Mission Style

By Scott Sidler February 19, 2013

Mission Style Home
Photos by Scott Sidler

In areas of the country like Florida, Texas, California, and other southwestern states, the Mission style (sometimes called Spanish Eclectic style) was hugely popular in the early 20th century. This style was gaining in popularity early on and after being featured at the Panama-California Exposition of 1915, it exploded in popularity. So much so that the Santa Fe and Southern Pacific railroads designed all their stations and resorts in the Mission style during this time period.

The earliest examples were a high style version of the form and began appearing as early as the late 1890s. By the 1910s, the style had been adapted into a more common style that was an easy fit in boom time neighborhoods. The Mission style reached the height of its popularity in the 1920s and early 1930s and quickly faded from favor by the 1940s.

Distinguishing Characteristics

There are a few things that tell you you are looking at a Mission style home. Usually the dead giveaway is the red tile roof and stucco exterior walls. They represent quite a departure from the wood sided or brick homes that are most typical across America.

Though not arched the composition of this door is an excellent example of the Mission style
Though not arched, the composition of this door is an excellent example of the Mission style

Arched Windows and Doors – Feature windows and doors on Mission homes are often arched. The doors, sometimes dramatically carved and ornate, are almost always unpainted and of significant weight. Often, the doors appear to have been made of several planks of wood bolted together vertically.

Chimneys and Vents – Chimney tops are often ornate or roofed with the same Mission or Spanish tile as the house. Attic vents and roof scuppers are built into the stucco facade in artistic ways.

Towers & Parapets – In more high style versions of Mission homes, bell towers and parapets are often found. Though many but the most glamorous are fake they add a beautiful vertical dimension to the home.

Tile – Whether it’s on the roof or on the floors, Spanish tile can be a beautiful thing in a Mission home. Often, a home will have a nice combination of natural clay tiles intermingled with painted ceramic tiles to create unique designs.

Natural Colors – The interior and exterior colors of a Mission home are usually pretty similar. Natural is the typical paint scheme. Creamy taupe stucco contrasts beautifully against darkly stained or chocolate painted woodwork and bright red terra-cotta roof tiles typical on these homes.

Mission style homes and other Spanish influenced styles like Spanish Colonial, Mediterranean Revival, and Monterey all add a beautiful counterpoint to the standard frame houses built in neighborhoods across the southwest, Texas & Florida. They are a unique, and often simple home built with a nod toward the earlier inhabitants of the area.

And rather than assimilate all architecture in America and bring it under one big heading of “The American Home”, these homes stand in distinct contrast, and because of that, have become a favorite of mine.

Wondering what style your old house is?
Try our Old House Architectural Guide

 

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5 thoughts on “Mission Style”

  1. Hi There, If you happen to still be monitoring this article… I am hoping for some additional advice, or pointers to other resources that will help me with my remodel of a cute little 1926 mission (or Spanish?) style bungalow that I just purchased in San Diego. I would love to know more about how to keep the materials (counters, floor tile, etc.) as close as possible to what would have been chosen for this home in 1926. Thanks in advance for any help that you can provide!

    1. If the neutrals aren’t cutting it for your taste then it can’t hurt to take a look at some of those golds. It’s really a personal preference when it comes to house color so don’t be swayed by anything other than your own tastes.

  2. I’m glad I found this. I was wondering what style one house was in our neighborhood. In MN, this house, looking rather similar to the top picture seems oddly out of place in a neighborhood of Bungalows with a few Folk Victorian homes thrown in.

    There is also a bit of a crossover, like a combination Bungalow + mission style. The home will be a single floor or 1 and 1/2 floor, styled similar to a Bungalow, but missing the front porch and instead have that arch. The siding is usually stucco.

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