Italianate Style Overview
During the mid-1800s, the highly popular Italianate style appealed to almost everyone. The affluent and the humble alike could incorporate Italianate design features into their elaborate homes or simple cottages with ease. Mass production of building materials and new technologies allowed for greater budget flexibility suited to the financial circumstances of the homeowner.
- Originally penetrated from eastern seaboard to the midwest (with the exception of southern states where little penetration existed); subsequent interest in the style has left renditions from coast to coast
Italianate homes differed from the order and structure of the classical styles dominating architectural philosophy in the previous two centuries. In contrast to preceding home styles, Italianates focus more on ornamentation than on form. The Italianate style embraced an irregular or asymmetrical form, often in an L-shape or a rectangular shape while maintaining a tall appearance. The homes occupied two to three stories.
Door styles included single doors as well as double doors, and were typically accompanied by ornate molding.
Almost all Italianate homes include a porch ranging from elegant wrap-around styles to more simple entrance coverings. Porches are ornamented with embellished railings and thin columns.
Italianate style homes have tall and narrow double-paned windows, and are commonly hooded (an exterior molding gently protruding around an opening for the purpose of displacing rainwater). The prevalence of arched and curved windows increased dramatically with the Italianate style. The occurrence of paired windows and bay windows often accompanied the style as well.
The exterior walls ranged from wood clapboard siding to brick siding depending on the locale and budget of the owner.
Roof & Dormer
Perhaps the most easily identifiable feature of the Italianate style is the use of widely overhanging eves and low-pitched (sometimes even flat) roofs. The eves allowed space for decorative brackets to set apart the style. Small square towers or cupulas are occasionally seen on top of the home as well. Italianate homes do not have dormers.
A defining characteristic of the Italianate style is the generous use of large decorative brackets under an ornamental cornice. The brackets are often paired, but can be arranged singly as well. The presence of brackets is so central to the style, it also referred to as the “bracketed style.”
Italianates have open and airy interiors reminiscent of the Italian villas which inspired the style. Arches throughout the inside complement the arches over doorways and windows on the outside. By the same token, tall interior doors matched the proportions of the tall windows on the exterior. Ornate plasterwork and statuary served to enhance the highly decorated look.
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