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Italianate Revival

Italianate Architecture

Of the many architectural styles that dominated the design of homes around Massachusetts through the years, few enjoyed as much popularity or staying power as the Italianate style. Based on the design of houses that were built between the mid-1500s and 1900, this style is prominently found throughout the state, including in many neighborhoods of Boston. In fact, it has been claimed that Massachusetts has more homes of this style than any other state. Considering how small Massachusetts is, that is saying a lot. If you are interested in buying an Italianate house or would just like to learn more about this architectural style, Boston City Properties is here to help. Read on to learn more.

The Italianate style was popular in Europe--and Italy in particular--for many years before arriving in the U.S. Indeed, the style first rose to prominence in this country during the mid to late 1800s, where it had been popular throughout Europe for many centuries before that. However, it didn't take long for it to explode in popularity in the U.S. Although it eventually spread to all corners of the country, it is most commonly found in areas that are north of the Mason-Dixon line.

People latched on to the Italianate style for many reasons. One of the biggest reasons, however, was that they were tired of the Greek Revival and Gothic architecture that had dominated the landscape for so long. It gained momentum in the 1840s, and it really exploded in popularity around the start of the Civil War, which was around 1860. Incredibly, it never really dropped away since then. Indeed, to this day, new homes are often built in this style. Many don't adhere to it completely but rather incorporate certain Italianate elements.

Some of the most prominent features of Italianate architecture include:

• Lots of windows - Homes and buildings in the Italianate style tend to have large numbers of windows. Indeed, the goal here is to allow in as much light as possible. As these homes are inspired, at least loosely, by Italian villas, they are built with the assumption that the surrounding area is scenic and deserving of being viewed from indoors. Windows on Italianate homes are usually tall, slim and rounded. Most often, they are put into groups of three.

• Balconies - To make the most of the beautiful climate of the Italian countryside, these types of homes usually include at least a few balconies. On the ground floor, there are usually at least a few patios.

• Towers - While it's not true about all Italianate houses, many of them include at least one prominent tower. A well-placed tower can have a dramatic effect on the overall appearance of a home like this. You are more likely to find Italianate homes with dramatic towers in rural areas rather than urban ones.

• Decorative cornices - Around the tops and bottoms of many walls, you will find intricately ornamented cornices on many Italianate buildings.

• Two to three stories - One-story Italianate homes aren't really a thing. The vast majority have two or even three stories, which makes them stand out that much more.

• Columns - Although they are used sparingly, you will typically find at least a few columns in an Italianate building. They are most often used at entryways.

• Materials - Italianate buildings and homes are made out of many different types of materials. Most commonly, however, they are built out of stone, brick or stucco. The latter is most prominently used in warmer climates, so you aren't likely to find stucco Italianate homes in Massachusetts.

• Overhanging eaves - Many Italianate homes also have overhanging eaves that add to their distinctive character.

• Rectangular - Although some Italianate buildings are square or even oddly shaped, the vast majority have a rectangular shape.

Italianate architecture is widespread for many reasons. Chief among them is the fact that this style is so adaptable. It can be used on everything from lavish mansions to simple row houses. In an area like Boston, where housing options are quite eclectic, this is a good thing. It is also why you can easily find Italianate buildings and homes throughout greater Boston.

Although this style was prominent in Italy for a long time, it didn't get any attention from other countries until around 1800. This is when the first Italianate structure was built in England. A small country house, it was constructed by John Nash and is widely regarded as being the first Italian villa in England.

As mentioned before, it is easy to find examples of Italianate architecture around Massachusetts. A few examples include the Joseph Andrews House, the Perez Smith House, the Isaac David House and the Seth Adams House. The East Main Street Historic District in Waltham is home tons of them, so be sure to head over there to gain a better understanding of this elegant and attractive architectural style.

Unlike many architectural styles, which are often limited to either rural or urban environments, Italianate is eclectic. Its principles can be applied to virtually any type of home, so you can just as easily find row houses in a big city like Boston with Italianate features as you can sprawling detached homes out in the country. Regardless of where you'd ideally like to live, then, you shouldn't have any trouble finding a suitable home in this style.

When looking for an Italianate home, you should decide early on whether you want a well-preserved older home or a newer one. To this day, new homes are still being built in the Italianate style, so you certainly don't have to go with an older home if you don't want to. There are obvious advantages to buying a newer home than an older one, so this is an important consideration to keep in mind.

If you decide that you would rather own an older, well-maintained Italianate home--perhaps even one that was built during the heyday of this particular style--you are spoiled for choices around the state. However, make sure that the home that you consider has truly been maintained through the years. The right home will also have been renovated and modernized along the way. In particular, insulation and overall energy efficiency should be decent. Otherwise, you will end up with a drafty older home that costs you a fortune in heating and cooling expenses.

Finding a great Italianate home in greater Boston or elsewhere in Massachusetts doesn't have to be difficult. With the right help, you should be able to zero in on a great option in no time. Boston City Properties is here to provide it. Sign up using the easy form to get free, immediate access to our continually updated database of searchable Massachusetts real estate listings. Select your desired geographic areas to restrict your search to them. Use filters to zero in on properties that suit your preferences for size, price and total beds and baths. Later, we'll connect you with an experienced real estate agent in the area who can help you explore great Italianate homes. For more information, please call Boston City Properties.