Second Empire house plans were modeled after the opulent architecture of Paris during the reign of Napoleon III from 1855 to 1895, when tall mansard roofs were the answer to taxes imposed on the height of a house. Height was only measured to the base of the roof, so any living space contained within the roof was exempt. The steep slope of the mansard roof allowed the attic to be almost as roomy as the floor below it, while dormer window penetrated the roof at regular intervals to provide light.
Second Empire home designs run the gamut from elaborate multi-storied mansions to simple town homes with a charming French flair. High ceilings illuminated by tall, narrow windows give rooms a gracious sense of a bygone era, while the extra space in the attic provides the opportunity for secluded master suites or cozy billiard rooms. Though they tend to be highly ornamental, Second Empire floor plans are also very practical for small city lots, where their bonus story provides additional living space.