Vintage Charm


Some Tutoring on Tudors

Like the name suggests, Tudor-style architecture is reminiscent of the Tudor-era in England (1457-1603), which spans the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. The original Tudor architecture was enormous and imposing and doesn’t bear much resemblance to what we think of today, which is significantly scaled down from the 1500s. Think more cottage than castle. When it comes to Tudor aesthetic, think warmth.

Tudor revival architecture became popular in England in the late 1800s and by the early 1900s had made its way across the pond to the United States. In the first half of the twentieth century, the U.S. saw a boom in classic architectural styles and Tudor revival was one of the most popular to hit American suburbs.

Unlike other popular styles of architecture in California that were popular at the time, like Craftsman and Spanish revival, Tudor homes emphasize indoor living.

On the inside, hallmarks of Tudor style include exposed timber ceiling beams, rustic fireplaces, plenty of dark wood accents, and warm color schemes. Windows typically have diamond shapes or grid patterns. If a house has leaded windows or stained glass, so much the better!

Here some characteristics of Tudor-style architecture:

  • Half-timbering (exposed wood beams and light-colored stucco)
  • Steep, multi-gabled roof
  • Oversized chimneys
  • Brick and stone accents
  • Dramatic entryways
  • Grouped windows
  • Board-and-batten wall paneling

Spanish Colonial Revival

One of the most quintessential architectural styles in Southern California has to be Spanish Colonial Revival—it’s perfect for the weather and the Spanish heritage we enjoy here. We see a lot of Spanish houses in our work and we love fixing them up and restoring them to the glory they deserve.

Spanish Colonial Revival first became popular in California around 1915 after the Panama-California Exposition in San Diego. After that, the style caught on like crazy and started to pop up all over California. It fit in perfectly with what was going on with architectural trends at the time—the revival of older and classic styles.

One of the big appeals of Spanish houses is how they blend indoors and outdoors. Homes often have large windows that flood rooms with natural sunlight. Some buildings—either residential or commercial—are even U-shaped to form an atrium area. There are several distinctive characteristics of Spanish Colonials so let’s take a look at some of the most popular.


Wrought Iron

Wrought iron is typically found both inside and outside Spanish houses, from decorative bars over the windows to railings to light fixtures. It’s a timeless element that lasts forever because of its durability. Wrought iron is used in more than just Spanish Colonial—you can find great examples in Craftsman architectural elements for instance—but it’s an easy way to convey that Spanish feeling.



There are multiple types of tiles found in Spanish homes, starting with the red tile roofs. Terracotta tiles are often found both inside and outside and usually come in a rich brownish red color. It’s used for almost all roofs and if you use it on the ground it’s a perfect way to extend indoor floors all the way outside without any seams.

Another classic element is hand-painted tiles that are typically found on stair risers. Often each step has a different pattern in complementary colors but that’s up to you. This is the perfect area to go wild with vibrant colors or crazy designs because these are accents rather than large focal points. But painted tiles aren’t just for stairs. They’re also found around fireplaces, in floors, kitchen back splashes—anywhere that could stand a little dose of color, really.



Doors, windows and room transitions are frequently arched and give the building a graceful look but they’re also really functional. Modern building standards and techniques are much more sturdy than they were centuries ago, but old school builders realized that arches were stronger than squared-off windows and doors. These days it’s more decorative than anything but arches still evoke old world charm.


Wood Beams

Exposed, dark wood beams that span across ceilings typify Spanish style, especially in the common areas such as the living room.



A lot of older homes have little niches and alcoves for, say, a telephone and Spanish Colonials are no different. They’re versatile so the only limits are your imagination. Most people don’t have much use for telephone alcoves anymore, but smaller niches can store anything from knick-knacks to books to family photos. Some are even large enough to throw a pillow down and sit in.


Ornate Doors

Some doors are more ornate than others but the typical look is dark wood. This harkens back to when doors were handmade and carved with decorative elements. Bigger, fancier houses tended to have more details back in the day but now homeowners can have just about anything they want. Common accents usually include wrought iron rivets and hardware, especially for front doors, to make the look more authentic.



A lot of older homes have fireplaces, although improved heating systems make fireplaces less of a necessity and more of a decorative feature. Still, they top homeowner wish lists and make a great focal point. In Spanish-style houses, fireplaces are pretty versatile. They come in stucco, tile, brick, terracotta, wood mantles—you name it.


Stucco Exterior

Typically, Spanish exteriors are stucco and usually in various shades of white, beige and cream, although recent years have seen creativity in house colors, such as terracottas, browns, yellows, pinks and grays. Add pops of color to trims and landscaping elements such as flowerpots and fountains.


