Archaeologists have meticulously examined numerous Roman villas in England. Like their Italian counterparts, they were complete working agrarian societies of fields and vineyards, perhaps even tileworks or quarries, ranged round a high-status power centre with its baths and gardens. The grand villa at Woodchester preserved its mosaic floors when the Anglo-Saxon parish church was built (not by chance) upon its site. Grave-diggers preparing for burials in the churchyard as late as the 18th century had to punch through the intact mosaic floors. The even more palatial villa rustica at Fishbourne near Winchester was built (uncharacteristically) as a large open rectangle, with porticos enclosing gardens entered through a portico. Towards the end of the 3rd century, Roman towns in Britain ceased to expand: like patricians near the centre of the empire, Roman Britons withdrew from the cities to their villas, which entered on a palatial building phase, a “golden age” of villa life. Villae rusticae are essential in the Empire’s economy.
In the early 18th century the English took up the term, and applied it to compact houses in the country, especially those accessible from London: Chiswick House is an example of such a “party villa”. Thanks to the revival of interest in Palladio and Inigo Jones, soon Neo-Palladian villas dotted the valley of the River Thames and English countryside. Marble Hill House in England was conceived originally as a “villa” in the 18th-century sense.
The villa concept lived and lives on in the haciendas of Latin America and the estancias of Brazil and Argentina. The oldest are original Portuguese and Spanish Colonial architecture; followed after independences in the Americas from Spain and Portugal, by the Spanish Colonial Revival style with regional variations. In the 20th century International Style villas were designed by Roberto Burle Marx, Oscar Niemeyer, Luis Barragán, and other architects developing a unique Euro-Latin synthesized aesthetic.
In Cambodia, “villa” is used as a loanword in the local language of Khmer, and is generally used to describe any type of detached townhouse that features yard space. The term doesn’t apply to any particular architectural style or size, the only features that distinguish a Khmer villa from another building are the yard space and being fully detached. The terms “twin-villa” and “mini-villa” have been coined meaning semi-detached and smaller versions respectively. Generally, these would be more luxurious and spacious houses than the more common row houses. The yard space would also typically feature some form of garden, trees or greenery. Generally, these would be properties in major cities, where there is more wealth and hence more luxurious houses.