Australia's Houses of History

Posted on 01 Aug 2018

Australia is spoilt for choice when it comes to housing styles, with inspiration coming from around the globe. European influences dominated the designs of the Victorian, Federation and Edwardian eras, while the Art Deco trend of the 1930s has strong ties with bold, geometric German design. There’s also a strong American influence which cannot be ignored; demonstrated by both the Californian Bungalow of the past and the ever-popular Hamptons style of today. Then, of course, who could forget the quintessential Australian Queenslander, a style developed in Australia to suit the specific weather conditions of the areas these homes are built in.

With such diverse influence over Australian housing styles, it’s important to know what your personal style preferences are. Appreciating housing styles of the past and present allows you meld the design trends of today with the overarching design of your existing home, which may have been built in a different decade with a different inspiration.

Understanding the elements and features that influence your choices is an important factor when building your new home or taking on a home restoration/renovation project.

On that note, let’s take a look at five of Australia’s most notable housing styles to date.

Federation (1900 – 1920)

Federation style homes were a celebration of Australia’s independence. Think asymmetrical streetscapes, beautiful front verandas, attractively tiled patios and ornate Australian floral gardens. External red bricks were a stand out feature, complimented by the use of timber framed windows showcasing handmade lead lighting inserts. Unglazed terracotta tiles adorned steeped pitched roofs, often interrupted by one, sometimes two, stucco (decorative render) or red brick chimneys. Decorative features continued internally with ornamental plaster and cornice work, high ceilings and timber features throughout.

Feature snapshot

  • WA locations: Mt Lawley
  • Asymmetrical façade
  • Red brick use
  • Front veranda
  • Timber framed windows
  • Led lighting
  • Steeped, pitched roof lines
  • Brick chimneys
  • Unglazed terracotta tiles 
  • Ornamental plaster work
  • High ceilings

Californian Bungalow (1915 – 1940)

The Californian Bungalow became a very popular housing choice for the Australian home owner who aspired to replicate the relaxed and causal lifestyle of their American icons. Built on larger blocks, the Bungalow design allowed for backyards and carports, emphasising the anticipation of one day owning a family car. The most prominent feature of the Californian Bungalow is the use of large, thick, chunky columns supporting the low pitched gabled roof. As such, the design allows for the notable inclusion of the deep front veranda synonymous with this style of home, as well as render on external walls. Internally, the Californian Bungalow style is characterised by simple, open plan living areas, providing all rooms with a view to the outside.

Feature snapshot

  • WA locations: Coolbinia, Embleton, Eden Hill
  • Chunky pillars on the front façade
  • Low pitch rooflines
  • Large front verandas
  • Rendered external walls
  • Built on large blocks
  • Open plan living
  • Simple design

Art Deco (1930 - 1940)

The Art Deco era encouraged extensive collaboration between architects, painters, sculptors and designers to create bold, solid and distinctive buildings. Often built on large blocks in affluent areas, the builds asserted their presence and grandeur with modern, artistic flair and clean geometric lines with curved form edges. Parapets and towers adorned rooflines, exploiting the use of unusual materials and finishes incorporated across the design. Standout features of the era included enclosed balconies rather than verandas and porthole or punctured openings as windows.

Construction materials synonymous with Art Deco include bricks and render, alongside the internal use of glass bricks, wood panelling, decorative cornices and decorative ceilings. The forward-looking homes were secured by brick and wrought iron gating, which gave hints of the magnificence beyond. Although the exclusive style priced many out of the market, Art Deco design remains a steadfast inclusion of the Australian home and apartment design landscape.

Feature snapshot

  • WA locations: The Astor Theatre in Mt Lawley
  • Large, bold, collaborative designs
  • Geometric lines
  • Curved form
  • Balconies rather than verandas
  • Punctured openings (windows)
  • Porthole windows
  • Parapets and towers on rooflines
  • Decorative plaster work
  • External bricks and render
  • Internal glass bricks
  • Observed in many apartment designs

Post War (1940 – 1970)

Built on large blocks were the Australian Post War homes, which were designed to meet both the demands of the growing Australian family, and the increase migrants flocking to Australia. The brick veneer, triple-fronted constructions were an efficient and cost effective build. Utilising wire cut bricks, most noted to be light red, light tan or brown, the constructions are identifiable by the use of horizontal windows incorporating brick and tiled window sills. The simple designs boasted hipped and tiled rooflines where all sides slope downwards to the walls. Perhaps the stand out feature of the Post War homes was the cost effectiveness of the structures to build.

Feature snapshot

  • WA Locations: Nedlands, Highgate and Ashfield
  • Brick veneer constructions
  • Use of light red, light tan and brown bricks
  • Brick and tiled window sills
  • Hipped tiled rooflines
  • Double garages
  • Simple, practical, non-decorative design

Mid Century Modern/Post War (1950 – 1970)

The appearance of mid-century modern style did away with the decorative features of previous eras, demanding simple, sleek, classic and streamlined designs. Allowing the outside environment to flow through into homes were large, full length linear windows, often extending floor to ceiling. Connected living spaces within the homes featured stone and wood varnished timber walls. External walls were often a mix of brick, stucco and cladding. Roof lines were low, often flat, and incorporated the use of corrugated iron or steel deck roofing. Often featured under the rooflines were simple entries and porches representative of the house styles’ enduring features of simplicity and class.

Feature snapshot

  • WA Locations: City Beach, Floreat and Doubleview
  • Simple, chic designs
  • Open plan interiors
  • Large floor to ceiling windows
  • Low, flat roof lines
  • Simple entries and porches
  • Vanished timber and stone walls featured both internally and externally
  • Mixed external cladding
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