Spanish style homes history: The History of Spanish Home Design | Spanish Homes Explained

The History of Spanish Home Design | Spanish Homes Explained

Spanish style homes are distinctive and captivating with their graceful arches and terracotta roofs. Majestic palms often surround these homes, which only adds to their striking beauty. Spanish homes have Mediterranean roots where tiled courtyards and outdoor fireplaces are common, making them perfect for entertaining or spending peaceful nights alone under the stars. They’re especially prevalent on the West Coast and in southern US locations, like St. Augustine, Florida. From simple and unadorned, to remarkably ornate, both styles are sought after by buyers with discerning tastes.


Whether they’re expansive or humble, lavish or unpretentious, this style of home is a favorite from coast to coast. But where did these Spanish home designs get their start and why are they so well-loved? Let’s break it down, starting at the beginning.


The Origins of Spanish Home Design

The new Spanish style homes of today evolved over the centuries. They’re derived from Spanish colonial architecture built in the US in the late 1600s after explorers initiated the Spanish settlement of America. As was common among colonizers of the time, they settled in areas with similar environments to their homeland.


Most of Spain experiences hot and dry summers; with colder and rainy winters. That means Spanish colonial architecture is found most frequently in warmer regions of the United States, like new homes in Florida, new homes in California, and new homes in Arizona. There, settlers used local materials to build structures in architectural styles similar to their own country. This architecture is some of the oldest in the US.


What Makes a Spanish Style Home?

Spanish architecture is easy to identify since its features are unique. Although these features change at times, the identifiable characteristics of Spanish home design are:

  • Terracotta roofs
  • The use of arches under eaves, on doorways and main windows
  • Small or narrow windows
  • Exposed wooden beams
  • Tiling on floors, stairs, and walls, frequently with brightly painted designs
  • Exterior stucco walls over stone or concrete construction
  • White or pastel exterior colors
  • Courtyards and balconies


Sundrenched exteriors tolerate the extremes of summer, while inside, these homes are cool, inviting, and comfortable. With their arched entrances and curved lines, Spanish style homes are much more romantic than the sleek modern ranch style home.


Why Spanish Home Design Has Endured

From the earliest instances of Spanish colonial architecture to modern-day communities built in sunny locales like Port St. Lucie, the Spanish style home has endured for centuries. The reasons are both practical and steeped in tradition. Here are three main reasons Spanish style homes have been popular for so long:


1.  In hot-weather areas, owners look for efficient ways to endure the intense summer heat. The natural cooling factor of Spanish homes has caused them to remain a favorite in those places.


2.  There are dense concentrations of Spanish architecture along the routes Spaniards took to migrate to the New World. These Spanish structures are now indigenous to our contemporary landscape and an integral part of American heritage. They’re here to stay.


3.  In the early 1900s, a Spanish revival sparked an awareness of Spain’s influence on American culture. Spanish colonial architecture experienced a comeback and eventually morphed into today’s ranch style home.


Some new-construction communities offer variations on Spanish home design, and thousands of Spanish style homes were built across the US in the past several decades. Although it continues to evolve, it doesn’t appear this architectural style will disappear anytime soon.


Could a Spanish Home Plan Be Perfect for You?

Some people love Spanish home design and actively seek this style out when buying a home. Others choose them out of convenience or energy efficiency. If you live in a warm-weather region like the Treasure Coast, chances are a Spanish home design will be at least one of the offerings to consider when building a new home.


If you do consider a Spanish style home design, realize it works well with drought-tolerant landscapes. Couple that with an exterior that wears well in the sun, and maintenance will be reduced. Tile floors are cool on your feet and easy to keep clean, an absolute must for pet owners. If your yard is small, much of your garden can be planted in pottery, reducing yard work to a minimum.


Entertainers will love the charm of Spanish home design. They can make good use of the patio or courtyard with some relaxing outdoor furniture and a built-in pool. Spanish home floorplans are easily kept to one floor, too, an important factor if stair-climbing for laundry or chores is a problem. You can have a cool, single-level home where you can ramble and live in comfort.


