Spanish Mission Homes - Part 2


Spanish Mission homes are an iconic peice of history in the worlds architecture and namely that of Brisbane City itself. 

You can read more about them in Spanish Mission Houses - Part 1 HERE 

This blog post features photos and information on the INTERIOR of Spanish Mission buildings.  It should help you recognise them and decide if the style of housing would suit you ?

(Photo Courtesy of Landscape Design Advisor)

Let us open the door to some of these beauties. What would it be like to live, own, renovate or design one of these buildings ? What makes them so unique ? In this picture you can see the magnificent creamy / off-white stucco, heavy gothic timbers and fittings, carefully constructed curves and archways.  Decorative glass in a round or quatrefoil window, pots and a water feature to symmetrically balance the view by drawing your eye to the centrepiece where everything else splays out beyond it.

And the tiles, Moroccan, Spanish, Latin, South American, European all feature exterior decoratives and interiors with these magnificent tiles. To view similar local to Brisbane please see my latest interview with Old World Tiles 

A gorgeous blue and white decorative urn is tucked in the entry way.  And please do not forget the softening of nature’s greenery delectably tying in the space and enhancing the colours within the decorative tiles.

                                                           (Image Courtesy of

In interiors you will find dark gothic style features, white stucco walls, elaborate arched doorways and openings.  The floors were always traditionally handmade stone; this would cool the home underfoot in hot climates.  Today in renovated Spanish Mission homes, handmade floor tiles are being replaced with dark timbers, to enhance the white walls and suit the gothic theme.  It also helps to match dark pieces of furniture one may select for visual uniformity.

                                                         (Image Courtesy of

A perfect example of decorative tiles mixed with dark timbers and a perfectly ribboned staircase, effortlessly gliding you towards the next floor. Can you see the curvature in this picture? can you see how easily it mimics itself ? Rectangles and arches in perfect simplicity.

                                                    (Image Courtesy of 

This picture showcases the rhythmic arches as they guide you along the open, breezy corridor, focusing again on gothic features, large urns, kilim rugs with ethnic prints, a heaviness in the timber but the height of the ceilings and curved archways mixed with the white stucco walls soften these timbers.

And last but not least, a focal point at the end of the corridor, a heavy chest and stunning decorative mirror encourages you on your journey.

Our Cultural Differences in the Built Environment

During the turn of the 19th Century, many immigrants migrated to Australia in the search of a better life.  Australia has a diverse background with a wonderful mixer of cultures. With this comes a mix of religions, values, traditions, food, clothing and housing styles it is no wonder our multi-cultural society has given us a taste of different styles in housing and architecture.  The style of a home is an important cultural factor in our built environment. 

The Spanish mission housing style is a perfect example.  These homes were based on the California mission’s style that the Spanish Catholic colonists built in the mid- to late-18th century. These houses borrow the mission’s architectural elements such as bell towers and roof parapets. They also featured recessed front porches.  California has been an inspiration of ideas in housing for Australia since early in the 19th Century, with its similarities on climate matching our own along our coastal regions.

Australians have understood and embraced the cultural differences in housing design and styles.   Robin Boyd a famous Australian architect quoted on the importance of modern Australian architecture being an expression of a “local identity which balanced the ideals of art and architecture against local climate and social realities”. 

The housing brought to Australia from other countries seemed to lend ideas from elsewhere instead of Australia adopting its own identity in housing design, this was because Australia was a colony without history in buildings and architecture like for example Rome with its monumental buildings and cities.  Australia needed to form its own identity which has incorporated immigrant’s likes, colours and styles.  We have held onto the English housing model since early settlement, even seeing Queenslander style housing incorporating this English heritage such as cornice design of floral motifs and ceiling roses. 

Australian architecture has mostly incorporated influences from aboard incorporating a mix of culture and mixing it with what we assume to be Australian.  The unique look of Australian design and architecture we tend to find in modern day architecture in places like Port Douglas, North Queensland, Noosa and Byron Bay etc where Australian Architects are designing with natural materials and styling the houses in sympathy for the buildings surrounds.  Earlier Architects such as Harry Seidler also designed with these elements in mind, but mostly prior to this Australian housing remained culturally influenced to some degree.

We all have various needs culturally with our day to day living requirements and it is nice to incorporate these into designing.  Some ideas may work others may not due to climate, space and budget. These are all factors we need to encompass when designing.

A famous architect once quoted:

“You know, if we set out to design an architecture that's Australian we're in trouble ... The important thing is that we address the issues, we address the landscape, we address the brief, we address the place. If we address those things and do them rationally and poetically at the same time, we must be getting somewhere”. (Murcutt) 

I hope you have enjoyed your Weekly Wednesday design read, and thank you for dropping by.  See you all Friday !


Cuffley, P., (1993). Australian Houses of the Forties and Fifties. (Edition published 2007). Victoria: The Five Mile Press Pty Ltd

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Lena Gatti
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