What Is Tuscan Architecture?

A traditional Tuscan-style home.

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Typically constructed with limestone, travertine, or marble and terracotta roof tiles, Tuscan-style architecture blends classical architectural elements with modern touches to give today's homes an Old World Europe feeling. A key feature in Tuscan-style homes are their ability to seamlessly blend into their natural surroundings.

Long before this style made its way to North America, however, it was commonly found across the area now known as Tuscany, a region of Italy well-known for its agricultural contributions and beautiful, romantic landscapes. Although Tuscan-style architecture has experienced some slight changes and updates over time, today's Tuscan homes have retained many the classic architectural techniques and decorating styles.

The History of Tuscan Architecture

Long before Tuscany became world renowned for its olives, wine, and other agricultural products, it was home of the Etruscan people, a hardworking, agricultural community. Long before the Romans rose to power, the Etruscan people ruled central Italy, built a flourishing civilization, and even developed their own architectural style and building techniques. Over time, the Roman Empire took control of the region, but Etruscan elements remained popular.

It's widely believed that the architectural preferences of the Etruscan people were inspired by Grecian building, but there's one key difference: While Greek buildings were constructed entirely of stone, the Etruscans built wooden structures. Why? Their temples were constructed of wood, so the tradition was carried over into their homes, too.

Many architectural styles arise from the building materials available in a particular area, and Tuscan style is no different. Wood-framed homes typically had facades constructed from limestone, travertine, or sandstone with marble carvings and accents; roof and floor tiles from terracotta clay; stucco walls; and wooden beams were recycled from Tuscan farmhouses.

In addition to the romantic, Tuscan-style homes we see today, the Etruscan people also contributed a classic column shape and style to architecture. Known as a Tuscan column, or the Tuscan Order, these columns are extremely simple in their design—unlike the highly decorative Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian columns. Tuscan columns can have round or square bases, and have unadorned bases, shafts, and capitals. They're also typically wider and set further apart than the other three classic column styles.

Must-Have Design Elements

Although some elements of Tuscan style have been modernized, today's homes retain many of the original architectural elements and decorative features of old school Tuscan homes. Some of these key elements include:

Exterior Features

Thick, stone exterior walls: Limestone, sandstone, travertine, and marble are commonly used on the exterior of a Tuscan home, so that the home blends in with its natural surroundings. You'll often see caved marble used as an accent over doorways, archways, or windows.

Terracotta roof and floor tiles: Terracotta is a building material that's extremely prevalent in warmer climates—and it's relatively easy to create by baking natural, terracotta clay. You'll often see terracotta roof and floor tiles in Tuscan-style homes, which is another design element that connects it to its surroundings.

Outdoor living spaces: Because of the warmer climate in Tuscany, air flow was a must. Many traditional Tuscan homes feature outdoor living spaces, like patios, porticos, or loggias.

Decorative wrought iron elements: Romantic wrought iron gates and doors are often seen on Tuscan-style homes. In the outdoor living space or garden, wrought iron wall hangings or decorative accents can add additional texture and warmth.

Interior Features

Plaster or stucco walls: Stucco is another building material that's often readily available—it's traditionally made from water, sand, and lime. What's more, white, stucco walls are ideal for warm climates because they can retain cool air during the day, and release warmth into the space at night. In Tuscan style, it's not uncommon to see hand-painted features on interior walls.

Textured ceilings: Vaulted or paneled ceilings with exposed beams add warmth, texture, and natural elements to the interiors of Tuscan homes. Traditionally, the wooden interior beams were refurbished from old Tuscan farmhouses or barns.

Mosaic flooring: Although terracotta tiles are typically the main type of flooring in a Tuscan home, glass and stone tiles are often used to create mosaic art in the floor. Many modernized Tuscan home owners swap terracotta tiles for hardwood floors for added warmth.

Tuscan architecture has remained an extremely popular style for centuries, and can be found across the United States today—especially in states with warmer climates, like Florida and California.