The Mediterranean Style House: Blending Italian and Spanish Architecture
Picture this – a European villa in a warm seaside town, surrounded by ocean views, a patio, and large windows that seemingly pulls in the landscape around you into your home. With arched windows, wrought-iron details, and a blend of warm-toned, tiled roofs, the Mediterranean style house stands out amongst the many popular home styles across the US. To make your European villa dream come true, find out what makes Mediterranean style homes stand the test of time and how you can find one for sale near you.
What is a Mediterranean house?
Mediterranean houses are a home style that takes inspiration from historic European architecture, often from Spanish and Italian influence. These homes are reminiscent of villas found in seaside Mediterranean towns, with their red roof tiles, stucco exteriors, and blend of indoor-outdoor living.
History of the Mediterranean style house
Mediterranean style homes originated in the 1920s as part of the Roaring Twenties obsession with luxury, wealth, and leisurely lifestyles. This gave rise to many seaside resorts, which took inspiration from Mediterranean architecture. While resorts and hotels in the US popularized this architectural style, architects in California and Florida, such as Addison Mizner, Bertram Goodhue, and Paul Williams saw the appeal of this house style and began to design Mediterranean inspired homes.
Where are Mediterranean style homes located?
Mediterranean homes are most popular in warmer locations with long histories of Spanish influence, such as Santa Barbara, CA, Pasadena, CA, Austin, TX, and Miami, FL. One of the most recognizable examples of a Mediterranean mansion is the iconic Hearst Castle in San Simeon, CA. Unlike widely popular home styles like the ranch home, which can be found across the country, Mediterranean homes are more concentrated in states like California, Florida, and Texas.
Mediterranean house plans
Mediterranean homes have many overarching themes that are still prominent today, regardless of the architectural movement they were built in. Here are some of the common indoor and outdoor features you can find in most Mediterranean style homes.
Mediterranean house exterior characteristics
The key element to a Mediterranean style exterior is the red-tiled, terracotta roof. If your Mediterranean home is more modern and doesn’t have a terra cotta roof, Boyce’s Roofing & Repair suggests, “For an added Mediterranean touch or Spanish-inspired flavor, Terracotta tiles can be an alluring addition to your home. Beautiful and durable, fired terracotta tiles can last for up to 100 years while maintaining their color and functionality.”
With painted white stucco or brick siding, these characteristics are designed to keep this home style cool in their warmer climates. Iron or metal work was a popular architectural detail around the windows, balconies, and the front door. Doors may also have carvings, stone details, or grand arches.
For example, Lynch Construction of Santa Barbara, CA says, “We are fortunate to live and build in the beautiful town of Santa Barbara whose architecture is historically influenced by Mexico and Spain. Following in the city’s aesthetic, it is easy to see why so many of the homes we build and remodel follow in the Mediterranean tradition. To achieve the traditional look and feel, we incorporate thick walls for depth for both doors and windows and soft hand formed bullnose corners for the interior. Both exterior and interior colored plaster is hand troweled, which gives a variegated and naturally aged patina that only gets better with time. Don’t forget to include robust beam work in your plans and designs to add that authentic Mediterranean ambiance and top it off with a quality Mission tile roof, preferably single tile and reclaimed from a vintage building and laid in a non-uniform variation pattern.”
These features also extend into indoor-outdoor living spaces, like patios or verandas, with stone floors and archways. Landscaping often includes palm trees, herb gardens, water fountains, and terra cotta potted plants.
When it comes to indoor-outdoor living, Christina Dikas, associate principal and senior architectural historian at Page & Turnbull comments, “A distinctive feature of Mediterranean-style homes is their courtyard settings with both formal and informal gardens, along with terraces and balconies that invite indoor-outdoor living. Commonly, the homes’ exteriors are characterized by a red-tiled roof and pergola, plus hand-hewn wood posts or joists, and wood or wrought iron railings. Other distinctive details are decorative stone, tile, and other metal work. In addition, decorated and furnished entry court gardens often serve as outdoor rooms, including outdoor furniture, potted plants, and ornamental objects.”
Mediterranean house interior characteristics
When it comes to a Mediterranean home’s interior characteristics, expect to see lots of warm tones mixed with white walls and exposed wood beams. Floors tend to be terra cotta, stone, or natural wood. Earthy and warm colors fill the interiors so you’ll likely see shades of ochre, chestnut, and clay. However, beachy tones of turquoise, seafoam green, and cerulean are often used as accent colors throughout the home. Lastly, Mediterranean style interiors feature patterned tiles, whether in the kitchen, bathroom, or as an accent wall.