If these types of features appeal to you, then a Spanish style home could be just what you’re looking for.


Ready to design your own Spanish home? Explore Pulte’s design center.



Contributed to Your Home blog by Carol Youmans

Looking for more tips, ideas or inspiration? Return Home here.

Published 10.21.19

Exterior of a dwelling with Spanish home design

Exterior of a dwelling with Spanish home design

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What Is a Spanish-Style House? History and Architecture

If you grew up in certain parts of the country, it can be easy to forget the influence that Spanish colonialism had on America. With so many elementary and high school textbooks tracing the United States from the pilgrims to the Revolutionary War, over 400 years of Spanish rule in what is the modern-day U.S.A. gets tossed by the wayside.

In areas that were once part of Spain, however, you can still see evidence of that centuries-long rule, particularly in place names and architecture. Today, one of the most visible reminders is Spanish-style homes that draw design elements from Spanish colonial building styles. 

While you can find Spanish-style homes all over the country, they are most common in areas that were under Spanish rule. The states with the most properties described as Spanish-style are California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Florida. While they are more common in those states, they are still relatively unique: about 1% of listings in those areas are Spanish-style, compared with only .11% nationally. 

Many of these Spanish-style homes are also relatively new: periods of revival, especially in the 20th and 21st centuries, have lead architects and designers to draw inspiration from an area’s past without being totally bound to it. Modern and revival Spanish-style homes offer reinterpretations of the aesthetic, often mixing elements and including nods to more contemporary sensibilities. 

House Hunting? These are the Most Popular Home Styles You Should Know

Solidago/Getty Images

Spanish-style houses vary widely but have a few common features that set them apart from other American home styles, particularly the English-inspired revivals. Spanish colonial houses draw strongly from Meddieterian building styles. Many of the utilitarian elements meant to make homes cooler in a hot climate, like stucco walls and terracotta roofs, are now beloved details of this design style.

Revival houses, which were built starting in the late 19th century, also include features like exposed beams, wrought iron banisters, and colorful tiles. Inside, many of these homes feature tile as well as exposed stucco walls, though more modern constructions may look otherwise traditional.



While you can still find many Spanish colonial-era buildings and churches throughout America, most homes you see are part of the revival movement. Starting in the 19th century, and inspired by events like the world’s fair, architects began to build houses that harkened back to Spanish rule. Many cities also chose to design public buildings and spaces around a unified, Spanish-inspired style.

Spanish Revival homes, like any revival movement, aren’t exact replicas. Modern elements were included, like glass windows and second floors. Other features combine design elements from different areas and eras, like the Spanish Baroque and Moorish Revival. Mexican architecture movements have had an influence on the development of Spanish-style homes in the U.S. as well. 

ntzolov/Getty Images

While most Spanish-style homes were built in the last 150 years and would fall broadly under the Spanish Revival movement, there are different styles of the revival that can be found throughout the U.S. 

Mission Revival

The Mission Revival movement saw homes as well as public buildings built in a style reminiscent of the Spanish missions. These relatively simple structures were primarily in California. Facades often resembled the missions themselves, with arched entrances, low roofs, and even bell towers. Walls are typically stucco with tiled roofs.

Pueblo Revival

Popularized in the 1920s and 30s, Pueblo Revival took elements from indigenous design as well as Spanish. Pueblo revival homes typically have flat roofs, thick stucco walls, and visible, rounded roof beams, or “vigas,” that can be seen inside and extending out from the home. Many have walled courtyards or patios. More traditional Pueblo Revival houses are a red earthen color, though they can also be painted white or even bright colors.

Getty Images


The Spanish-style homes found in Monterey are fairly unique, and can often be traced back to one man. Thomas O. Larkin’s homes were first built in 1835, predating the Spanish Revival period by half a century. His homes, however, typify much of what we expect from a revival design: borrowing references across time and culture to make something that feels truly unique. Inspired by English and French homes as well as Spanish, Larkin’s homes had adobe walls and a flat roof. Unlike many other Spanish-style homes, however, they also feature upper and lower balconies, typical of French homes. The exteriors are also symmetrical, which is more common in English Colonial style-homes. 


