansard roof on a typical late Victorian Second Empire Home
Photo © 2011 Lesley Shepherd

Second empire style houses in the U.S often feature mansard roofs with a central tower or offset tower. This house style was used by Alfred Hitchcock for the house in "Psycho" and was also the style seen as the mansion inhabited by the Television "Adams Family" Mansion. Disney use this style of house for their 'haunted mansions'. Wikipedia claimed that the use of this style for 'haunted' houses may have its origins in the Panic of 1893 in the United States, which led to the foreclosure and abandonment of many then-new houses, built in the second empire style.

5. References for Mansard Roof and Second Empire Details.

Modern adaptation of a second empire mansard roof style.
Photo © 2011 Lesley Shepherd

Great references for mansard roofs and buildings suitable for dollhouses and miniature 'haunted' houses.

6. Dollhouses, Kits and Plans Featuring Mansard Roofs

Exterior of a Mansard Roofed Walmer Dollhouse by Sharon Motasky
Photo Courtesy Sharon Motasky, Copyright 2009, Used With Permission

Printables For Miniature Mansard Roof Houses and Decorations

Dollhouse Designs Featuring Mansard Roofs This is not a complete list

  • Earth and Tree - Belmont, Claremont, Lilydale, Piermont, Westdale, Rosemont, Manchester, Hillsboro, Goffstown - Architect's choice Plan #3
  • Greenleaf Lily, Beaconhill , Rosedale
  • House That Jack Built Mansard Dollhouse
  • Lawbre - Fort Tompkins Lighthouse, Glen Cove Villa, French Country House
  • Manchester Woodworks (Manchester MI) - Bostonian, Newport
  • Real Good Toys - Plum Pudding, Cranberry Cove, Apple Blossom, New Orleans, Williamsburg, Newport
  • Sid Cooke - Georgian Dollhouse mansard roof kit

Dollhouse Plans Featuring Mansard Roofs

  • Dijon - Kestral, Sparrow ,Finch, Raven, Falcon
  • Housworks - Townsend Towers

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