Define The Style: Spanish Mission Design

by Drew Henry

Welcome to Spanish Mission Design 101!  

The Spanish Mission style spans the Southwest, from the Alamo in Texas to the bungalows along the Southern California Coast. But you don’t have to board the scenic Santa Fe Southern Railway to get a glimpse of Spanish Mission design. In fact, you can bring the vibrant and earthy Southwestern style to your home (no matter where you live). The LiLi Tile Team defines the style and answers all your questions. So sit down because it’s time for Spanish Mission Design 101. Class is in session! 

What is Spanish Mission Style?  

The Spanish Mission design style dates all the way back to the original mission settlements in the American Southwest. One of the most famous examples is the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas which was built in 1718 — over 300 years ago! Simple lines, stone or adobe bricks, and bell-shaped or arched facades characterize Mission architecture and are heavily influenced by Spanish Colonial and Moorish design. A few hundred years after the settlement of the original missions, architects and designers took a renewed interest in the Mission style in the 1920s. The Mission Revival movement took off alongside the Craftsman style boom as style preferences in the United States shifted from ornate Victorian architecture to simpler styles. As a result, Mission Revival design spread across the Southwest and is sometimes called the “Western Craftsman.” The iconic look features white stucco, red terracotta roofs, iron and decorative tile accents, terracotta tile floors, and exposed wood. Today, homeowners are still drawn to the Mission look for its simplicity and warm feel — no matter where they’re located. 

Take a Trip: Where to Find Mission Style Inspiration 

You can find Spanish Mission style inspiration across the American Southwest, including Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Southern California. The style has variations based on the landscape. For example, Texas Mission-style homes often feature local limestone facades, whereas California Mission homes blend a bungalow look with white stucco and terracotta roofs. Take a road trip (or even a railroad trip) to discover the warm desert-inspired designs that resonate with you! 

10 Ways to Add Spanish Mission Style to Your Home

Now that you know a little bit more about Mission design, it’s time to recreate the look for yourself. Here are 10 ways to add Spanish Mission style to your home. 

1. Embrace Simple Lines 

Whether your Spanish Mission dream home is a small bungalow or a large estate complete with a courtyard, remember to take a less-is-more approach. Mission homes feature simple lines with a few impactful accents, such as arches, columns, or a turret for the main entrance. 

2. Keep the Color Palette Neutral  

The desert landscape proves that a neutral color palette is impactful and beautiful. Keep your Mission color scheme simple, embracing plaster whites accented with warm terracotta's and browns. When in doubt, look to the desert! 

3. Transform the Space with Terracotta 

No Spanish Mission home would be complete without classic terracotta tile. Terracotta tiles offer a beautiful rustic look and bring the warm earthy tones of the Southwestern desert inside. The LiLi Tile team believes in honoring age-old processes, which is why all of our Terra Collection tiles are handmade from natural clay and baked in a traditional wood oven. This method creates a one-of-a-kind look, and no two tiles are exactly the same — bringing authentic Mission character to any space. The Terra Collection features white, red, and charcoal clay variations in various shapes and sizes. We recommend installing these tiles with a large, traditional grout line to create the classic look associated with the Mission style. 

4. Incorporate Painted Ironwork 

Decorative ironwork is prevalent in Spanish Mission architecture, including stair and balcony railings, courtyard fences, and window grids. Ironwork typically features a black or rusted finish. You can also bring in iron details through lighting, cabinet hardware, and accessories. Consider adding complementary metallic finishes through your accent tiles. Our Metal Insert Collection features classic cement tiles with brass or copper accents for some extra sparkle.  

5. Accent with Arches, Columns, and Quatrefoils 

Mission architecture often features arches, columns, and quatrefoil details. If your home lacks these architectural features, you can incorporate the design elements through finishing details like furnishings, art, and even your tile patterns. Our Sabine and Nora cement tiles feature quatrefoil-inspired designs that can be applied anywhere from floors to backsplashes to showers. 

6. Decorate with Desert-inspired Motifs 

Mission design is inspired by the desert landscape, from its adobe brick construction to cool clay terracotta tiles. Bring the desert to your home no matter where you are by decorating with desert-inspired motifs. Honor the landscape through artwork, succulents, and textiles. Our Tucson cement tile from our Milano Collection is inspired by classic Southwestern textile patterns and colored in warm neutrals of the desert landscape. This accent tile makes the perfect statement for kitchen backsplash and fireplace features. 

7. Frame a Patterned Tile Focal Point

While the Mission style is most known for its use of terracotta tile, it also relies on patterned tile accents to create focal points and frame architectural features. Consider taking a classic approach by using 6x6 cement tiles to emphasize archways or to draw attention to a fireplace surround. Our Marok tile brings a vibrant color pop to an otherwise neutral Mission palette, creating a bold accent for any room. 

8. Welcome Warm Wood Tones

Like the Craftsman style, Mission homes rely on warm wood tones to create a cozy mood. Bring in wood elements through exposed beams, wood slat ceilings, or sizable rustic furniture pieces. Remember to consider how your selected wood stains look against other design elements, such as your terracotta and cement tile accents. 

9. Add an Adobe Courtyard 

Maximize your outdoor space by creating a walled adobe courtyard for stylish privacy. Decorate your courtyard space with planters for cacti, cozy lounge chairs, and sunshades. Consider continuing your terracotta tile floors from inside out onto the courtyard to achieve a seamless indoor-outdoor flow.

10. Cool Off with a Plunge Pool 

If you’re creating a courtyard, why not make the space a little cooler with a plunge pool? Our Glaze Collection tiles feature a range of cool blues and even rusty reds to finish your plunge pool with style and durability. Dive in for a refreshing day spent under the desert sun!  

On a Mission for Beautiful Design 

Your mission for beautiful design just got easier! Now, you have all the design details you need to create your Spanish Mission home retreat. So go West, and make the design of your dreams. 

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