Spanish Style Houses in Hollywood Hills – an Architectural Overview
The Spanish Colonial Revival Style of architecture came to prominence between 1915 and 1930, especially in California and Florida, where the Spanish colonization of the Americas was concentrated. Influenced by the opening of the Panama Canal, the Spanish Style is strongly regional in its expression of the local environment, history, and nostalgia, updated for a new era and the emerging Spanish-American culture.
The Panama-California Exposition, which was held in San Diego in 1915 - 1917, celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal, with Bertram Goodhue as the supervisory architect, assisted first by Irving Gill and later by Carleton Winslow. Much local architecture at the time was in the Pueblo Revival Style, inspired by the dwellings of the Pueblo people in the Southwest, and the Mission Revival Style, which drew from Spanish Mission churches throughout California. The exposition architects elaborated on these traditional, modest styles by integrating more ornate details.
The Panama-California Exposition brought national attention to the Spanish Revival Style of architecture. Most Spanish Style buildings are single-level detached houses and small commercial buildings, and in California are concentrated on the coast. When Santa Barbara was destroyed by an earthquake in 1925, the city mandated the Spanish Style for the reconstruction, giving the area a unified and consistent Spanish character, which is exemplified in the Santa Barbara County Courthouse. Other municipal examples include the Beverly Hills City Hall and the Pasadena City Hall.
First Hollywood Spanish Style Houses and Homes
Hollywood movie stars have been the trend setters for American society since the 1920s, determining the nation’s hottest styles, in everything from clothing to architecture. Wallace Neff, the well-known architect to the stars in the ’20s and ’30s, designed homes that were heavily influenced by the Spanish Style, including Pickfair, the mansion owned by Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks.
Other golden-era silver-screen icons in California adopted the Spanish Colonial Style when building their homes. This trend continued into the 1950s, when movie stars bought Spanish Style homes that had been built and owned by their forebears in the entertainment industry. Even today, Spanish architecture is favored by stars the likes of Meg Ryan, Ben Stiller, and Winona Ryder.
Characteristics of Spanish Style Houses
Spanish Colonial Revival architecture is characterized by flat or low-pitched clay tile roofs; smooth plaster or roughly-textured stucco finishes for walls and chimneys; terracotta or cast-concrete ornaments; small porches or balconies; semi-circular windows and arcades; double-hung windows with wood casements; and ornate, decorative wrought iron trim.
Many Spanish-Style homes are adorned with architectural elements like gently curving balconies, built-in alcoves and niches, and arcades, which are a series of arches supported by columns. Courtyards and patios provide elegant outdoor living spaces, often with fireplaces to keep the space comfortable on cool evenings. Almost every part of a Spanish Style building is decorated, with moldings, terracotta sculptures, and beautifully hand-painted tiles in surprising places like stair risers. Finely wrought ornamental iron work can be found throughout a Spanish house, on window grilles and stair railings, around wooden doors and gates, and in decorative touches like wall sconces and chandeliers.
Stucco (a mixture of water, cement, and sand or lime) is an essential element of Spanish Style buildings, and is usually applied by hand to create an Old-World feel, and painted in white or earth tones. The roofs, typically made of red clay tiles, are often built on multiple levels to create visual interest and enhance the house’s warm, earthy feel. Graceful curves and arches are characteristic of the style, giving a gentle, relaxed feel to the home.