The History of Spanish Style Homes

Spanish-style homes are popular today in Southern California and Arizona, as well as Florida and Texas. The architectural style originated in the ornate buildings of 17th- and 18th-century Spain. California missions of the18th-century California also influenced this style. Spanish-style homes combine simple red roofs and stucco walls with complicated wrought iron detailing and colorful tile work.


An example of a Spanish-style home with asymmetrical construction.

When people talk about a Spanish-style home, they're usually referring to several characteristics: flat or gently sloped red-tiled roofs; eaves that don't overhang; arches over doors, windows and/or porches; stucco walls; and asymmetrical external construction, such as an off-center door.

Spanish Baroque

Balboa Park, San Diego, California

Spanish baroque architecture of the 17th and 18th centuries was richly ornamental. The Plateresque and Churrigueresque styles of the late Spanish baroque period were especially intricate, featuring curved shapes and visual movement. Bertram Goodhue designed the Administration and Botanical buildings in San Diego's Balboa Park for the Panama-California Exposition in 1915; these buildings feature carved facades, and exemplify Churrigueresque style. The Panama-California Exposition helped spur the Spanish eclectic architectural movement of the 20th century.

Mission Revival Style

Beverly Hills Hotel, Beverly Hills, California

Mission revival style began in the 1890s. Architects based the style on the California missions that the Spanish Catholic colonists built in the mid- to late-18th century. The revival houses borrowed the missions' architectural elements such as bell towers and roof parapets. They also featured recessed front porches. The Beverly Hills Hotel, in Beverly Hills, California, is a good example of a grand Mission-style building, featuring a large faux bell tower that is part of the exterior wall.

Spanish Eclectic

A Spanish eclectic home

Architects built Spanish eclectic (also called Spanish revival) houses from about 1915 to 1940. This architectural movement blends mission with elements of Moorish, Byzantine, Gothic and Renaissance styles. The simple mission bell tower and stucco walls might share space with more ornate details, such as turrets, ornamental tiles on floors and walls, stained-glass windows, and intricate wrought-iron bars over windows and balconies.

Monterey Style

A drawing of a Monterey-style home

Monterey style, which had its heyday from 1925 to 1955, is a variation of Spanish revival architecture: Its standout design element is a second-floor balcony that almost always runs the entire length of the house. The house's main roof shades this balcony. Two-story houses are more common in the Monterey style than in the mission or eclectic styles. This style also has some design elements in common with the colonial revival: For example, the front porches often feature columns, and pediments (triangular structures above rectangular ones) appear where they didn't in strictly mission and eclectic styles.