Classic Architectural Styles of Los Angeles



The Mediterranean style of architecture, appropriate for the southern California climate, has always been the most popular of all historical revival styles in Los Angeles. Relying on an eclectic mix of classical and medieval precedents, the variety of ornament on these houses can be stunning. The house pictured directly above is a perfect example of the use of these varied influences. Although not “academically” correct, and with what some might think as an “everything and the kitchen sink” approach to design, it still works.

The two most important “sub-styles” are Italian Renaissance Revival and Spanish/Andalusian Country. Both include stucco wall surfaces, flat or low-pitched terra cotta and tile roofs, arches, scrolled or tile-capped parapet walls, wood or wrought iron balconies, window grilles, and elaborately articulated door surrounds. Ornamentation may be simple or dramatic.

The Italian Renaissance Revival style places emphasis on symmetry, proportion, geometry and the regularity of parts as they are demonstrated in the architecture of classical antiquity, and in particular ancient Roman architecture.

Spanish or Andalusian Country houses are asymmetrical in their massing, and the rambling quality giving the sense of a building that has been added to over the years. Houses in this style are a bit more inward than outward looking, with smaller windows than it’s more formal cousin, the Italian Renaissance Revival Villa. Often there are more picturesque elements like towers and balconies.


MORE ABOUT THE HOUSE DIRECTLY ABOVE: I love the architecture of this house. It evokes both Spanish and Italian classical influences, but is more highly detailed than we typically see. The house is finished in smooth stucco. Like most of the revival styles we see in LA, the architect has taken license with the traditional idiom. From a purely academic standpoint, this house might be a bit over the top, but as is often the case in L.A., there are always those who firmly believe more is more. Notice the swirling foliate bands dividing the first and second floors, and again below the cornice. Observe the egg and dart molding in the central tower section, the Corinthian columns flanking the main entrance, and the dentil moldings on each flanking bay. There are corner quoins on the central tower as well. At the top of the chimney there are figures in a Classical Greek style. The reality is you would never see this house anywhere in Europe — only in L.A.!


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