What Is a Spanish Style House?

Clay roofs are one of the distinguishing features of Spanish style homes.
Clay roofs are one of the distinguishing features of Spanish style homes. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Spanish style houses are generally found in the Southwestern region of the U.S. where the influence of Mexican culture is deeply ingrained in its history. Spanish styling uses design techniques that integrate everyday living into the climate conditions found in this environment. Historically, it used materials available locally and designs that facilitated heating and cooling. In this sense, Spanish styling is one of the earliest types of sustainable housing.

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As the West and Southwest experienced an influx of settlers, newcomers noticed the efficiency of the missions and houses of the Spanish residents that lived in the area for hundreds of years. New people who came to the area duplicated these construction techniques and improved upon them to accommodate contemporary lifestyles. By the early 1900s, the Spanish style was revived to include modern conveniences and adapted into more streamlined, less-ornate stylistic variations, according to Northern Arizona University professor Dr. Tom Paradis.

Architectural Features

Many different components can go into Spanish style homes, including Mediterranean aspects, Spanish Baroque elements, Moorish touches and Gothic elements. Low structures are common, with clay roofs, arched doorways and windows as well as balconies and courtyards to enjoy cool breezes in hot weather. Interior walls are plastered, and ornate tiles, wrought iron and heavy woodwork add textural elements. Structures tend to the asymmetrical with clay roofs that help to keep the house cool under intense sunshine.


California and the American Southwest first popularized the modern Spanish style house, with its look of comfort, coolness and ease of entertaining. These design features adapted naturally to areas like Texas and Florida where similar climate conditions existed. Few northern areas adopted the styling, though a few adaptations of the styling were adapted into Mediterranean design. Spanish styling itself divides into several other derivations, including Mission Style, with its heavy, wooden doors and metal grills over the window; Monterey Style with its cantilevered second story; or Spanish Colonial with its use of stone, adobe, coquina and other natural materials.


Low, pitched roofs that are gabled or hipped keep out the heat. Clay tiles that insulate rooms well are fairly easy to maintain and to replace individually. Stucco exteriors are relatively easy to clean, with pale colors that reflect sunlight. Arched windows limit bright light and keep interiors cool. Courtyard areas take advantage of cool evening breezes for entertaining outdoors. Patios, balconies and porches add outdoor living space. The utilitarian quality of Spanish style homes make them a favorite choice for upscale housing developments in warm climate areas of the U.S.


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