The idea of Mediterranean architecture evokes images of grand palaces perched on rocky cliffs along European coastlines. As well it should, since that’s where the inspiration for much of what we consider Mediterranean architecture today came from. But the architectural category of “Mediterranean” does not actually represent just one type of home; it is a catch-all term for styles that include Mediterranean Revival and Spanish Revival/Spanish Colonial Revival references.

“It’s hard to know what to call the style,” noted About.com Architecture. “Spanish-inspired homes built in the first decades of the 20th century are usually described as Spanish Colonial Revival, suggesting that they borrow ideas from early settlers. However, these homes might also be called…Mediterranean. And, because these homes often combine many different styles, some use the term Spanish Eclectic.”

What everyone can agree upon is that the heyday for Mediterranean-inspired homes in the United States was in the early part of the 20th century and was embraced on the southern coasts thanks to climates that mimicked that of the Mediterranean. “Peaking in popularity during the 1920s and 1930s, the movement drew heavily on the style of seaside villas and applied them to the rapidly expanding coastal resorts of  California and Florida,” said Houzz.

Draw:  The Mediterranean home—by any name—is one of the most evocative.  It connects us emotionally, referencing history and establishing a foundation of quality. Because of the climatic influence of Mediterranean living, homes inspired by this style are often intelligently built as a showcase of form and function, with courtyards and multiple oversized windows, together with materials such as stucco and tile that can help keep the homes cooler in warm weather.

Architects: Bertram Goodhue, one of the architects commissioned to build the El Prado Quadrangle for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in San Diego’s Balboa Park, is known as a pioneer of  Spanish Colonial Revival architecture. It was during the exposition that temporary buildings that blended several architectural styles came to be known as Spanish Revival; soon after, residences reflecting the style began to find favor with homebuyers in the area. Spanish Revival architecture was also used as a blueprint for the rebuilding of Santa Barbara after the 1925 earthquake that devastated the city. The El Prado Complex was listed on the National Register of Historic Places  in 1976.

Paul Williams designed more than 2,000 private residences, many of which featured a Mediterranean influence. His famed homes, many of which were built for celebrities and influential business people, can be found throughout the Hollywood Hills, Mid-Wilshire, historic West Adams, Pasadena and La Canada Flintridge. Considered one of the most impressive estates ever built and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, Greenacres was the crowning glory of Sumner Spaulding. This home, formerly called the Harold Lloyd Estate, is an exceptional example of Mediterranean/Italian Renaissance-style architecture located in L.A.’s Benedict Canyon. The home was built in the late 1920s as a nod to Villa Palmieri near Florence, Italy.

There is perhaps no more well-known example of the grandeur of Mediterranean architecture than the Hearst Castle. This Spanish Revival mansion in San Simeon, originally designed by architect  Julia Morgan as a private residence for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, is today a state historic park open for public tours and a National and California Historical Landmark.

Elements to Look for: Spanish Revival homes offer “new features added to classic ones to create a distinct look,” said Houzz. In general, Mediterranean style homes draw you in with gardens, fountains, courtyards, ornate wrought iron details on gates and window grates, red tile roofs, and carved entry doors. Inside, expect to find details such as arches, wood beams, porticos, spiral staircases, stuccoed walls, and hand-painted tiles.

Neighborhoods: Currently, there more than 200 Mediterranean style homes listed for sale in California by Coldwell Banker, ranging from this incredible $54 million, 10-bedroom, 30,000-square-foot, 20-acre villa in Los Angeles’ Benedict Canyon neighborhood to this quaint $210,000 two-bedroom home in Salinas.

In Southern California, Mediterranean style homes are in abundance in Los Angeles, Pasadena, Santa Monica, Malibu, the Hollywood Hills, and in suburban neighborhoods throughout the San Fernando Valley. In San Diego, the Mediterranean influence is also strong, with upscale homes in Point Loma, Mission Bay, Mission Hills and Sunset Cliffs among the most coveted.

Santa Barbara is a hotbed for Mediterranean style homes, as is the hamlet of Los Gatos further north. And San Francisco’s Marina and Sunset neighborhoods showcase the influence of Spanish Eclectic and Mediterranean Revival architecture.

We picked a few of the latest Coldwell Banker listings that embodied the Mediterranean style perfectly.  Which is most evocative for you?

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2335 Oakdale Rd
Hillsborough, CA 94010
$7,250,000

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9904 Kip Drive
Beverly Hills, CA.
$54,500,000