Wherever Spanish colonizers built homes, they used local building materials, giving Spanish colonial buildings in Florida a different look and feel from similar structures in California. Similarly, different leaders of the Spanish Revival movement in different parts of the country-influenced local building trends. In Florida, you will often see fewer of the simple, stucco structures of the Southwest. Instead, Florida Renaissance homes (and those that came after it) borrow more heavily from Baroque and Moorish influences. Decorative columns, geometric window shapes, and ornate facades typify this type of house. 

Wicki58/Getty Images

Spanish Eclectic

Modern constructions pull from all previous periods of Spanish Revival and are often grouped together under the umbrella term “Spanish Eclectic. ” These homes can have the split-level shape of a ranch house, but with terracotta roof tiles and stucco walls. Other elements that have historically been rare in Spanish-style architecture, like bay windows or brich, can be found. Often, these homes pull inspiration from Renaissance, Baroque, Puebla, Moorish, and even previous Revival styles all at once, making them truly unique. 

Martin Löf

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Spanish style house project: Ramón García Jurado and Paco Pocovi designed a country house


Decorators Ramón García Jurado and Paco Pocovi designed a country house in the Spanish province of Asturias, inspired by its colonial past and the history of classical styles.

Decorators Ramón García Jurado and Paco Pocovi have designed a country house in the Spanish province of Asturias inspired by its colonial past and history of classical styles.

Montse Garriga

The Spanish region of Asturias is known for the fact that in the early 16th century, ships moored here, which were lucky enough to return from sailing to the newly discovered America. The sailors brought from there not only gold, tobacco and potatoes, but also a new look at home improvement, which became known as the colonial style and later spread throughout Europe.

Montse Garriga

When old friends asked the decorators Ramón Garcia Jurado and Paco Pocovi to decorate their house in Asturias, they decided to turn to the history of the place. “We wanted to make a classic interior, but dilute it with colonial exoticism,” Ramon says. “And be sure to use warm, golden hues to remind you of the South American gold that has so strongly influenced the history of our country.”

Montse Garriga

The owners of the house were overjoyed, especially when they saw the colorful color scheme and bright textiles that the decorators had chosen. “We have tried to make the interior cheerful so that it contrasts with the windy and rainy weather that is typical for these places,” adds Paco.

Montse Garriga

Ramón and Paco are big fans of the history of the decorative arts, so for them, furnishing a home was like preparing a documentary on the chronology of styles. “When we work, we feel like screenwriters and try to write a story that will perfectly fit the lifestyle of our clients,” the decorators say.

Montse Garriga

The «scenario» of this house took them several years, during which Ramon and Paco meticulously collected antique furniture, fabrics and accessories from different eras — from the 17th to the 20th century — from all over the world. Some of the items in the house were made by local artisans according to the decorators’ own sketches.

Montse Garriga

The owners of the mansion dreamed of an interior that was at the same time cozy, so that it would be pleasant to spend a secluded weekend, and bright, so that there would be somewhere to invite guests. And they were glad when the decorators managed to kill two birds with one stone.

Montse Garriga

“We planned two living rooms. One front, solemn — the perfect room for parties — says Paco. “The other one is family, smaller, it is decorated in Chinese style and has access to the garden. It is not surprising that it has become the favorite room of the owners.”

Montse Garriga

Text: Loreto López Quesada

Photo: Montse Garriga

Spanish Colonial Revival Architecture HiSoUR – Hi So You Are

The Spanish Colonial Revival style is an architectural stylistic movement that emerged in the early 20th century from the Spanish colonial architecture of the Spanish colonization of the Americas.

The 1915 Panama and California Exposition in San Diego, highlighting the work of the architect Bertram Goodhue, is credited with exhibiting the national style. Reached mainly in California and Florida, the Spanish Colonial Revival movement enjoyed its greatest popularity between 1915 and 1931.

