Which Architectural Style is Which?

Don’t know your Federation from your Art Deco? Confused about Californian Bungalows and Victorian terraces? Here’s our rough guide to some of the common architectural styles in Aussie homes.

A very modern history

Elizabeth Farm in Sydney’s Parramatta lays claim to being the oldest residential building in Australia, with parts of it dating to 1793, pipping the better known Cadman Cottage, which dates to around 1815, at Sydney’s Circular Quay.

But given most of Australia’s early residential buildings were made of less permanent materials like bark and timber or corrugated iron, there are few examples of homes remaining in any great numbers before the mid 1800s.

Australia is a big country, and our architectural landscape varies from state to state. For instance, Queensland has the elevated, airy weatherboard Queenslander; Sydney has the brick or stone terrace house with wrought iron verandahs.

And the materials vary too. Sandstone dominates in older NSW buildings, while Blue Stone dominates in older properties in Victoria or South Australia.

While some of our architecture has been a response to the local landscape – verandahs and shop awnings, for instance – much of our architecture has been derived or transplanted from somewhere else.


Victorian-terraces, Carlton

Victorian terraces – Carlton, VIC

Houses from the Victorian era cover a range of architectural styles from approximately 1840-1890, during the reign of Queen Victoria. They’re typically found in the older areas of cities and towns, and are some of the oldest Australian homes.

Victorian buildings are characterised by rendered or stucco facades, verandahs or balustrades made of cast iron lacework, slate or corrugated iron roofs, and double hung timber windows that are sometimes arched.

Victorian homes are often terrace houses but they can also be large freestanding mansions, for example those in the Victorian Italianate style with heavily decorated ornamental facades built to resemble classical Grand Italian Villas. Victorian era housing also includes styles like Gothic Revival, and the Boom Style which showed off wealth from the gold rush.



Queen Anne style residence, Pymble, NSW

Queen Anne style residence – Pymble, NSW

Federation homes are Australian equivalents of the English Edwardian home.

They are perhaps the most commonly known Australian architectural style of home, arising at Federation, and often featured a decorative motif on the front facade like a rising sun.

Dating from around 1900 to 1914, they are usually freestanding or semi detached, made of red brick with a tiled roof and have detailed wooden fretwork in the roof gables and windows.

Local flora and fauna were often depicted in decorative features like windows or ceilings. Federation styles include Queen Anne, Arts and Crafts, and some bungalows.

Californian Bungalow

Californian bungalow

Californian bungalow home – Coburg, VIC

As the name suggests the Californian Bungalow derives from California, and it became popular in Australia from the 1920s. They’re low, shady and solid. The Californian Bungalow is freestanding, usually characterised by thick columns holding up the front veranda, a low pitched tiled roof, a facade of exposed dark brickwork mixed with roughcast render and some wood panelling inside the rooms.


Art deco apartments, Nedlands, WA

Art deco apartments – Nedlands, WA

Art Deco originated in France and became popular in Australia during the 1930s and interwar years, when many Art Deco homes and apartments were built. Art Deco celebrates the machine age (think of the Chrysler Building in New York) and is characterised by vivid decorative elements, straight lines, horizontal geometric patterns in ceiling decorations or brickwork, with flashes of wood, chrome and steel.

Post war

Post war house, Strathalbyn SA

1950s Waterfall Austerity style house – Strathalbyn SA

After World War II a shortage of building supplies and labour led to a variety of more austere or simple homes. This is the era of the 1940s and 50s double brick cottage, the fibro home, the waterfall style with curved brickwork, and later the triple fronted brick home.

Mid to late 20th Century

Modernist home in Bellevue Hoill

Freestanding 1970s Modernist home – Bellevue Hill, NSW

The modernist homes of the 1950s and 1960s which took their influence from overseas are now enjoying a strong revival with mid century architecture and furniture very popular right now. Think streamlined, sleek, less decorated homes.

This era also saw the growth of the project home and the 1960s and 70s saw the start of a boom in home unit building in many Australian cities. And the 1960s to the 2000s was characterised by the freestanding brick veneer home, the rise of open plan living, experimenting with new styles, new building materials and techniques, and larger new homes than ever before.

Our architectural history has a significant value in shaping the character and feel of our streets and suburbs.

Article by: Emma Sorensen / REA

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