Spanish Architecture and Design - Explained

Spanish Architecture and Design - Explained

Decoration and Design
Additions and Remodels
Architecture
By Contractors.com Team July 23, 2021

From the sunny shores of California and the humid jungles of Florida comes one of the most distinctive architectural styles. Spanish architecture has become inexorably tied with the history of America thanks to the prominent role it played throughout the country’s expansion. Much like the Andalusian architecture that inspired it, Spanish architecture is designed for comfy, simple, yet stylish living in hotter climates, and is replete with various cultural influences. A Spanish-style house charms you with its rustic elegance and draws you in with its unique aesthetic. 

It is a very dynamic style, drawing from four hundred years of Spanish, Mexican, Indigenous, and Pioneer culture. It remains one of the most popular styles in the warmer parts of the United States today and continues to grow as a style long after the end of Spanish colonization in the Americas. Chances are you’ve seen this style the last time you traveled to a coastal town, as its bright white stucco walls and distinctive red clay roofs are hard to miss. 

The Roots of Spanish Architecture and Design 

Spanish architecture has a long history, and since the end of the Spanish Empire it has taken on a life of its own. 

Beginnings 

Spanish settlers arrived in the Americas in the 1600s and continued to settle up until the early 19th century when several wars of independence swept through the Americas. Spanish settlements often grew around missionaries which were commonly the architectural centerpieces of Spanish design, also known as Spanish mission design

Spanish settlers found climates in places such as Florida and California to be quite similar to the one they left behind in Spain, and so they kept a similar building style as well. While there were many similarities between Spanish missions throughout the American continent, their design was also influenced by the regions they were built in. 

The History of Iconic Spanish Architecture

The History of Iconic Spanish Architecture

Some buildings drew more heavily from Mexican cultural motifs, whereas others drew from indigenous cultures such as those of South Florida. For example, settlers made good use of adobe, an indigenous traditional building material made from straw and clay, for use in interior and exterior walls.   

American Popularity

Despite the end of the Spanish colonization, the Spanish style continued to grow in popularity in the late nineteenth century throughout the United States thanks to national exposure. For one, it was prominently featured in the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, where a house built in the Spanish style was used to build the California pavilion. 

How Spanish Design Stole the Hearts of American Homeowners

How Spanish Design Stole the Hearts of American Homeowners

The style was also featured in Ramona, a fiction book published in 1894 and set in California. These two influences galvanized nationwide interest in the Spanish design aesthetic and helped to set the stage for a building boom. 

Building Boom

The number of Spanish-style houses exploded in the 1920s as the style began to catch on throughout the country. This was likely also helped along by the simple fact that California was getting a lot more national exposure thanks to an up-and-coming neighborhood known as Hollywood. Though that building boom quickly subsided, the style remains quite popular today, especially in the warmer, drier parts of the United States.  

Common Elements In Spanish Architecture

Common Elements In Spanish Architecture

How to Recognize Spanish Architecture and Design 

“Spanish style” encompasses a super broad range of styles, including Spanish mission style, Hacienda, Spanish Colonial architecture, and Southwestern style, all of which are unique in their ways. You would have to write a book to catalog each one with enough detail, but there are some common similarities between them all that can be easily identifiable. Just keep in mind that when we say “Spanish Design” that it doesn’t refer to one narrowly defined style but rather to a widespread aesthetic that draws from a very diverse variety of cultural influences. 

Red Clay

A Spanish building is easily identifiable by its distinctive red clay roof tiles. These tiles are usually shaped like one-half of a pipe and were a very popular choice for Spanish settlers because of the easy availability of the clay used to make them. Spanish red clay roofs were also favored because they were specially designed to capture cool air and insulate a house from the punishing desert heat of the Southwest. 

The Traditional Colors of Spanish Design

The Traditional Colors of Spanish Design

 Another key aspect of the design is that roofs on Spanish houses tend to have significant overhangs designed to add extra protection from the weather. These red clay roofs are typically designed to not be very steep, again, to help keep things cool by maximizing how much cool air is captured. 

