Style 101: Italianate


The Horton Grand Hotel, San Diego, CA | Photo by Rebecca McManus, 2017

The Italianate Style developed out of the Picturesque movement in England, which was a reaction to the rigid Classical model of past architectural styles. Ironically, the inspiration for this counter-style to Greco-Roman influenced architecture also derives from traditional Italian architecture. This time, it was the rambling Italian villa that inspired the architects of the late 19th century.

The style came to America in the mid-1800s. The style was prevalent in the quickly-developing cities of the Northeastern seaboard and the Midwest, but was used throughout the country for residential, commercial, and institutional buildings. It was during this period that San Francisco developed into a major port city in the West; Italianate style buildings were a dominant choice as housing stock grew to meet new population demands.

The style is inherently flexible and lends itself to both high-style and vernacular examples of multiple building types. Not all examples reflect the true image of a large, rambling, Italian villa but most examples feature the basic design elements of decorative brackets, decorative elaboration around windows and doors, low-pitched or flat roofs, multiple stories, and towers or cupolas.

There are 60 Italianate resources designated in San Diego. Could yours be next? Check out our handy infographic below to see if your building features the defining characteristics of the Italianate style!

Style 101 - Italianate