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What kind of home are you renovating?

Check out this complete home design style guide for renovators.
pavilion house design
Image credit: Bark Design Architects

Are you embarking on a home renovation project? If so, what kind of home are you renovating? Is your home design style more classic, contemporary, or something in between?

Australian residential architecture has evolved so much over the past two centuries, giving birth to so many stunning home designs that suit a wide range of lifestyles. It is crucial to understand the architecture of your home and all of its key design features prior to making renovation plans. When you do, it’s easier to make design decisions to improve your home.

Here, let’s dive into the various home design styles and what makes each of them unique. Use this guide to determine your home’s architecture before you renovate. 

Colonial style home (1800 – 1849)

📌 Prominent in Sydney and surrounding areas. Often seen in NSW and WA.

Colonial architecture reflected the nation’s prosperity during the 19th century. There were a lot of European settlers in the country back then, and they built homes that resembled what was seen in England at the time. 

We are still fortunate to see these heritage homes on the streets. Living in these homes is the epitome of living in the past today.

Key features: 

  • Neutral-coloured façade 
  • Simple façade and interior design with few decorative features
  • Large masonry or brickwork
  • Multi-paned vertical/sash windows 
  • Exterior window shutters
  • Balanced and symmetrical exterior design 
  • Corrugated iron roof
  • Hipped roof
  • Brick chimney stacks
  • Wide, sheltering, wrap-around verandahs
  • Spacious interior rooms
  • Interior timber panelling
  • Use of locally-sourced timber

If you are going to renovate a Colonial style house, preserve this home design style’s iconic features.

Colonial Estates (1820 – 1853)

📌 Prominent in TAS

Colonial estates are massive homes built by wealthy families who own and run farms during the 19th century. Built using extremely durable building materials, many colonial estates constructed during that era still stand today. We are lucky to witness the austere grandeur of those that remain. 

The aesthetic appeal of Colonial estates reflect how our nation embraced classicism towards the end of Europe’s renaissance period. Nothing beats the workmanship and craftsmanship given to build these homes.

Key features: 

  • Symmetrical façade
  • Typically built on large land properties 
  • Huge and spacious garden
  • Expansive floor plans
  • Sandstone exterior façade
  • Timber walls
  • Pitched roof

If you are renovating your family’s colonial estate, preserve this home design style’s iconic design features. 

Invest in a well-kept landscape too! Colonial estates look stunning with manicured gardens. 

Queenslander (1840 – 1939)

📌 Prominent in QLD and northern NSW

The Queenslander is an architectural style that we have loved for more than a century. These were designed and built to match the warm subtropical climate in QLD and NSW. 

The early Queenslanders were simple ‘timber and tin’ houses. As time passed by, the structure developed character and evolved into the iconic homes we know today. 

Key features: 

  • Raised above the ground, elevated on timber stumps
  • Decorative timberwork; balustrades, pediments, column brackets, timber screens, and fretwork embellished the verandahs, gables and stairways
  • Iron roof
  • Spacious verandahs

If you are going to renovate a Queenslander, choose to preserve its character, charm, and distinctive main features. Still, feel free to use both traditional and contemporary finishes. Enhance the beauty of your Queenslander when you give it modern function and aesthetics.

Early Victorian (1840 – 1860)

📌 Prominent throughout VIC, NSW, TAS, and SA

Many Australian homeowners have embraced Victorian architecture during Queen Victoria’s reign in Europe. The Early Victorian homes were a little pared back, closely resembling a typical worker’s cottage with a small front garden and a picket fence. 

Key features: 

  • Picket-fenced property
  • Small but manicured front yard
  • Pitched roof made from corrugated iron, slate, or roof tiles
  • Solid brick construction, either exposed or rendered
  • Brick outer walls
  • Unadorned ceilings
  • Interior rooms with moulded skirting
  • Windows and doors with moulded frames a.k.a. architraves 

Early Victorian homes might be simple, but these possess a strong period style that you want to preserve. If you are planning to renovate period homes like this, consider designing a rear extension, landscaping, and creating a more modern interior fitout.

Mid-Victorian (1860 – 1875)

📌 Prominent in VIC and NSW

Mid-Victorian homes are much more decorative than its earlier version. These homes show us how Victorian architecture became more elaborate and decorative during the gold rush! These homes feature quality craftsmanship too!