Style Development

Mediterranean Revival
Antecedents of the Spanish Colonial Revival style can be attributed to the Mediterranean Revival architectural style. For St. Augustine, Florida, three Northeastern architects, New Yorkers John Carrera and Thomas Hastings of Carrera and Hastings and Boston Franklin W. Smith, grandiose, elaborate hotels in Mediterranean Revival and Spanish revival. With the advent of the Hotel Ponce de Leon (Carrère and Hastings, 1882), the Hotel Alcazar (Carrère and Hastings, 1887) and the Hotel Casa Monica (later Hotel Cordova) (Franklin W. Smith, 1888) visited by thousands of winter visitors, the «State of the Sun» began to feel the charm and romance of Spanish architecture. These three hotels were influenced not only by the centuries-old buildings left over from Spanish rule in St. Augustine, but also by the Old Town House, built in 1873 and still standing, a great example of early Spanish Colonial Revival architecture.

Mission Revival
The possibilities of the Spanish colonial revival style were brought to the attention of architects who attended international exhibitions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For example, the California Revival style pavilion in white stucco at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago and the Mission Inn, as well as the Electric Tower of the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo in 1900, presented the potential of the Spanish Colonial Revival. They also combined porticos, pediments and colonnades, influenced by classical classical art.

By the early 1910s, architects in Florida were working in the Spanish Colonial Revival style. The Frederick H. Trimble Farm Bank in Vero Beach, completed in 1914, is a quite mature early example of the style. The city of St. Cloud, Florida has embraced the style for both homes and commercial structures and has a fine collection of fine stucco buildings reminiscent of colonial Mexico. Many of these were designed by Ida’s architectural partners Anna Ryan and Isabelle Roberts.

The main location for Spanish Colonial Revival design and construction was California, especially in coastal cities. In 1915, the San Diego Panama-California Exposition, with architects Bertram Goodhue and Carlton Winslow Sir, popularized the style in the state and nation. This is best illustrated in the California Square, built as the grand entrance to this exposition. In the early 1920s, architect Lillian Jeannette Rice developed the style in the development of the city of Rancho Santa Fe in San Diego County. The city of Santa Barbara adopted the style to give it a unified Spanish character after widespread destruction from the 1919 Santa Barbara earthquake.25 year. Its County Courthouse is a prime example of the style. Real estate developer Ole Hanson advocated the Spanish Colonial Revival style in its creation and development in San Clemente, California in 1928. Pasadena City Hall and Sonoma and Beverly Hills City Halls are other notable civic examples in California. Between 1922 and 1931, architect Robert H. Spurgeon built 32 Spanish Colonial Revival homes in Riverside California, and many have been preserved.

The Spanish Colonial Revival of Mexico differs from the style developed in the United States. After the Mexican Revolution, there was a wave of nationalism that emphasized national culture, including in architecture. The neo-colonial style arose as a response to European eclecticism (in favor of the Porfiriato). The 1915 book «La patria y la arquitectura nacional» by Federico Mariscal was influential in promoting architectural architecture as an integral part of the national identity. During the reign of President Venustiano Carranza (since 1917 to 1920) tax breaks were offered to those who built houses in the colonial style. The early 1920s saw a surge in houses built with Plateresque elements; such as grotesques, pinnacles, and adjacent arches.

Secretary of Education José Vasconcelos (who shaped the cultural philosophy of the post-revolutionary government) was an active proponent of neo-colonial architecture. Traditional materials such as tezontle, cantera and Talavera were incorporated into neo-colonial buildings.

The Colonial-era National Palace was significantly altered between 1926 and 1929, with the addition of a third floor and a change in the façade. Changes were made in accordance with the original style. Similarly, the Mexico City government’s colonial building was renovated in the 1920s, while the neo-colonial companion building was built in the 1940s.

Colonial California but
The style developed in the United States entered its geographical center of inspiration since the late 19In the 1930s, single-family homes were built in the newly built neighborhoods of Mexico City in what is known in Mexico as the Colonial Californiano (California Colonial). That is, a Mexican reinterpretation of the Californian interpretation of the Spanish Colonial Revival. Many houses of this style can still be seen in the Colonia Napole, Condesa, Polanco, and Lomas de Chapultepec areas of Mexico City.

