What is a Mediterranean Style House?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

A Mediterranean style house takes its influence from the sunny countries that border the Mediterranean sea. Italian and Greek styles are major contributors to the design of the classic Mediterranean style house, although it also takes some style concepts from Spain and is sometimes called Spanish modern. There are several architectural features that help define a house as Mediterranean, though landscaping and interior decor can also add to the overall style.

Mediterranean style homes usually have stucco exteriors with sloping, tile roofs.
Mediterranean style homes usually have stucco exteriors with sloping, tile roofs.

In many modern examples of the Mediterranean home style, the exterior walls and roofs are a major clue as to the design style. Most often, exterior walls are constructed of stucco, while roofs are sloping and usually covered with tiles. Commonly, the walls are white or painted a sunny neutral color, such as peach, salmon, or yellow. Roof tiles are almost always red, making the exterior of many Mediterranean style homes cheerful and bright.

Mediterranean style homes are influenced by the architecture of houses on the Mediterranean.
Mediterranean style homes are influenced by the architecture of houses on the Mediterranean.

A Mediterranean style house will typically be no higher than two stories and feature large windows throughout. The sloping eaves of the roof line provide an overhang which is wonderful for creating shady sitting spots in hot locations. Bringing the outdoors inside is often part of the design structure; since most of the climate around the Mediterranean is temperate and warm, interior courtyards, verandas and even balconies are both common and practical additions. Columns and high archways are also typical features of this style.

Inside, a Mediterranean style house may take design influences from any number of regions and eras. Renaissance design from Italy or Spain, Greek neoclassicism, or Spanish revival decor are all popular choices. In terms of artwork, many Mediterranean homes feature frescoes or large wall murals that depict natural or outdoor scenes in a further attempt to bring the outside indoors.

In terms of interior color, it is important to again consider the climate of the Mediterranean area. The interiors of homes were used as cooling spaces, away from the heat of the day. Cooling natural tones of blue, green, grey, and white are regular features of this style. If, however, the climate where a house will be doesn't reflect the balmy sea coast, consider bringing a Tuscan-inspired palette of warm colors, such as rust, forest green, gold, and pumpkin to add warmth and depth.

Landscaping is a wide open field of choices when planning a Mediterranean style house. Everything from formal Italian gardens with hedges and fountains to Moorish-influenced Spanish gardens can be used to accent this type of design. Since this style of house is popular in warm areas, tropical landscaping, completed with palm trees, large ferns, and exotic flowers, is another extremely popular hallmark of a modern Mediterranean house.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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Discussion Comments


Because they are built to provide cooling spaces in warmer climates, Mediterranean or Spanish style homes are most popular in the southwestern portion of the United States.

Many celebrities in southern California build mansions in this style with extensive indoor and outdoor gardens, pools and ponds.

Because indoor gardens are not common or even feasible in many parts of the country, homes built in this style are often very expensive to build, buy or maintain.

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