A Spanish revival renaissance
Spanish revival design may have its roots in old Spain, but it's as popular as ever.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Spanish revival design uses techniques, details and traditions that evolved over centuries of home building on the Iberian Peninsula, yet it's so modern, functional and attractive that it has become one of the designs of choice in much of the United States today.
All over the sunbelt and beyond, the appeal of Spanish revival is apparent as entire neighborhoods, towns and developments are being built in the genre. But the homes that are most attractive to buyers today are the ones built during the first great period of Spanish revival construction, which began after the turn of the 20th century and ending with the onset of World War II.
The style became especially widespread in the old Spanish colonies of Texas, Florida and California. Architects combined the elements of Mission-style, Spanish colonial and Pueblo architecture they observed there and made something out of them that was quite a departure from most of the American home building styles of the day. Before that, most American home construction drew from the design vocabulary of northern Europe.
In the 1920s and 1930s, entire neighborhoods in Southern California were graced with the homes and the style was even imported to upscale suburbs in the Northeast and Midwest.
The style does seem, however, best suited to California, where the stucco-clad, often single-story homes with the red-tile roofs look very much at home in the state's Mediterranean climate. Even the tropical planting often found in the yards compliment the colors and forms of typical Spanish revival style.
Hot and light
In California today, pre-war, Spanish revival homes are enjoying renewed popularity.
"Spanish revival is a hot ticket right now," says Gerri Cragnotti, a real estate broker in Glendale, California. "It's very much in demand with the upwardly mobile."
Cragnotti just sold a house that brought more than the asking price -- in what she calls "a market that is in, technically, a slowdown." She says Spanish revival homes command a premium price above comparable houses in other styles.
Many elements go into a Spanish revival home. Windows are often arched and may have small balconies with wrought-iron fences. Small tiled roofs offer shallow shelter over doorways and balconies. The main roofs are usually low-pitched, thanks to the normally mild winters and low rainfall of the areas where the style developed. Details often include terra cotta or cast concrete ornaments.
In contrast to many other traditional styles, such as Federal, center-hall colonial and Cape Cod, Spanish revivals tend to be of asymmetrical design, have little or no overhanging eaves and often have exterior or interior courtyards.
Inside, walls are usually of smooth stucco, as are the fireplaces. Living or dining rooms are often sunken or set off by metal railings. Floors may be hardwood set into a herringbone or parquet pattern, but they are often of warm-colored tile or stone.
The overall effect of a well designed Spanish revival home is of casual chic, informal, yet refined, with few hard edges and many sweeping lines and arches and soft earth tone colors.
According to Cragnotti, one reason for the style's popularity is that the colors lend themselves to many different treatments. "They do them in these great colors," she says, "and everything works well together. All kinds of styles of furniture -- antique, Crate and Barrel, or even modern -- look right.
Additionally, classic, pre-war homes were built solidly, with thick plaster walls and heavy woods. Doors and window frames may be of fruit wood, oak or mahogany, and there are many fine details such as niches and carved woodwork.
The style also invites the outdoors inside, as patios and courtyards blend seamlessly with the interiors and are connected with double doors. Gardens are often set off by tile-topped, concrete-stucco walls with iron or solid wood gates, enclosing a private, cozy haven. Spanish homes have always turned inward.
Spanish revival's soft angles and edges and quiet refined lines are favorites with a whole new generation of Americans, many of them settling in sunbelt states.
And they rarely look better than with a palm tree sitting in the front yard.
Click on the photo for a gallery of fine California Spanish revival homes.