After being colonially ruled by Spain for over 300 years and mostly ruled in the province of New Spain (Mexico), the Philippines has gained Iberian and Latin American influences in its architecture. By the time the United States conquered the Philippines, Mission and Spanish Colonial Revival architecture had also arrived, with inspiration from California. American architects developed this style in the Philippines, keeping in mind the Spanish heritage of the Philippines, but at the same time modernizing the buildings with American amenities.

The best example of Spanish Colonial Revival and Mission style architecture in California is the famous Manila Hotel, designed by William E. Parsons and built in 1909. Other examples exist throughout the country such as Gota de Leche, Paco Market and thousands more, especially in churches and cathedrals throughout the country.

Influential Australian architects such as Emil Sodersten and Professor Leslie Wilkinson brought back styles from Italy and Spain in the early 20th century, convinced that Mediterranean styles were well suited to the Australian climate and lifestyle. The Mediterranean style became popular in places such as the Sydney suburbs of Manly and Bondi in the 1920s and 1930s. One variant, known as Mission Spanish or Hollywood Spanish, became popular as Australians saw films and read in magazines about the glamorous mansions in this style that Hollywood stars had. Spanish mission houses began to appear in wealthier suburbs, the most famous of which was Boomerang, on Elizabeth Bay. The Plaza Theater in Sydney is a famous cinema in style.

Numerous Spanish Revival houses were built in Shanghai in the 1930s, especially in the former French concession. Although Shanghai was not culturally connected to the Spanish-speaking world, these buildings were likely inspired by Hollywood films, which were very influential in the city at the time. Local architectural magazines of the period, such as The Chinese Architect and The Builder, regularly printed detailed examples of the style for local builders to copy and implement.

Design Elements
Spanish Colonial Revival architecture shares some elements with the earlier Mission Revival style derived from Mission architecture in California and the Pueblo Revival style from the traditional Puebloan peoples of New Mexico. Both precedents were popularized in the western United States by Fred Harvey and his Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe railroad stations and hotels. The style of the Spanish Colonial Revival is also influenced by the style of the American Craftsman and the Arts and Crafts movement.

Spanish Colonial Revival architecture is characterized by a combination of details from several eras of Spanish Baroque, Spanish Colonial, Moorish Revival and Mexican Churrigueresque architecture, the style of which is characterized by the striking use of smooth stucco wall and chimney trim, shoddy mud tiles, barn or flat roofs, and terracotta or cast concrete decorations. Other features typically include small porches or balconies, Roman or semi-circular arcades and fenestration, timber or tall, double hanging windows, canvas awnings, and decorative ironwork.

Notable Architects
One of the more successful architects of this style was George Washington Smith, who practiced in the 1920s in Santa Barbara, California. His own residences, El Hogar (1916, aka Casa Dracaena) and Casa del Greco (1920), earned him commissions from the local society in Montecito and Santa Barbara. An example of a reference home he designed is Steedman’s Casa del Herrero in Montecito, now a registered National Historic Landmark and restored historical museum. Other examples are Jackling House and Lobero Theater also in California.

In California
Bertram Goodhue and Carlton Winslow started this style as the dominant historical regional style in California; they also influenced Hawaiian architecture in the 1920s. Notable architects in California architecture were:

Paul Reviere Williams
John Byers
Birge Clark
Elmer Gray
Reginald Johnson
William Johnson
Julia Morgan
Wallace Neff
Richard Recca
Lillian Ryggette Luta

7 Clarence J. Smale
Robert H. Spurgeon, Jr.

Florida State
Notable architects in Florida include:

John Elliot
Maurice Fatio
Harry Griffin
Richard Kinel of Walleff and Elliott
Albert Pearce
Addison Mizner
James Gamble Rogers II
Robert Weed
Marion Wyeth
In Hawaii
Louis Davis

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