Circa 1918 > 1939


Circa 1918 > 1939

Single storey detached houses were the in thing during this period. The move towards modernism, and the constraints of economic hardship, were reflected in this style.

Homes were understatedly elegant, simple and quite austere with little to no embellishment.

Space was optimised by removing long hallways, combining rooms and making kitchens smaller. The much-loved veranda was replaced by a porch.

Most houses were set well back from the street on large ‘quarter acre’ blocks.

In this period, a number of eclectic decorative styles such as Spanish Mission, Georgian Revival, Art Deco and Streamline Modernism/Ocean Liner (a subset of Art Deco with maritime influences) started to appear.


Social history

The inter-war period saw a trend towards greater austerity due to the financial impact of World War One, as well as the lasting ramifications of the Great Depression. 

In 1920, after the Great War, the Housing and Reclamation Act made housing more accessible and with the State Savings Bank 1921 housing scheme, finance and low-cost house designs were made available to returned soldiers and thousands of people on modest incomes.

As people travelled more, ideas and styles from around the world spread. In this period houses reflected this newfound diversity in style.  A trend towards modernism in art filtered down to architecture and design.

The Housing Commission of Victoria was established in 1938 and reclaimed large areas of Melbourne’s inner city ‘slums’.

As car ownership grew, driveways and garages became common.


1920s & 1930s

The Australian middle class embraced the Spanish Mission home as luxurious, as these were becoming all the rage in Hollywood, taking inspiration from Spanish homes with red terracotta tiles and curved stucco arches.  These homes were pretty much the same as a California bungalow in layout, but with a Spanish façade.  The outside living spaces are what set these homes apart, with small gables, ridges and arches linking courtyards and loggias. This was the first architectural style to incorporate outdoor living space as an extension of a home, evoking a sought-after laidback glamour.


1920s to 1940s

Art Deco is a visual arts, architecture and design movement that originated in Paris, France just before World War One, and swept across the world in the 1920s and 1930s.  This saw the construction of many Art Deco homes and apartments inspired by the influences of Constructivism, Cubism, Futurism and Modernism.  They have a solid and heavy geometric appearance.

Art Deco celebrates the machine age (think Chrysler Building, New York) and the architecture is defined by elegant, curved facades, red brick (often with render or roughcast), straight lines, horizontal geometric elements in ceiling decorations or brickwork, chevron patterns, metal-framed windows, parquetry floors, timber-veneer wall panelling, chrome and steel fittings, glass doors between rooms with Art Deco motifs, built-in joinery and mottled tiles – often in pink, mint, lemon or pale blue, in contrast with black.

Art Deco styled homes from around the late 1930s are referred to as “streamline moderne,” and this style emphasised curved walls and windows and long horizontal lines, emulating the aerodynamic look of ocean liners and aeroplanes of the time. Some had nautical features including porthole type windows and ship railing balustrades and these homes were called “Ocean Liner’ style.

In between the Art Deco and mid-century eras, the 1940s was a time of evolution and experimentation in Australian architecture, which saw the development of an array of housing styles, from fibro cottages to brick bungalows and even early modernist designs.