Melbourne’s Architectural Styles Explained – Part II

Well it’s the first day of Spring and hopefully two weeks from now we will be springing back into action with over a dozen new listings for Team Fetter set to hit the market as soon as restrictions ease.

We are expecting quite the frenzy of activity post lock down. Like I said to my dear hairdresser, you better strap yourself in because we are going to be buuuusy.

More on our upcoming listings next week, but in today’s post we continue where we left off with an explanation of Melbourne’s architectural styles. You can click here for Part I.

WWI marked the end of the Edwardian era, and the ‘interwar’ years saw a move back towards more simple, even austere architecture after the relatively opulent and ornate late Victorian and Federation ‘boom time’ homes.

Bungalow (1910 – 1930)

The (Californian) Bungalow came to dominate the suburban Melbourne landscape for two decades and it remains as one of the most common architectural styles in Stonnington, particularly in large parts of Glen Iris and Malvern East.

Appropriated from America, the bungalow is a more rustic and rugged iteration of the Edwardians that preceded it.

The “Cal Bung” is instantly recognisable by the columns holding up the front verandah and the gable roof either front or side facing.

These detached and usually single storey homes incorporated heavy materials such as brick and stone, and often darker colours like stained timber panelling and woodwork.

During this period, houses were often set far back from the street, with curved pathways leading up to the entry, and more natural, less pedicured gardens.

Interwar (1918 – 1939)

Overlapping with the period of the Bungalow, the interwar years reflect the economic stringency of the times – with simple, single storey detached or semi-detached houses and a move towards cleaner and more modern lines.

There was a lot less embellishment, ceiling heights diminished, and the homes were less grand overall. Although compared to what was to come in the 1970s and beyond, these homes now appear rather characterful and charming in retrospect.

Two of the defining styles of this period were Art Deco and Spanish Mission.

Art Deco (1930s – 1940s)

Art Deco has become somewhat of a blanket term for the modern, minimal architectural styles including Early Moderne (inspired by the German ‘Bahaus’ movement), Waterfall and Streamline Moderne.

These homes and apartment blocks feature distinctive curved windows, walls and balconies, reminiscent of ocean liners with porthole windows and simple steel balcony railing and balustrades.

Inside, ornamentation was restrained but still evident, with plaster ceiling plates, small square fireplaces and steel casement windows.

Art Deco properties came into vogue in recent decades due to their beautiful aesthetics and charm and the solidness of the materials – internal brick walls, hardwood floors and steel frames. However, original versions aren’t always the friendliest to live in as they can be drafty, dark, cold and with small kitchens and bathrooms and floor plans that are hard to renovate and modernise.

Spanish Mission (1925 – 1939)

Influenced once again by America and reminiscent of West Hollywood or South Beach Miami, the defining features of Spanish Mission homes are the twisted pylons covering the front porch, the curved terracotta tiles and stucco in cream, yellow or even pink.

There are some wonderful examples in Prahran, with Jessamine Avenue coming to mind.

Post War (1945 – 1965)

After the relatively austere interwar period, the post war era saw better economic conditions, with home ownership becoming attainable for most.

Houses grew in size and mass production and prefabrication made houses cheaper to build.

Triple fronted brick veneer homes were all the rage, with interconnected living rooms and abundant natural light from the generous use of (now cost effective) windows.

With the rise of the automobile, garages became incorporated into the home. Chimneys were still common, as were low fences and neat gardens. And plenty of linoleum.

My Nonna’s place in Fawkner is a great example, tripped up with plenty of terrazzo, a huge veggie garden, and the obligatory second kitchen (for cooking smelly stuff) in the garage.

I believe the brick veneer is currently underrated and will become more popular in the future, with younger generations appreciating the retro appeal of these modest homes with functional, generous floor plans, excellent natural light and relatively durable materials.

Modern / Mid-Century Modern (1945 – 1970)

A continuation of the earlier Art Deco movement, Modernism in architecture can broadly be categorised as a move towards simplicity and open planning, geometric shapes and the absence of ornamentation.

Disclaimer: I love mid-century modern architecture, and Melbourne has some incredible examples that are largely underappreciated and regularly demolished, regrettably.

These innovative homes, sometimes described as the ‘International Style’ were often architect-designed and meticulously built, and thus show great craftsmanship and an artistic appreciation for light and form.

Think large, open rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows, flat roofs, bold rectilinear shapes and lines and occasional artistic elements like spiral staircases, water features, swimming pools, or houses raised on thin columns with parking underneath.

In Stonnington the best examples of mid-century modern can be seen in Toorak.

I might save the more contemporary styles from the 1970s onward for another day, as there is much to discuss.

We are very fortunate in Stonnington to have so many beautiful period homes and such significant heritage architecture that simply doesn’t exist in the newer outer suburbs.

Like them or not, heritage overlays, strict planning schemes and residential height limits protect our streets from being overrun with new developments, which, by and large, are crap compared to their period forebears (to use the technical term).

Off Market Opportunity

$1,700,000 – 1,800,000

Erica Street, Windsor – an attractive double fronted Edwardian, freestanding and north facing. Three bed, two bath and with potential off street parking from Budds Lane, this renovated home is bright and airy with open plan living opening onto a large alfresco deck. Walking distance to Hawksburn Village and Chapel Street, Victoria Gardens and Windsor Station… this one will get snapped up quickly.

Let me know if you’d like to see photos and a floor plan.

Kind regards,

David.