Key features: 

  • Property enclosed with either picket or palisade fencing
  • Manicured front yard
  • Verandahs with cast iron lace work
  • Pitched roof made from corrugated iron or terracotta roof tiles
  • Decorative eaves bracket
  • Ornate façade details; often features multi-coloured brickwork and brick rendering
  • Decorative and dramatic entry 
  • Stained glass, double hung windows
  • Polished timber floors
  • Plastered walls with ornate details
  • Ceiling roses
  • Ornate cornices to hide the connection of the wall and ceiling
  • Decorative skirting to conceal the connection of the wall and timber floor
  • Windows and doors with moulded frames a.k.a. architraves 

There are so many MId-Victorian homes built in major Inner-city suburbs, and their desirable location is the top reason why home buyers love them. 

If you are fortunate enough to own a property like this and you want to renovate it, consider preserving its period character. Check in with your local council and neighbours to see if it’s legal to build a more modern rear extension as part of your renovation plans. 

Late Victorian or Boom style homes (1875 – 1901)

📌 Prominent in VIC and NSW

As the name suggests, these Victorian style mansions were built during the Great Economic Boom. These are larger and bolder homes with a strong Italianate style. Many wealthy families back then hired prominent designers and builders to construct these.

Key features: 

  • Property surrounded with iron spear fencing 
  • Ornamental parapets
  • Highly-detailed moulding
  • Arched windows and doorways
  • Intricate iron lacework
  • Patterned tiled entryway
  • Ornate decorative brick façade; sometimes rendered 
  • Italianesque features 
  • Stained glass windows
  • Highly decorated wallpapers
  • Bolder colour scheme

If you are planning to renovate an Early, Mid, or a Late Victorian home, know that you need to work with council heritage overlays. Heritage overlays are there to ensure that your renovation still preserves the home and the streetscape’s historical value.

Period homes like these often have underlying construction issues that need to be addressed when you renovate. Watch out for moisture problems, springy or uneven floors, rotting timber, foundation problems, electrical problems, crumbling bricks, ventilation issues, and insulation repairs. Anticipate these kinds of problems and prepare enough funds to have them fixed.

Queen Anne (1895 -1910)

Prominent in VIC and NSW

The Queen Anne house was born to cater homeowners who wanted a more ‘Australian’ home design style. It combined design influences from English and American architectural styles. The result is a deliberately complex, whimsical, and eclectic structure that’s less ornate but as magnificent as the Victorian homes previously built across the nation.

In addition, these picturesque homes were built during the boom of gold mining in the country. These homes were the greatest symbol of a family’s wealth and stability back then.

Key features 

  • Old-English architecture; Tudor style and Art Nouveau style influences
  • Natural building materials
  • Dark brown or deep red brickworks
  • Tall, elaborate chimneys 
  • Picturesque corner towers 
  • Asymmetrical façade and floor plans
  • Complex and steeply pitched terracotta tile or slate tile roof design, often embellished along the apex and ridge
  • Verandahs with timber posts and decorative brackets, valances, and balustrades
  • Dormer windows
  • Transom windows
  • Bay windows
  • Leadlight windows

Arts and Crafts (1900 -1914)

📌 Prominent in VIC and NSW

The Arts and Crafts house style drew inspiration from the Arts & Crafts Movement back in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, which aimed to improve the architectural style of buildings by integrating art and nature into everyday life. The result are beautiful and functional homes made from natural building materials and built with great attention to the craftsmanship of the house.

Key features

  • Manicured garden
  • Brick lower exterior walls
  • Roughcast rendered upper exterior walls 
  • Pitched and gussy gabled roof with prominent eaves 
  • Splayed tall and tapering chimneys
  • Plain ceiling
  • Lots of windows 
  • Earthy colour palette

Federation (1901 – 1914) 

📌 Prominent in VIC, NSW, and WA

In pursuit of developing the  real ‘Australian’ home design during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the nation’s architects and builders fused architecture influences from America, France, and Great Britain. The result is Federation-style architecture 一 the symbol of Australia’s budding national identity.

Federation houses are more suited to the country’s climate and look less formal and less ornate than the Victorian houses that people built before it.

Key features

  • Picket fence surrounding the property
  • Red brick walls
  • Intricate timberwork
  • Verandahs
  • Steeply sloped, dominant roof line
  • Chimneys
  • Leadlight or stained glass in doors and windows

If you are renovating a Federation house, consider restoring the house’s distinctive architectural and decorative features to their original glory. 

Edwardian or Federation Bungalow (1901 – 1915)

📌 Prominent in VIC, NSW, QLD, and WA

Edwardian villas became the most popular housing design around World War I. These are simple, homely, and ground hugging single storey homes. These share the characteristics of Queen Ann and California Bungalows, which we’ll discuss later.

