Mediterranean architecture and style is a constant inspiration for interior designers everywhere. Conjuring images of whitewashed walls, warm colour palettes, terracotta tiles, and breezy seaside villas, this interior design aesthetic effortlessly combines rustic elegance with a relaxed, laid-back ambiance.
As a Spanish citizen and interiors writer, this style is near and dear to my heart. It is the core of who I am in the summer months, frolicking between restored wooden chairs and handmade tiles. It is the essence of sun-kissed childhood, and I can’t wait to explore it once more. Of course, distilled for the interior designers enamoured with the style and wishing to replicate it abroad.
Why is Mediterranean style so distinctive and diverse?
Embarking on a journey into Mediterranean interior design needs an exploration of its rich historical tapestry and diverse geography. This style, inspired by the stunning landscapes and cultural heritage of the Mediterranean region, has been shaped by a myriad of influences over the centuries.
Ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt and the Phoencians shaped the foundations of this style
To start, let’s go deep into the BCE. The Mediterranean basin is the birthplace of ancient civilizations. The Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and Phoenicians, among others, sported unique architectural styles, artistic motifs, and construction techniques that continue to shape the essence of Mediterranean design. The grandeur of Roman columns, the intricate patterns of Byzantine mosaics, and the timeless allure of ancient Egyptian motifs all contribute to the diverse vibe of this style.
In 711 AD, Moorish invaders transformed the Iberian peninsula and introduced incredible new architectural motifs
The Moors, a Muslim civilization from North Africa, made a significant impact on the Iberian Peninsula, particularly in colonised Spain and Portugal. Their architectural influence, characterised by intricately carved arches, geometric patterns, and decorative tiles known as azulejos, added an unmistakable touch to Mediterranean design. The fusion of Moorish aesthetics with indigenous European styles resulted in a unique blend, exemplified by the iconic Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain.
The 13-14th centuries brought back and reworked ancient design and construction elements
The Italian Renaissance, a period of artistic and cultural rebirth, unfolded in Italy and profoundly influenced Mediterranean design. Italian cities such as Florence, Rome, and Venice became centres of architectural innovation and artistic excellence. The revival of classical elements from ancient Roman architecture, such as domes, columns, and arches, became defining features of Mediterranean interiors. The elegance, symmetry, and proportionality associated with Italian Renaissance design continue to inspire Mediterranean spaces, evoking a sense of refinement and grandeur.
The Ottoman Empire's dominion over parts of the Mediterranean region, including Turkey, Greece, and the Balkans, left an enduring architectural and design legacy too.
Ottoman interiors are renowned for their opulence, featuring richly adorned textiles, intricate woodwork, and vibrant colour palettes. The influence of the Ottoman era can be observed in the use of geometric patterns, arches, and decorative elements that add an Eastern touch to Mediterranean design.
The region’s warm and dry weather made its imprint on the functional nature of Mediterranean interior design.
Beyond the intricate history of the region, we also have to consider its geography. With its breathtaking coastlines and abundant sunshine, Mediterranean weather has played a pivotal role in shaping its interior design style. High summer temperatures, scarce rain and occasionally strong winds led to whitewashed walls, terracotta roofs and tiled floors. Also, the proximity to the sea and the desire to embrace natural light and ventilation gave rise to open, airy spaces that seamlessly blended indoor and outdoor living—a hallmark of Mediterranean design.
Continental vs islander styles are starkly different, despite its common Mediterranean feel.
Additionally, the islands scattered throughout the Mediterranean, such as Cyprus, Malta, and the Greek islands, possess their own distinct design traditions. These islands have been shaped by various cultures over time, including the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Venetians. Island interiors often showcase elements such as whitewashed walls, blue accents reminiscent of the sea, handcrafted ceramics, and woven textiles, reflecting the unique island lifestyle and their deep coastal connection to the surrounding waters.
What is Mediterranean style in interior design?
Mediterranean design can be defined as a minimalist style that incorporates local, rustic artisan materials and furniture, with neutral colours and an informal feel. Depending on its region of origin, colour palettes may lean cooler or warmer, and the craftsmanship specificities will vary.
How do I get the Mediterranean look in interior design?
While the Mediterranean interior design style is very grounded in its local origin, some of its elements can be transplanted into all sorts of materials. Here are some ways you can incorporate it into your future designs.
01. Use colours that compliment the beauty of the sea and sun
You may be wondering: What are the Mediterranean colours for interior design? Well, Mediterranean hues are all about elevating the beautiful surroundings of sandy beaches, blue waves and slightly dried pine trees. They do not seek to emulate them or distract from them, but rather blend into a seamless, rustic colour palette. Most Mediterranean homes are neutral in colour, varying from cool to warm whites, eggshells and beiges.