For designer, developer, and general contractor, Ronnie Gor of amorphous studio, they bring Mediterranean flair by, “Opening up the house by bringing in natural light through windows, doors and skylights. Then we introduce a neutral color palette, by using a warm white for walls, neutral flowing linen fabrics where needed visually to add a softer emotion, oak wood floors and use of some dark walnut wood for furniture and for other exterior elements adds some focus to the overall appearance. Once we have our main elements taken care of, we bring in some fun and life through use of other natural materials like stone and marble with geometric patterns used minimally and strategic pops of color in tiles, indoor and outdoor plants, art and other furnishings. Artificial lighting follows the placement of furniture and circulation within the house.”
Types of Mediterranean house styles
While Mediterranean homes often have similar characteristics that make them easily identifiable, four main architectural movements heavily influenced these homes. Let’s take a look at these four specific types of Mediterranean house styles.
Mission Revival (1890 – 1915)
The Mission Revival style gained popularity during the Arts and Crafts movement, taking heavy inspiration from the Spanish missions throughout California. As the first popular style of Mediterranean style homes, its influence can be seen in newly constructed Mediterranean homes.
Italian Renaissance (1890 -1930)
Italian Renaissance style Mediterranean homes take inspiration from none other than the architecture popular during the Italian Renaissance. Homes often have clay roofs, grand and rounded arches, columns, a two-story exterior, and are more formal than other types of Mediterranean styles.
Spanish Colonial Revival (1915 -1930)
Typically characterized by their low-pitched roofs, clean lines, and symmetrical exterior, Spanish Revival homes reached the height of their popularity in the 1920s and 1930s. Also referred to as simply Spanish Revival, Spanish Colonial Revival style homes are often more simplistic than their Italian Renaissance counterparts. More intricate versions of the Spanish Colonial Revival style feature complex details seen through the ironwork and tilework.
Modern Mediterranean house
When you think of most newer construction Mediterranean homes, you’re likely imagining the Modern Mediterranean style house. With a mix of both Italian and Spanish styles with clean and modern lines, Modern Mediterranean houses may lack the charm of a historic home. However, if you’re looking for the right blend of a modern floor plan, with terra-cotta or Mediterranean tiled roofs and indoor-outdoor living, the modern Mediterranean style may be the right choice for you.
Design tips for a Mediterranean home
Choosing the right design elements for a Mediterranean home may feel intimidating. Do you stick with the Mediterranean style? Do you opt for a simple and minimalist interior? Or do you embrace maximalism? Here are a few tips to consider when designing your home.
With warm-toned wood floors and beams, consider incorporating darker toned wood furniture to contrast freshly painted white walls. Sticking with neutral colors is key, but don’t forget to bring in complementary colors with decorative tiles and accent pieces. When it comes to fabric choices, choose light and airy fabrics like linen. Consider embracing the warmth that comes with a Mediterranean home with a fireplace or outdoor fire pit to elevate your indoor-outdoor living space.
Stefanie Cheng of Steff Stuff Design highlights the importance of using organic materials, “Mediterranean style, for residential or commercial spaces, should always include elements of organic materials. Whether it is natural stone flooring, weathered wooden furniture, texture in fabrics – selections that evoke natural materials create the rustic romanticism of the Mediterranean.”
“Mediterranean-style interior design is all about striking a balance between nature and being easy,” says Luxury Abode, “Utilize natural light to its full potential by leaving windows naked and installing solar shades. Prioritize natural materials in the construction of furniture and ornamental pieces like jute and cotton. Use white or cream-colored walls and mosaic tiles to bring interest and pattern to minimalist interiors. Let the breeze play – ensure plenty of cross ventilation.”
For Mehran Shahverdi, of MSH Design Inc. the Mediterranean style means, “Less is more and simplification in no way indicates lack of attention to detail for a well designed period-accurate style in quality vs quantity for a great Mediterranean dream home.”
Pros and cons of the Mediterranean house style
All homes will have pros and cons no matter what home style you pick or where you live. So before you take the plunge and buy a Mediterranean style house, let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages.
Pros of the Mediterranean style house
The pros of a Mediterranean home lie in its unique qualities and building materials. With architectural details like exposed beams, tiles, and ironwork, you can design your home to draw attention to these features. If you’re living in California, these homes are suited for the warm weather with their stucco walls, leading to cooler inside temperatures. This may even be a sustainable option for those looking to purchase a more eco-friendly home.
Cons of the Mediterranean style house
Mediterranean style homes often bear shorter ceilings, less storage space, and smaller windows, making individual rooms feel cramped. Additionally, styling these homes may seem limited, as you want to ensure you highlight the charm of a Mediterranean home rather than hide its details.
Finally, as unique as Mediterranean homes are, it may simply not be your taste. For example, say you’re house hunting in Boston, MA, where the winters are cold and snowy. In that case, a Cape Cod-style house may be best suited to your needs since the traditional building materials used for Mediterranean homes makes them more suitable for warmer climates.
Originally published by Redfin