Kintsugi—Beauty in the Broken

When you work with old houses, you get used to the idea of finding beauty that can easily be overlooked. The key is to appreciate the one-of-kindness of things, which sometimes means loving flaws. The Japanese word kintsugi originally referred to the art of fixing pottery, usually with a fine metal such as gold, silver or platinum. In fact, kintsugi loosely translates as “to patch with gold.” The idea was to incorporate the cracks into the pottery’s aesthetics rather than hiding them—in essence, the cracks and repair become an integral part of the piece’s history.

The meaning of kintsugi has since broadened beyond pottery. Now it means finding the beauty in the unique, the flawed and the broken. Instead of throwing something out, the crack or dent or flaw or whatever is highlighted and becomes celebrated. Not only does this keep items out of the landfill, but it also becomes a unique and often special element for a home.

Kintsugi can apply not only to plates and pottery, but to built-ins, floors, walls—you name it—and creates a dialog between the past and present. Rather than tearing something out or repairing it so that flaws no longer show, the spirit of kintsugi may be a fun option when restoring your own home. It might even be better than new!


Arts & Crafts Movement Still Influences Today

Arts & Crafts sounds like a cutesy name for a movement that started as an act of rebellion, but that’s exactly what happened. In England in the mid-1800s, designer and poet William Morris grew tired of the uniformity and “soulless” architecture, design and artwork that were byproducts of the industrial revolution. He longed for a return to true craftsmanship like what was seen in the middle ages—craftsmen who took pride in their one-of-kind of pieces. His idea was to bring art and design back to the people.

In 1861, Morris founded a firm that basically functioned as a collective of artists and artisans who were ready, willing and able to produce just about any type of art a customer could possibly think of. The works they produced were a smash success and many of their designs remain popular or are reinterpreted today.

Folks took notice and the movement began to spread over England and to other countries, eventually making its way to North America. But—there is always a but—there was a problem because individual artists can only produce a limited amount of work. This only drove up prices and made them unaffordable to the vast population, which was against what the original movement stood for. So, as the movement grew bigger, the craftsmen couldn’t keep up with demand and that kind of diffused the movement.

Despite the shortcomings, the Arts & Crafts movement still remains a popular influence today. Many masterpieces of Arts & Crafts architecture and design still exist, especially in England and America. In California, where we’re located, the architectural team of Greene & Greene built several Arts & Crafts masterpiece houses, such as the Gamble House, which is open to the public.

Also, like a lot of “elite” (for lack of a better word) types of architecture, Arts & Crafts influenced a more mainstream approach to design, in this case the mansions were scaled down to a more affordable Craftsman bungalow, which is a staple of the early California landscape. Not bad considering the movement came all the way from England!


Clinker Bricks

When looking at a Craftsman bungalow or Arts & Crafts house have you ever noticed some bricks that are distorted and weirdly colored, yet strangely beautiful? Those are clinker brinks and they can add a lot of charm to nearly any home, though they’re usually associated with vintage homes.

The story of clickers starts centuries ago when bricks were made by hand and fired in a kiln. The goal was for uniformity but every so often some of the wet bricks got a little too close to the fire, which caused undesired effects. The intense heat turned them into oddly misshapen, dense bricks that often resembled lava rocks. When you “clink” these heavy bricks together they make a unique sound, which is how they got the name “clinker brink.” No one wanted them so that meant that clinkers were, for all intents and purposes, clunkers. Builders typically threw these twisted, weirdly colored bricks away because they weren’t uniform enough for use.

That started to change in the mid-1800s when the Arts & Crafts movement began gaining momentum in England. Because Arts & Crafts favored uniqueness and craftsmanship over industrial uniformity, suddenly clinker bricks found the usage they deserved. Each clinker brick is entirely unique. And because of their density, they don’t take on water as much as their more porous counterparts. They’re also much stronger than regular bricks, making them ideal for, say, fences or a decorative addition to a larger wall. They’re used for decorative purposes and not for entire structures because they make for poor insulation.

Here in the United States, clinker brinks gained popularity in the early 1900s when the architectural team of Greene & Greene began using them in their distinctive Arts & Crafts buildings and houses. The Greene brothers saw the beauty in clinkers that so many others had missed and began using them in combination with other bricks and rocks to turn walls, fences and chimneys into unique pieces of art. The trend caught on and clinker brinks can still be seen in many homes, though most of them are vintage. There are, however, a few companies out there still creating them. Thanks to the internet, they are much easier to find than they were a few years ago so if you want to incorporate a unique look to your house, clinker bricks might be a good choice.