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Guide to Mediterranean Architectural Style

If you’re a fan of a luxury lifestyle, there’s no better home architectural style for you than the Mediterranean. These homes remind people of seaside villas and vacation in Europe. Daydream about the warm sun, refreshing drinks, soft beaches, and bright flavors, and you get a hint of what being in the Mediterranean feels like. If you want that vibe but is unwilling to give up hamburgers and the American lifestyle, perhaps you can just bring the Mediterranean to you by adapting the architectural style for your home.

This architectural design is an accumulation of various models from Mediterranean countries that have been cross-pollinating for centuries. If you see a house with Italian arches, Spanish towers, and French creole ironwork, you have seen a Mediterranean style home.

What are Mediterranean Houses?

A Mediterranean-style home exterior

Countries that are classified as Mediterranean include France, Spain, Greece, Italy, Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, Algeria, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Tunisia, and Syria. While all these countries have influenced the Mediterranean style, it mostly blends traditional Spanish and Italian architecture, with significant designs from France, Morocco, and Greece.

History of Mediterranean Style

Mediterranean-style homes of today resemble the design and aesthetic of the Mediterranean villas, which originated in the 1920s. During this period, people are consumed with wealth and obsession with leisure, which led to a boom in seaside resorts in the United States. Tropical areas like Florida and California developed their first sustainable tourist industries around the coasts. To attract more tourists, they incorporated a unique aesthetic that looks relaxing.

Since Florida and California both had a Spanish colonial history, remnants of Spanish architecture were seen among these two states. For many people, it became a prime attraction. So, architects began combining these Spanish architectural features with the aesthetics of the Mediterranean villas to create a relaxing oasis of adventure and style.

In Florida, the style was popularized mainly due to the efforts of architect Addison Mizner. In fact, another term for Mediterranean architecture in the area was the Mizner Style. His work is seen throughout Sarasota, Florida, and he’s credited as one of the most influential architects in Boca Raton.

In California, the structures were made by Bertram Goodhue, Summer Spaulding, and Paul Williams. Over the next decade, the style spread on other parts of the country, though never as fully embraced as in Florida and California.

Types of Mediterranean Homes

Mediterranean homes borrow a lot of influences from a few different regions in the area, but they can be categorized into three distinct styles:

1. Italian Renaissance

An Italian Renaissance-style home

As the name suggests, the Italian Renaissance style borrows some inspiration from the 16th-century buildings during the Renaissance in Italy. The style prominently features details like columns, rounded arches, elaborate balustrades, and other ornate detailing. The improvement in masonry veneering techniques added to the authenticity of wood structures during the Italian Renaissance era. The Italian Renaissance-style also dictates an element of symmetry, as well as brick facades and classic columns. Most authentic Italian Renaissance homes date to the 1920s, but newer versions of the style are still being built. This style is the most ornate among the other three types of Mediterranean homes.

2. Spanish Revival

A Spanish Revival-style home

Spanish Revival style is influenced by Spanish Colonial architecture brought to America during the 16th century. This type of architectural movement was popular in warm, coastal areas like Florida and California. It features cleaner lines and a lower-pitched roofline that looks heavier and thicker. Details were inspired by Byzantine, Gothic, Moorish, and Renaissance architecture. The Spanish Revival style is a more masculine type of Mediterranean homes without superfluous ornamentation that you can find in Italian Renaissance homes.

3. Modern Mediterranean

Modern Mediterranean architecture can follow either Italian or Spanish design, and it brings back the concentration on resort-style living. These homes borrow some details from the traditional Mediterranean home style mixed with the comforts of modern life. These homes usually have open floor plans, updated kitchens, and emphasis on indoor-outdoor living, along with the evident Spanish and Italian influences.

Characteristics of Mediterranean Style Architecture

In Mediterranean architectural style, it’s not just the era that played a factor in the design, but the location as well. As you travel across the globe, you will see different architecture-specific to that particular region or part of the world. When we look at the Mediterranean style, we immediately think of European, Spanish, or Italian.

A Mediterranean house is a dream for someone who likes something elegant, yet simple and with influences of tradition. This style is timeless and does not require constant updating. Whatever type of Mediterranean architecture you adapt, here are some of the main features of this architectural style:

  1. Eclectic design

One major characteristic of the Mediterranean style is its distinct eclecticism. In architectural terms, eclecticism means selecting elements from multiple styles to capture a desired aesthetic. All revival styles are eclectic, as it mixes old techniques with modern tastes. Rather than drawing inspiration from a single source, this design draws from several styles.

  1. Low-pitched roof

One of the most notable features of Mediterranean-style homes is their low pitched roofs with broad, overhanging eaves. This kind of roof is also covered in dense, red or terracotta tiles.

  1. Stucco exterior walls

From the red roofs, the façade of a Mediterranean home is another distinct element. It’s almost always covered with stucco and painted in white or pastel hues. The stucco walls are often decorated with lime-based paint, which can be difficult to apply, but it helps boost the authenticity of the home’s design.

  1. Symmetrical facades

Mediterranean homes are usually rectangular and square, and it’s almost always symmetrical. The façade features a central door with a porch, with the same number of windows on either side of the house.

  1. Columns

Classic columns are used as structural support and ornamentation for Mediterranean architecture. You can find it on the spacious porches and in between balustrades. In Italian Renaissance architecture, the columns can be spiral and ornate, featuring unique carvings.

  1. Arched doors and windows

The windows, doorways, and entryways of Mediterranean homes are always arched. All these are usually large to encourage a relaxing and breezy environment in the home. The interior doors are also often open and arched.

  1. Open floor plan

Mediterranean houses usually have open-plan interiors in the main living area to keep air circulation more open.

  1. High ceilings

To give the home air in warm weather, the Mediterranean style homes have high ceilings.

  1. Textured interior walls

Another hallmark feature of Mediterranean houses is textured interior walls. These walls are either in stucco or raised plaster to give rooms some texture and visual interest.

  1. Wrought iron detailing

Wrought iron features are used heavily in Mediterranean properties. It is used in interior door grilles, window grills, balconies, staircases, and light fixtures.

  1. Patterned tiles

The floors of Mediterranean houses are often tiled and found in elaborate patterns. The tiles can also be found in other parts of the home, such as on the stairs and walls, to add an interesting feature. Terracotta and hand-painted tiles are often used to add decoration. These tiles are inspired by Middle Eastern countries around the Mediterranean sea.

  1. Wooden features

Wooden elements are found all over Mediterranean homes. These include skirting boards, wall paneling, wooden furniture, wooden staircases, kitchen units, wooden railings, and wooden fire surrounds. Some homes even have wooden paneled ceilings.

  1. Large, outdoor space

While some homes put emphasis on a large front porch, Mediterranean homes have large, open grounds around the house with extensive gardens. Many Mediterranean homes extend their living room and place it on the back of the home, creating an outdoor loggia. This is a transitional area between the house and the garden. In the outdoor loggia, it’s common to find comfortable seating, outdoor fireplace, and wrought iron accents. The balconies and terraces also help Mediterranean homeowners to enjoy outdoor winds.

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