The splendour of Mediterranean building design
Even in Malaysia, the classical, relaxed Mediterranean style so favoured globally, may be felt. This comes about partly in response to the romance of the architectural elements of the homes around the Mediterranean Sea.
The Mediterranean style blends the design traditions of the many countries that border the Mediterranean waters. Countries such as Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece, together with the southern part of France, as well as Morocco on the northern edge of Africa, all convey the various aspects of Mediterranean style. This mix of architectural styles has a unique, modulated character inspired by the natural beauty of the landscape and the sea. The eclectic style is enhanced by the vivid designs of Moroccan-type tiles, from the splashes of bright blue against the stark white walls in Santorini and Mykonos, echoing the hues of the Mediterranean sea and sky, to the naturally fading terracotta floors that speak of the fertile soil of Tuscany or southern France. Still, while appearing to be architecturally diverse home styles, when in close proximity, they share certain characteristics that together form the Mediterranean style.
What are the main elements of Mediterranean style?
A striking element of this style is the red, half-tube clay roof tiles, such as those found at Spanish missions, or on rooftops of Portuguese and French houses. Besides the roof tiles, the Mediterranean style is also known for its stucco wall treatment. This classic finish is provided to protect the exterior surface from the weather elements which are typical of a Mediterranean climate: hot temperatures, baking sunlight, and rain. However, for those who admire the look, it speaks of comfortable elegance.
It should also be mentioned, that although stucco is widely used in the Mediterranean world, in some cases, the walls are built of stone. In other cases, the stone walls are whitewashed. In all cases, the key is using building elements from the area that allow the homes not only to fit in with their environment, but to create a modest and restful ambience.
In addition to the clay tiles and wall finishes, the Mediterranean style also incorporates the use of ornamental detail. Although these details can differ from home to home, the common strains are large, carved, wooden doors that flood the homes with natural light when open, and bright, Moroccan, handmade tiles fixed to the risers of staircases, thus adding just the right amount of colour and life to a space. The humble terracotta tiles are surely the star elements of the Mediterranean style. These dusty-orange-toned clay tiles are used on exterior terraces, but also as interior floors of living areas, including the kitchen, and on fireplaces.
The other architectural basics comprising the Mediterranean style are the low-pitched tile roof structures, the arches that span doors and windows, and the courtyards and patios. For instance, the use of arches harks back to the building skills of the ancient Romans. The invention of arches allowed for the building of higher and sturdier buildings. However, more than the engineering power of the humble arch, these building components also function to increase the amount of light entering a space, thereby creating a connection between the interior and exterior living areas.
How may the Mediterranean style be applied in Malaysia?
The use of this style is not foreign to Malaysia. The Kuala Lumpur villas of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were reminiscent of Europe and a neo-classical elegance. However, in a modern Malaysia, this style may well prove to be ideal, as it is eminently suited to the climate. Low-pitched roofs block out the fierce sun, while arches allow for a natural flow of air to cool the home. The deployment of the courtyard as an extra living space during clear but humid nights would afford extra comfort.
You too can add Mediterranean elements to your home with parquet flooring in Merbau wood, at around RM10 - RM30 per square foot; or tiles, including mosaic tile designs, at around RM9 - RM60 per square foot. However, decorative stone veneers at RM10 - RM30 per square foot could give an appearance similar to stone walls. Ultimately, the easiest option would be paint ─ white and blue paint ─ and textured wall finishes in an aged patina to create a warm and welcoming look. The best, however, would be to create a courtyard with potted olive trees for relaxed al fresco entertaining during the dry seasons.
If clay roof tiles appeal, although pricey, they give good value as they last up to 75 years. It is essential to employ a professional contractor to conduct the installation. A professional will know about the correct underlay, gutter installation, sealing to avoid leaking, and attachment techniques to prevent the roof tiles from being swept off by strong winds.