Italian Villa Architecture

Italian Villa Architecture

A river or lakeside villa in the Italian villa architecture style.

Craftsman Style

¶ "The villa architecture of modern Italy", says Mr. Lamb, an English architect of ability, "is characterized, when on a moderate scale, by scattered, irregular masses, great contrasts of light and shade, broken and plain surface, and a great variety of outline against the sky. The blank wall on which the eye sometimes reposes; the towering campanile, boldly contrasted with the horizontal line of roof:, only broken by a few straggling chimney tops; the row of equal-sized, closely-placed windows, contrasting with the plain space and single window of the projecting balcony; the prominent portico, the continued arcade, the terraces, and the variously formed and disposed out-buildings, all combine to form that picturesque whole which distinguishes the modern Italian villa from every other".

¶ In Italy the roofs are covered with tiles of semi-cylindrical form, which give that feature of the building a distinct and strongly-marked expression. As tiles of this sort are not used in this country, a somewhat similar appearance may be produced, when tin is the material employed for covering, by laying strips or rolls of wood on the roof sheathing at intervals of a few inches, in a vertical direction, and setting the tin closely over them.

¶ The design before us, picture 103, is an illustration of what Mr. Downing calls irregular symmetry; and one cannot help being struck with the boldness of repose evident in the balance of parts thus attempted, regardless of the regular form of counterpoise exhibited by a center and equal wings. There is an ease and gracefulness of expression, combined with rural fitness, that cannot be attained in a more regular form of building. An advantage of the Italian style over the Grecian mode is, that additions can be readily made at any time, and often with great improvement on the original structure.

¶ It may be readily imagined that the small tower and all beyond it in the view have been an addition to the front or high portion of the building, and we think our readers will agree with us in pronouncing it far from discordant or unpleasing, being only a further development of the beauty already attained; as in music, the original melody can be rendered more attractive by a great number of harmonious variations.

¶ This is a very strong point of superiority in the Italian over the Grecian style, considered with reference to American building. Hundreds of persons of moderate fortune desire to improve their residences at a future period, and by adopting a design in this style, a little foresight leaves everything in a favorable state for additions, with, at the same time, an appearance of present completeness.

Villa Interior

¶ We will now proceed to examine some of the interior arrangements, as illustrated by picture 104; principal floor. A is a front piazza, through which the entrance to the vestibule B and main hall G is effected. On the left of the hall is the dining room C, 20 by 27 feet, having a recessed window, and the very convenient appendage - a china closet. The drawing-room D is 27 by 20 feet, and can boast of a very pleasant circular bay window.

Villa Plans

¶ E is a sitting room, 15 by 20 feet, very finely situated for viewing the country around, having twin windows in two sides; those opening to the veranda, L, should extend to the floor. The library, F, is 18 by 18 feet, and also has an adjoining veranda, L, accessible by the lengthened window.

¶ H is a butler's pantry. The kitchen J, 24 by 16 feet, is disconnected with the main living apartments by a passage from the side tower through to the main hall. A passage at right angles with this is the butler's thoroughfare, through which all communication from the kitchen to the dining room is carried on. Beyond the kitchen is an out-building with paved floor, the uses of which will readily suggest themselves.

¶ On the second floor, picture 106, there are four fine bedrooms, 0. M is the hall, P and Q bedrooms, and R a water-closet.


¶ This design is intended to be built of solid materials, brick or stone being equally suitable. It would be a very good idea to make all the window-heads, including the semicircular ones, of stone, even in the event of the walls being brick. The verandas, cornices, and upper section of large tower may be of wood, colored to harmonize with the walls. For the satisfactory execution of this design, the architect should be applied to for working drawings and specifications; not one builder in a hundred is competent to carry through an undertaking of such extent and complication without the direction of the architect.

Villa Cost

¶ The cost of this villa on the Delaware river, if built of brick, with dressings of Trenton sandstone, would be about $12,000 (1861 price).

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