Spanish Colonial Revival Style was an architectural and design movement in America that coincided with the opening of the Panama Canal in 1915. Inspired by Spanish Colonial architecture from the Spanish colonization of the Americas, the revival period that took place during the early 20th Century updated the old style for a new era and modernized look.

While the Spanish Colonial Revival began in Florida and Southern California and remains popular in both areas today, this aesthetically pleasing and practical style can be found in homes across the country, especially in the Southwest where the advantages of solar energy are inherently worked into the architecture.

The Elements of Exterior Spanish Architecture

Spanish Colonial Revival homes have a distinct exterior look characterized by white stucco walls, red clay tiled roofs, and mission-style architectural elements. The buildings are usually one level and often incorporate an interior or exterior courtyard. Other common characteristics include arching doorways, pillars, balconies, tall double windows, decorative ironwork, and low-pitched, clay tile roofs.

Spanish Colonial architecture incorporates a lot of exterior living spaces in the form of courtyards. This is one reason why these homes are more often found in warmer climates in which a person would move between the indoor and outdoor spaces of the home comfortably during most times of the year, without the need for more or less clothing. Inside the courtyard area you can expect to see stone and tile stairs and walkways; decorative wrought-iron hardware and banisters; fountains; statues; potted plants; patio furniture, benches, and other sitting areas; and outdoor fireplaces.

Even basic Spanish Colonial homes incorporate plenty of alcoves in the walls, tiered roofs, towered chimneys, short stairways, arcades, and beautiful detail work. The colors are typically warm and inviting and the building materials are naturally insulating. The mud-based stucco and clay rooftops absorb enough of the sun’s rays to keep homes cool during the day and warm throughout the night.

The Elements of Interior Spanish Design

A major element of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture is that the buildings share many of the same interior and exterior features. Inside the Spanish Colonial home you’ll find all the same features mentioned above and more. The predominately white stucco walls and ceilings may be broken up by beams, pillars, or columns. The red tiled roofs are replaced with terra-cotta tiled floors, so the main color scheme is still often shades of red and white on the interior.

Inside the home you can expect to see features that are a lot like the exterior ones, such as open windows, wrought-iron detail work, courtyards, and fountains. The perimeter of the Spanish Colonial home consists of many rooms or covered patios that are open to the outside or to an exterior courtyard. It’s not uncommon to have an open, outdoor courtyard in the center of a larger home.

Hand-painted tiles may be found on the outside of some Spanish style homes, but they are sure to be adorning the spaces of every interior room. These beautiful tiles are commonly used to decorate stair risers, countertops, walls, floors, walkways, and bathrooms. Red clay or terra-cotta tiles are more often used to tile larger spaces such as floors and entryways, but hand-painted tiles are sometimes integrated into the pattern to add color and style.

Arching Spanish doorways are another element that’s found both indoors and out, as are the heavy-duty wooden doors adorned with iron hardware that are typically only found in the main entryway to other styles of homes. Wood doors with plenty of detail work provide a Spanish old-world look that’s still used in modern Spanish architecture as well.

Integrating Spanish Design Elements into an Existing Home

Many of the Spanish Colonial Revival style elements depend on major architectural features that are inherently part of the house’s overall structure: white stucco walls, terra-cotta tiled rooftops, arched doorways, interior arcades, and plenty of beams, columns, and pillars. To give your existing home a Spanish feel without doing a major remodel or addition, you should focus on the details of the style. Luckily this style of architecture and design is overflowing with details.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Give your home an overall warm look by incorporating shades of red, orange, yellow, and white into the interior décor.
  • Incorporate wrought-iron detail work into the home wherever possible. Banisters, chandeliers, light fixtures, and furniture/cabinet hardware are all wrought-iron in a Spanish style home.
  • Replace interior and exterior doors with heavy-duty, hand-crafted wooden doors adorned with iron detail work.
  • Replace carpeted floors with wood or tile and Spanish area rugs.
  • Incorporate hand-painted tiles into every room. The Spanish use them in so many different places in the home that they can be integrated into almost any space.

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