White Stucco

There’s an obvious advantage to having white walls in hot climates, as white will reflect much more of the sun’s rays than a darker-colored wall. Stucco also offered protection from the sun thanks to its thickness. During a hot day, stucco walls act as effective insulators, keeping the cool air in and the hot air out. 

Once things start cooling down in the evening, the heat absorbed by Stucco is released into the home to keep things warm. In this sense, stucco works in a similar way to concrete with regards to thermal efficiency, although it is a more “natural” alternative. 

Archways

Archways are a popular element in most Spanish designs and are a decorative feature that is often incorporated into outside walkways and interior pass-throughs. Traditional Spanish-style homes had these archways made from adobe and finished with stucco, but these archways can be finished in all manner of other materials such as natural stone, glass, or even Moroccan-style tiles

The Inviting Elements of Spanish Architecture

The Inviting Elements of Spanish Architecture

Lots of Exposed Wood

Exposed wood can be found both inside and outside Spanish-style houses. Inside, you’ll find prominent exposed wooden ceiling beams, lots of rustic wooden furniture, and some stylized wooden accents. Spanish-style houses can also feature hardwood flooring, further enhancing the rustic look and feel. Exposed wood is also featured on the exteriors of Spanish-style houses in the form of exposed roof rafters, ornate wood beams, and railings for balconies and porches. Railings are typically painted in white in keeping with the white of stucco.  

The Wooden Accents of Spanish Architecture and Design

The Wooden Accents of Spanish Architecture and Design

Asymmetry 

Some Spanish-style buildings will have asymmetry integrated into their facades. This usually comes in the form of towers that are off-center (much like bell towers from Spanish mission buildings). This will be accented with quatrefoil windows, which are windows shaped like four-leaf clovers that help add a hint of intricacy to a simple facade. 

The Subtle Chaotic Features of Spanish Architecture

The Subtle Chaotic Features of Spanish Architecture

How to Bring Spanish Interior Design Into Your Home

Some fundamental elements are key to reproducing the Spanish Interior Design into your home. The aesthetic direction you go will also decide which motifs you end up using in your Spanish-style home remodel. 

Furnishings

Traditional Spanish-style furniture was utilitarian and has retained this charming feature in modern Spanish houses. To build your Spanish-style interior, start by choosing some heavy wooden furniture. Wooden tables, wicker chairs, and big heavy dressers are all fair game. Just make sure you find antique pieces which carry a “Wild West” vibe. 

Spanish Interior Furniture Essentials

Spanish Interior Furniture Essentials

Alternatively, minimalist pieces can add some contemporary flair and should fit nicely provided that they are made of wood with a dark brown grain. For a tasteful interplay that’s both cozy and rustic, you can also integrate metal pieces such as bronze light fixtures, or other pieces finished in copper or brass. 

Accenting 

You’re aiming for natural accents for your interior design. This can be in the form of southwestern plants such as cacti and succulents, and natural stone pieces such as fireplaces. A straw carpet complemented by straw-made decor can do a good job of helping a Spanish-style space come into its own. 

Gorgeous Accent Ideas for Spanish Interiors

Gorgeous Accent Ideas for Spanish Interiors

Stucco

You can add stucco as a plaster for your exterior walls in a few days with enough handyman skill. Stucco is mostly made with cement, sand, and water, so it isn’t hard to make. If you’d rather leave the job to the pros, a contractor can help you add stucco siding for a price. Expect to pay $9,300 on average for this job. This is a steep price, but it can pay off in the long run in energy savings.  You can even bring the stucco inside for a truly unique and transporting aesthetic.

Wall Finishes for Spanish Design Rooms

Wall Finishes for Spanish Design Rooms

Written by
Contractors.com Team

Written by Contractors.com Team