History of Italianate ArchitectureThe Italianate style began in England with the picturesque movement of the 1840s. For the previous 200 years, English homes tended to be formal and classical in style. With the picturesque, movement, however, builders began to design fanciful recreations of Italian Renaissance villas. When the Italianate style moved to the United States, it was reinterpreted again to create a uniquely American style.
During the Victorian era, emerging styles captured a large audience via widely-published house pattern books packed with building plans and home building advice. Prominent designers and illustrators such as A.J. Downing, Calvert Vaux, and Alexander Jackson Davis published many plans for Italianate style homes. By the late 1860s, the fashion had swept through North America.
Why Builders Loved the Italianate StyleItalianate architecture knew no class boundaries. The high square towers made the style a natural choice for upscale homes of the newly rich. However the brackets and other architecture details, made affordable by new methods for machine production, were easily applied to simple cottages.
Historians say that Italianate became the favored style for two reasons:
- Italianate homes could be constructed with many different building materials, and the style could be adapted to modest budgets.
- New technologies of the Victorian era made it possible to quickly and affordably produce cast-iron and press-metal decorations.
After the 1870s, architectural fashion turned toward late Victorian styles such as Queen Anne.
- Low-pitched or flat roof
- Balanced, symmetrical rectangular shape
- Tall appearance, with 2, 3, or 4 stories
- Wide, overhanging eaves with brackets and cornices
- Square cupola
- Porch topped with balustraded balconies
- Tall, narrow, double-paned windows with hood moldings
- Side bay window
- Heavily molded double doors
- Roman or segmented arches above windows and doors
Pictures of Italianate Style Houses
- Italianate House in Cape May, NJ
- Brick Row House
- Trim Colors for an Italianate House
- Villa Marre in Little Rock, AK
Similar House Styles
- Renaissance Revival: This Italian-inspired style is often confused with the Victorian Italianate style.
- Second Empire: Like houses in the Italianate style, Second Empire homes often feature a high, square tower.
- Beaux Arts: These grand and elaborate buildings often embraced Italianate ideas.
- Victorian Architecture: A review of the most important styles from the Victorian era
- Neo-Mediterranean: 20th century builders re-visit Italianate themes.
Italian Renaissance ArchitectureExplore these resources to see the historical roots of Victorian Italianate architecture.
- What Is Renaissance Architecture: An introduction.
- Andrea Palladio: The Renaissance architect who designed the first Italian Villas
Key resources used for this article:
- Old-House Journal
- A Field Guide to American Houses. Read a Review | Compare Prices
- American Shelter: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of the American Home. Compare Prices
- American House Styles: A Concise Guide. Compare Prices
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