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Australian architecture has truly evolved over the past 200 years with strong influences from our ancestors.

If you love all the period features in some of our older homes in Australia you might like to have some of these details in your new home. Here’s a list of the various historical periods that have influenced the design of Australian homes – what’s your favourite period?

The early colonial buildings were simple structures based on need and available materials and with Australia being a penal settlement there was a strong influence of a military style. As time progressed the colony was able to not only develop and import more building materials but also to import the architectural vernacular that was in favour in Britain at the time.

The main period styles of early Australian homes are:

Colonial Style (pre 1840) Colonial Style Home

This is the earliest style of architecture in Australia. The Georgian and Regency styles of architecture were built between the reign of the British monarchs George I – George IV (1720-1830).

Georgian Architecture was inspired by early Italian architects Marcus Vitruvius Pollio and Andrea Palladio. They were both exponents of classical architecture that is based on natural forms of mathematical geometry and proportion.

The style is characterised by proportion and balance; simple mathematical ratios that are used to determine the height of a window in relation to its width or the shape of a room as a double cube. There was regularity in the cut stonework or brickwork and creating perfect symmetry was their ultimate goal.

Regency Architecture retained classical elements of the Georgian period, but opened up to more Greek, Egyptian, Asian and French influences.  It was also more ornate and far showier than earlier Georgian styles, and building facades were often layered in render and finely dressed stone rather that brick.

Some key features are:

– Brick, Painted Brick, Render or Ashlar Stone
– Multi pained sash windows in a 3×4 or 4×6 format (vertical)
– Painted or stone sills and Parapet Walls to front facades
– Very small eaves with detailed dentil work
– Classical rendered portico with proportional columns
– Simple and Elegant
– Symmetry

Early Victorian Style (around 1840 – 1875) Early Victorian Style

Victorian architecture is a series of revival styles built during the reign of Queen Victoria.

As part of the British Empire, Australia was heavily influenced by the re-introduction of the Gothic style of architecture. The great cathedrals of the Middle Ages during the Gothic Period of ecclesiastical architecture formed the inspiration for this particular architectural style in residential buildings, and many commercial structures, churches and cathedrals built during this time. Characteristics of gothic revival buildings are steeply pitched roofs often made of slate, narrow doors and windows resolving in a Gothic pointed arch known as lancet windows, diamond pane glazing to windows imitating a stained-glass affect, and intricate parapets, often of a religious nature, with a cross.

Early Victorian homes featured symmetrical layouts and façades, a centrally located front door and a hipped roof of corrugated iron, leading to a verandah on the façade. During the 1850s cast-iron lacework came to Australia, where it made its way on to Victorian Homes with much the same floor plan as the Colonial Style. Weatherboards were often used, although larger homes used red brick and blue stone. In the Mid-Victorian Style, decoration began to gain popularity and so the introduction of the bull-nosed veranda roof and sidelights were added either side of the front door as terraced houses were becoming popular.

Some key features of Victorian style homes are:
– Intricate rendered facades and verandahs sporting cast-iron lacework
– Both Brick and Weatherboard
– Bull nosed verandah
– Arched and double hung timber windows
– Roofs made from slate or corrugated iron

Late Victorian Style (around 1875 – 1895) Late Victorian

From about 1875, the gold rush was on and bought some economic boom to Australia. Late Victorian Architecture became more embellished and overburdened with excess columns, balustrades, exaggerated entrances, other lavish decorations and highly detailed ornamentation to the external facade. With the increased wealth from the gold rush came richer and more ornate decorative features such as carved stone sculptures, dentil detailing, cast iron lace work and slate roofs. Cast iron lace work was made locally and used frequently. The construction of terraced houses which had been built in the inner suburbs since the 1840s reached a peak during this period.

Some key features of Late Victorian Boom Style homes are:

– Intricate Brickwork featuring complex patterns of different coloured bricks
– Combination of plaster, stone, coloured bricks, terracotta, mosaic tiles and marble
– Leadlight windows
– Highly decorated facades and parapets featuring decorative dentil detailing, carved stonework and intricate designs
– The roof was well decorated as the walls, featuring slate tiles arranged in patterns
– Arched, double hung windows with elaborate decorations
– Terraces became taller and incorporated ornamented parapets and projecting verandah wing walls

Federation (around 1895 – 1915) Federation homes in Australia

Often the terminology “Edwardian” and “Federation” are often used to describe the same buildings as they cover the same period up to the WW1. However, the Federation style also includes the more ornate Queen Anne, Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau styles. The Edwardian Home (1900-1910) is a toned-down elegant version of other Federation Homes.

Some key features of Federation homes are:

  • Simple and elegant detailing
  • The home is often built with red brick or weatherboards
  • The roof is often made from slate or corrugated iron
  • The facade may be decorative to emphasize the apex of the roof
  • Timber framed windows that may feature leadlight glass
  • Verandahs with timber fretwork

Californian Bungalow (around 1920-1930) Californian Bungalow

The Californian Bungalow arrived from America during the 1920s, after WW1 and quickly became very popular as it was much quicker and cheaper to build than the more ornate Federation Homes. With thousands of ex-servicemen wanting to marry and settle their children on free-standing suburban blocks of land, the Californian Bungalow provided an affordable building solution.

Commonly built of brick and render it is almost instantly recognised by the columns holding up a front verandah. Stone, brick, timber and earthy materials were used. A gable roof faced either the front or side always. These homes featured lower pitched roofs when compared to previous era homes.

Some key features of Californian Bungalow homes are:

  • Low pitched roof
  • Verandah held upright by large, thick columns
  • Large front or side gables
  • Interior walls featuring stained plywood
  • Double hung windows

Art Deco (around 1930-1950) Art Deco homes

This style was considered modern at the time and was pulled together from the German Bauhaus School of Modern Design. Architects aimed at creating something completely different from previous eras and used different materials and shapes to achieve a unique style.

Art Deco was embraced as a refreshing change from previous styles. In classic Art Deco, rectangular blocky forms were often arranged in geometric fashion, then broken up by curved ornamental elements with the aim of a monolithic appearance with applied decorative motifs.

Art Deco materials included render, concrete, smooth-faced stone, and Terracotta. Steel and aluminium were often used along with glass blocks and decorative opaque plate glass. The flat roofs on the houses were adorned with parapets, spires, or tower-like constructs to accentuate a corner or entrance. Windows usually appear as punctured openings, either square or round. To maintain a streamlined appearance for the building, they were often arranged in continuous horizontal bands of glass. Wall openings are sometimes filled with decorative glass or with glass blocks, creating a contrast of solid and void forms while admitting daylight. Doorways are sometimes surrounded with elaborate pilasters and pediments, and door surrounds are often embellished with either reeding (a convex decoration) or fluting (a concave decoration).

Some key features of Art Deco homes are:

– Heavy and solid appearance with geometric shapes set against curved porches and walls.
– Walls generally rendered in white or cream
– Parapet walls with hipped roofs or flat roofs hidden behind parapets
– Rounded edges and occasionally symmetric and imposing designs
– Simple steel framed windows with strong horizontal lines

What’s your preferred period?

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