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Roots of Style: The 3 Waves of Italian Renaissance

Eclectic styles blossomed in the United States at the turn of the 20th century. Among them was Italian Renaissance, which began around 1890 and remained popular until the 1930s. The Great Depression and World War II ended its run for a few decades. But it has since regained significant ground and is now frequently replicated in Sunbelt areas, though usually in higher-end homes. Being of Mediterranean origin, this style is similar to other Spanish period styles, such as Spanish eclectic and Mission. It is loosely related to the preceding Italianate style but should not be confused with that fashion, as they are quite different when closely examined. Italianate houses fall into the Victorian-era category, and many are clad in wood, for example.

Molded Cornice Eave

The theme in this Florida house is far more restrained than that of the Texas example. Its beautiful rusticated stone entry surround quietly draws you in to this splendid design. Windows are framed with the same stone, and the walls are hand-troweled stucco. Notice that the eave detail is the same stone and detailed in a classical cornice. It is intriguing to consider that this style is a combination of classical architecture and indigenous finishes. You may not at first think to combine more rustic local customs with formal design, but this style illustrates the incredible beauty that can be achieved with the concept.

Houses built in this style during the late 19th century and early 20th century are often referred to as Second Italian Renaissance. Perhaps the examples above could be classified as Third Italian Renaissance.

In the 1930s through about 1950, Americans grasped eclectic disciplines more fervently. Tastes turned toward modern architecture in the middle of the century, while simplified versions of traditional styles made up most of the rest. Significant interest in the Italian Renaissance style returned in the late 20th century, and it’s now a popular choice in locations such as Orange County, California, and parts of Florida. It’s also worth mentioning that over the last three decades, Americans have been building in more styles than ever before, and amalgamations have become common.


Steven Randel
Houzz Contributor. California licensed architect specializing in residential projects throughout the state.