Mission Style Homes

House Portrait Painting of a Mission Style House
Pasadena, California

Mission style homes are often lumped into the category of Arts and Crafts style houses, but they have a distinctive Spanish flair that sets them apart from Craftsman and bungalow homes.

These houses tend to have a grand, stately appearance with large scale decorative features that push them toward the more expensive end of the housing market. You would not expect anything less from a building style inspired by Spanish mission churches, would you?

What are Mission Style Houses?

Mission style homes are modeled from the unique architectural designs used heavily in Spanish missions located in California during the late 18th century and early 19th century. This is one of the most historically and culturally relevant styles of home construction, since Spanish missionaries were determined to win over California and turn the Native Americans of the region into Christians. Their elaborate mission churches became homes away from home for these missionaries.

The first mission style houses were built from materials that could be collected from the natural environment of California. While timber was used, the Spanish relied more on stone, brick, and tile. Unconventional building materials such as straw and manure were also implemented in these early homes. Mud bricks (adobes) were also a popular building material.

These materials gave mission style houses a distinctive flair and personality that is not reflected in other types of Arts and Crafts homes. While many arts and crafts homes rest on asymmetrical shapes and simple yet elegant design features, mission style houses are known for curved lines, elaborate designs created with stucco, and unique decorative features that grab attention.

Today, mission style is not limited to the California landscape. You can find elegant, rich homes inspired by this building and decorative style throughout the southwestern region of the United States.

How to Identify Mission Style Homes

Mission style houses are typically identified by the Spanish influence of their features. Grand entranceways are created with tall arches, elegant square columns, and spacious porches. Walls may extend higher than the roof at the top, and lines tend to be curved and artistic rather than straight and perfectly even.

It is also easy to identify the walls made from natural materials, such as stucco, stone, and adobe bricks. Mission homes tend to be larger than many other Craftsman homes, especially cottages and bungalows. They also tend to feature more decorative exterior features, such as stones, tile, glass, bells, and impressive arches.

Mission Style House with Pink Stucco

Common Mission Style Exterior Features

  • red tile roofing
  • stucco walls – thick, textured finish that creates a unique design; glass and other decorative materials can be added into stucco before it dries
  • curvaceous parapets – curvy barrier wall which extends higher than the roof
  • large front entranceways with tall arches in front of the door or porch
  • square pillars
  • twisted columns
  • long corridors that overhang on the sides, blocking rain from the sides of the home
  • arched window frames
  • bell towers
  • domes
  • vaults
  • second story balconies

Common Mission Style Interior Features

  • functional furniture created from oak wood
  • furniture with unadorned flat surfaces, straight lines, and simplistic designs
  • a style of simplicity
  • heavy pieces that give an elaborate appearance to every room without elaborate materials

Mission Style House with Balcony

Safety for Mission Style Houses

Authentic mission style homes built by the Spanish can be charming and a thrill to decorate, but you have to make sure they are safe for modern living. Check the walls to be sure lead-based paints were not used. Make sure the foundation on the house is stable.

You can purchase newer mission style homes that were built with modern building practices and decorated without dangerous chemicals, such as lead-based paint. These homes can feel just as authentic as mission homes built in California in the late 1900s. Newer designs also give the option of purchasing or building a home outside of the southwestern region while still enjoying this particular design aesthetic.

Arts and Crafts Lifestyle in a Mission Style Home

Owners of mission style houses take great pride in their homes. They enjoy the comfort of an aesthetic and practical living environment constructed and furnished with natural materials and appreciate an architectural style reflecting the rich history of the great southwest.

Additional Reading on Mission Style Homes

Additional reading information and resources can be found at wikipedia.org/wiki/Mission_Revival_architecture.