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Spanish Style Architecture

May 14th, 2013

Spanish StyleSpanish Style Architecture

You may think Spanish Style architecture is most common in Florida and Southern California because the homes lend themselves to warm and humid weather. The thick adobe walls stay cool in the summer but are difficult for heating in cold. And you may find some Spanish Revival in your neighborhood.

There are two types of Spanish architecture: Spanish Revival and Mission Style also called Spanish Colonial. This style is not to be confused with Mediterranean architecture.

Some believe that the Mission style was named after the missions built in California during the Spanish ownership. This may or may not be true since many of the original homes from the 1500-1700s have crumbled by the time Mission style homes were built in the late 1800s.

To see more pictures, here is a page with photos of a variety of styles of Spanish Style architecture.

Common Traits

Whether the home is Spanish Colonial, Spanish Revival, or Mission Style, it will have white stucco walls and chimney finishes, low-pitched or flat red clay tile roofs, curvilinear gables, and arched windows. The plainer version of this building style is called Mission Revival and the more ornate is called Spanish Colonial which has more rococo flourishes..

Additionally the homes often include small porches or balconies, Roman or semi-circular arcades and double–hung windowsoften with decorative iron trim.


Real estate developer Thomas Larkin of Monterey built the first house able to keep its adobe intact in 1837. He did this by employing the New England frame method of architecture used in the colonies on the East Coast. His construction style did not become popular for a long while, but it did influence architect Bertram Goodhue.

In the late 1800s in Southern California, architect John Knapp decided to adapt the Mission style to mass housing. In 1899 he advertised a stucco bungalow. His housing subdivisions stood in carefully measured rows ten feet apart all over coastal California.

Bertram Goodhue didn’t like Mission Revival feeling it was too bland, austere and boring. For the Panama Exposition of 1915, Goodhue filled San Diego’s Balboa Park with the rococo ornamentation now known as Spanish Colonial.  Rococo ornamentation was ornate making strong usage of creamy, pastel-like colours, asymmetrical designs, curves and gold.

Known Quirks

The tile roof is made from porous materials susceptible to moisture and weather. So regularly check mold and mildew buildup between the tiles since we get quite a bit of rain. If you get snow where you live, do not remove the buildup from your roof because snow does not adversely affect your tile, and more often than not the removal might causes actual damage to the tile with scraping a shovel off of the roof.

Keep an eye out for pools of water on your flat roof because if water does penetrate the barrier covering, it can travel a long way before causing visible damage.  This could mean you will have a lot more to repair when you do realize it, and you could be a candidate for black mold. Once the underlying roof decking is soaked, it often sags causing a further collection or puddling of water in that area and the problem worsens. Make certain you keep your gutters and downspouts clean to prevent backup and pooling of water as well.

Bees and wasps build nests in the barrel tile roofs so you’ll need to keep an eye out and have an exterminator or trained bee handler remove them.

The external stucco will need to be maintained.  If properly cared for it can last the life of the home.  Stucco, like the tile roof, is extremely porous, and will absorb moisture very easily causing deterioration, mildew, moss and mold growth as well as cracking during freeze-thaw weather conditions.

Cracking happens when the moisture that the stucco absorbed expands as it freezes. Cracking can also be caused by general settlement of new homes. Worse, when cracking occurs, more moisture gets absorbed in making the problem worse. In severe cases, stucco can actually “bow”, or pull from the surface. So do regular inspections to look for cracks and any leaks.

To maintain the stucco, seal it, and then re-seal it ever 4-5 years.

Would you live in a simpler Mission style or the more ornate Spanish Colonial?

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