Ideas + Advice


What Is Spanish Style? 3 Tips for Spanish-Influenced Decor

‘Spanish style’ is not exactly a buzzword (that honor belongs to the hip ‘mid-century modern,’ ‘Scandifornian’ and ‘grandmillennial,’ to name a few). It is, however, timeless – and can be traced back to the 1600’s, when states like California and Florida saw a boom in Spanish-influenced architecture.

While the term ‘Spanish style’ most often conjures images of architecture (stucco walls, red tile roofs, rounded arches), there is also a Spanish style aesthetic that can be attributed to the interior of homes – the décor and furniture itself. Features of Spanish style interior design include dark, carved woods, colonial-influences and a warm color palette; Here is exactly how to get the look.

1. Borrow From the Colonial Style

To talk about modern Spanish style, you first have to talk about colonial style. American Colonial is the architectural term for homes dating back to the 17th century. Most of these homes were markedly British-influenced and made of “wattle and daub” – a material made of a type of wicker and plaster. These were often simple, symmetrical, square and two-story. When driving through certain neighborhoods on the East Coast, they’re easy to spot, since that is where most British colonizers settled. American Colonial is most associated with these British-influenced homes, but there was also another style of design that made its mark on American architecture during the same time. While not as vast and widespread as the British-influenced homes, Spanish-style architecture found its place in California, Florida and through parts of the Southwest. Spanish settlers brought with them architectural influences from Spain such as arched windows, adobe and clay building blocks and mostly-flat roofs. Inside of these homes, one could find design to match the outside – arched doorways, terracotta planters and vases and rustic carved wood.

Watch: Spanish Style
Modern Spanish style traces back to the Spanish influence on American Colonial homes. In modern Spanish style, the antiquities of the Spanish influences from the settlers are “refreshed” for a more modern feel. In place of the traditionally Spanish clay tile floors, for example, a more modern home may have hardwood – with, perhaps, an orange-speckled area rug as a nod to the warm colors of Spanish style. Think of modern Spanish style as a hybrid: part Spanish colonial, part modern-day decor. Think traditional touches like terracotta vases, rustic wood furniture and quatrefoil windows – along with modern sofas, modern colors (like greige) for walls and modern lighting fixtures (like floor and table lamps).

2. Incorporate Warm Colors

Whether modern or traditional, warm colors are the capstone of the style. (Speaking of stones, you’ll also do good to incorporate stone whenever you can – such as stone floors and stone walls. For a more modern look, opt for light stone like concrete or, for the exterior, white rock. For a more traditional look, opt for red stone like adobe brick or terracotta clay.) Above, you see hints of orange, red, brown and beige in the rug, pillows, vases, lamp, coffee table and tabletop décor. You also see an acknowledgement of the Spanish architectural roots, a beautiful wall art photograph of a 17th-century archway. (Also of note here are the “x”s on the sides of the furniture. In an authentic Spanish style home, wooden beams often laid the framework for interior roofing and in courtyards; furniture with carved lines or x’s reflects the motif.)

In the look above, all the colors are natural and found in nature. Nothing is too polished, everything is a little rustic. (Note the faded rug and distressed table.) Everything you see is chosen for a reason: a lamp for light, a sofa and pillows for sitting. (Even the decorations serve purpose. The coffee table books? They’re reading material! The clay jars? They store things! The plant in the back? It cleans the air!)

3. Go with Dark, Carved Wood

Try incorporating darker, carved wood furniture. (For Spanish Revival, or modern Spanish style, go lighter.) In the image above, a darker stain makes the bed, nightstand and dresser feel almost sanctified and gives the space a historical feel. (Before the mass production of wood furniture, darker woods were more popular and easier to come by.) Also note the minimalism of this look. Except for the three pieces of the bedroom set, there’s no accent furniture. There’s no wall décor, no decorative wall hanging or tabletop figurine. Everything is practical and has a purpose – for the early settlers, simplicity was a way of life. Even the colors are simple; note the brown pillows, bedspread, beige rug and neutral lamp and vases. You can even see minimalism in the choice of wall paint – there is none!

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