Key features 

  • steeply sloped hip roofs made from red terracotta tiles or galvanised iron
  • tall stylish chimneys
  • front facing gables
  • roof eaves with ornate timber details 
  • Red brick or painted weatherboard exteriors
  • Verandahs embellished with fretwork 
  • Leadlight or stained glass, often featuring native flora and fauna motifs in Art Nouveau designs
  • Lavish Victorian-era features inside the house (e.g. white ceilings, plaster ceiling roses, ornate cornices, decorative timber skirting, and architraves)
  • Marble accents 
  • Polished timber floors or parquet floors
  • Extravagant arches

California Bungalow (1910 -1930)

📌 Prominent in VIC, NSW, QLD, and WA

The California Bungalow house design came to the country as a new style that suits a more modern lifestyle. The house design was well suited to the country’s climate, but is a bit more informal when compared to the previous home styles built across the country. Additionally, the California Bungalow is a form of low cost housing which allowed many Australians to become homeowners.

Key features

  • Often a single storey structure 
  • Exteriors are commonly made of decorative brickwork, timber, and weatherboard
  • VIC California Bungalows have red brick exteriors
  • NSW California Bungalows have dark brown or liver-coloured brick exteriors 
  • SA California Bungalows have limestone exteriors
  • Highly decorative brickwork
  • Lovely garden pathway to the front door
  • Mudroom or hallway entrance
  • Stained glass windows 
  • Bay windows
  • Front porch with balustrades made from wood or exposed or rendered brick
  • Dark interior colour scheme 
  • Painted plaster interior walls 
  • Shingled gable roof
  • Timber flooring 
  • Highly- decorative interiors

Interwar home (1918 -1939)

📌 Prominent in VIC, NSW, QLD, and SA

Interwar homes were known as low-cost housing solutions during the period of economic stringency. Most Interwar homes were built on fairly large blocks and well set back from the streets.

Key features: 

  • Simple, austere house plan, often combines rooms to save space
  • Porch
  • Compact but functional kitchen
  • Horizontal, ground hugging design
  • Limited ornamentation
  • Glass interior doors 
  • Lighter colour schemes

Art Deco (1930 – 1950)

📌 Prominent in WA, VIC, QLD, NSW, and SA

Art-Deco homes might be old-school, but these houses hold a timeless opulent appeal. These ‘Great Gatsby’ homes are often found in the luxurious neighbourhoods in Perth.  

Key features: 

  • Symmetrical, imposing design
  • White and cream walls
  • Solid kerb appeal 
  • Brick or weatherboard walls 
  • Hipped roof with terracotta tiles 
  • Geometric shapes
  • Finely detailed finishes
  • Curvy, modernistic forms

Whether you plan to restore an Art Deco home back to its former splendour, consider incorporating deco-inspired design elements into the new space and preserve the house’s architecture.

Post-war home (1945 – 1965) 

📌 Prominent in VIC, QLD, NSW, SA

After the war, more Australians built homes that were bigger and more prosperous. There was a shortage of building materials back then, but thanks to technology, manufacturers found a way to produce building materials which made it cheaper and quicker to build a house. Post-war homes made use of these building materials. These modern homes are economical to build, people are still building and renovating these today.

Key features: 

  • single-storey homes
  • Interconnected, open-plan space
  • brick veneer exteriors
  • carport or garage attached to the house 
  • minimal decorative features 
  • Melamine benches in kitchens 
  • Linoleum floors
  • glazed windows

Ranch style homes (1990s)

📌 Prominent in Adelaide, Melbourne, and coastal communities of NSW

Often called acreage homes, these ground-hugging residential structures are built in the rural areas and outer suburbs where land properties are vast and massive. Ranch home designs are informal and casual, which is well-suited for the lifestyle of a family living far from the city.

Key features:

  • Typically a single storey
  • tiled roof with extended eaves 
  • Garage integrated into the house 
  • open plan interiors 
  • large expanses of glass
  • horizontal, ground hugging design

Pavillion style house (1920s)

The pavilion-style house is a well-suited design for Australia’s climate and lifestyle. It has a simple yet elegant design and is ideal for modern living.

Key features

  • Simple shaped house
  • Skillion roof
  • Glazed doors and walls
  • Promotes open-plan living spaces
  • Often has an indoor-outdoor space
  • Often surrounded with a well-kept landscaped backyard

Box-style house (1950s)

The box-style house is a style of contemporary architecture that is becoming more prevalent nowadays. The style is more international, drawing inspiration from bold, geometric shapes.

Key features

  • Often rectangular and has a large capacity
  • Often elevated, the top part is visually heavier than the bottom
  • Has defined edges and sharp angles
  • Bold street appeal

Bonus: download our free interior styling guide

Major renovation projects not only involve exterior home improvements, but also interior fit-outs. 

Because the interiors are as important and must match the home’s architecture style, we prepared a guide to help you renovate your interior rooms as well! 

Register for free to download the guide.

box style house design
Image credit: tessellate architecture and design

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