America's Best House Plans

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Long before Europeans arrived in North America, indigenous people built homes of adobe, sun-dried brick clay, and wood beams that were, for the most part, modest and free of ornamentation. Once the Spanish arrived, they began establishing missions and highlighted towns with central main plazas while also incorporating interior courtyards in single story homes. A practical solution for the desert climate, these homes were, and remain, well-suited for the brutal heat of the region and offer space to live and relax in despite the often hostile climate and landscape. Southwest house plans reflect a rich and colorful history of Native American and Colonial Spanish housing styles that encompass one storied, low slung homes with flat or tiled roofs, outdoor living spaces, stucco exterior walls, plastered interior walls, spacious interior floor plans, arched openings and simple construction.

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These homes are most often found, as their name implies, in the desert southwest region of the United States; however, they can and obviously are being built and lived in throughout the U.S. The emphasis on outdoor living and family time influence people to consider this home style as a way to celebrate their families and heritage. Because of their traditional and contemporary design elements, you will naturally detect some overlap with other home styles; Mediterranean, Florida and even Modern house plans.

Key characteristics and commonly found exterior and interior design elements may include:

  • Stucco, stone and wood construction elements
  • Flat roofs – Adobe style
  • Red tile roofs – Spanish style
  • Typically low, slung, one story home designs
  • Flat or low pitch rooflines
  • Asymmetrical exteriors
  • Little ornamentation
  • Porches and courtyards for outdoor entertaining and climate control
  • Extensive gardens
  • Arched openings
  • Patterned tile or terra cotta brick floors
  • Rough beams and columns
  • Natural and colorful palettes
  • Easily accessible indoor and outdoor living spaces
  • Fireplaces, both indoors and outdoors
  • Rough plastered walls
  • Open floor plans
  • Floor plans centered on an enclosed courtyard or patio

Exterior Highlights

By far, one of the most distinctive and iconic house styles, Southwest House Designs feature an eclectic assortment of aesthetically pleasing exterior elements. Beautiful examples of this type of architecture dot the landscape across America and can include such styles as Mediterranean, Spanish Mission and Adobe to name a few; even Florida and Modern house plans can make a welcome appearance when describing Southwest house plans. These styles typically include such exterior features as stucco, tile and/or flat roofs, wrought iron, stone and shallow roof pitches. They are usually one or two story asymmetrical designed home plans with warm and comforting earth tone colors and can include a courtyard or covered exterior living area for entertaining. Typically, there is the ubiquitous stucco exterior wall framing; however, there can be some variation with other natural elements such as stone and/or warm woods. Both flat roofs, mostly associated with Adobe homes, and red tiled roofs, more closely associated with Spanish roots, are found on Southwest house plans. Free of excessive ornamentation, these mostly Ranch homes may include exposed rafters, large beam supports and arched openings. There may be courtyards as well, for additional outdoor living space, that attract family and friends to the dry, desert air. These outdoor living spaces are typically situated at the rear of the home to provide shade and private spaces to comfortably gather.

People who desire and build Southwest house are oftentimes seeking to reconnect with the natural landscape of the prickly desert by experiencing a meaningful and minimal impact on the environment while residing in an eco-friendly abode that reflect millennia of culture and tradition. The exterior of these homes can house either an attached or detached small home or apartment; otherwise, known as a casita. These small cottages can be used as home offices, yoga or meditation studios, guest/in-law/teenage suites or just a casual gathering spot for the family.

Interior Highlights

The interior of these homes are oftentimes, colorful, functional and include open floor plans arranged in such a manner as to keep the interior cool and shady. Tile or brick floors are abundant within the interior floor plan as are large, wood beams, columns and fireplaces. Southwest house plans are greatly influenced by their highly stylistic and regional nature allowing for the use of natural design elements and specific art within the interior. These desert style homes feature a unique combination of traditional and contemporary trends forged from necessity and the love of aesthetic beauty/value that may include masonry construction, plastered interior walls, stone floors, multi-patterned tile work and wood beams. With brutal outdoor climates and temperatures, these homes must function as a haven for family and friends to comfortably live and visit which is one reason thick walls, small windows, deeply set and widely proportioned porches and extensive lush gardens shade the sweeping outdoors and courtyards.

Size and square footage

Haciendas, a large estate or plantation, with a dwelling house, conjure images of large, luxurious homesteads and while, this can certainly be true, just as often, Southwest house plans can be scaled down to reflect a more modest lifestyle with smaller footprints and less land. America’s Best House Plans include a range of Southwest house plans between 972 square feet to over 8,000 square feet with a medium range of 2,500 square feet.


In general, Southwest style homes are appreciated for their beauty and simple appeal while definitely adding a nostalgic and specific design charm characterized by warm earth tone color palettes, rough textures, terra cotta brick and/or patterned tile work and either flat adobe roofs or the ever-present red tile clay roofs. Oftentimes, there are neutral color palettes but a dramatic flair exists when adding bold reds, bright yellows, deep greens, sea turquoise and warm oranges to the mixture. Outdoor lush gardens or minimal desert terrain add a sense of wonder and awe to the landscape and the addition of indoor elements like brightly colored rugs, oversized furniture and signature colors that define the Southwest offer refreshing appeal and a nod to nature. A common thread with Southwest house plans is the sense of warmth and character these homes bring to the landscape and to those who build and occupy them.