Agents at Leisure:
Remarkable Architectural Styles of Melbourne
After three decades spent working in real estate in the inner east of Melbourne, Marshall White Director James Redfern, continues to be fascinated with architecture and beautiful buildings. Here he explores this passion, highlighting some of his favourite architectural styles of Melbourne.
To kick things off, I’m exploring some of Melbourne’s most prominent architectural styles. Buildings influence our lives and are an expression of the values and lifestyle of the time they are built. They are a profoundly important reflection of our culture and are part of our landscape and our identity as a city.
Melbourne is punctuated with a sensational blend of old and new architecture of enduring appeal, from historically significant Victorian and Queen Anne style structures, to Edwardian, Arts and Crafts and Californian Bungalow homes, these changing styles are part of our heritage and our history. Architecture reflects our progress and how we have developed as a nation through the goldrush boom, the depression, wars and prosperity. These are some of my favourite architectural styles of Melbourne:
Within the Victorian era there are numerous styles, such as the Victorian workers cottages, regency, boom and Italienate styles. In this article I am focusing on the mid-late Victorian era from 1860 to 1901.
Melbourne prospered significantly after the discovery of gold in the 1850s, which led to the Gold Rush, a period synonymous with wealth and grandeur. Some of the most prominent public buildings from this time include the State Library, Parliament House, Melbourne Town Hall and the General Post Office.
During the mid-late Victorian era, residential designs were distinguished by a great level of ornamentation. Grand Victorian homes incorporate many elements of the Italianate style and are renowned for their decorative brickwork, cast iron lacework verandahs and elaborate interior designs.
Perhaps one of the most famous examples of architecture during this period is Stonington Mansion, situated on Glenferrie Road in Malvern. Built as a private residence in 1890 by architect Charles D’Ebro, ‘Stonington’ is of architectural importance as an excellent example of late boom style classicism in Melbourne. The mansion and site which spans three acres, is of historical significance being used as the residence of the Victorian Governor for thirty years after federation.
Victorian homes are very attractive to look at, it’s not surprising so many people choose to renovate and modernise them. It can sometimes be tricky to strike the right balance of old and new, but I have seen some truly amazing transformations over the years. Perhaps we’ll look at some examples down the track…
My own home is a block fronted Victorian in Armadale. It was renovated by David Neill, prior to us purchasing it. It’s just an easy home to live in, with plenty of natural light and generous family living spaces.
During the Queen Anne period from 1895 to 1910, Melbourne was the richest city in the world due to the gold rush. A distinctive style, Queen Anne homes were typically built on prominent corner sites and most feature deep red brick exteriors. Grand tower elements and hipped roofs distinguish the facades of these homes, while the interiors feature asymmetrical floor plans emphasised by high ornamented ceilings.
Many beautifully preserved examples can be found throughout Boroondara. One example I have had the pleasure of bringing to the market is the landmark residence at 30 Howard Street, Glen Iris. Built in 1895, this double fronted, two storey brick home is a historically significant Queen Anne style domain commanding spectacular street presence, which has been beautifully maintained and extended.
From 1901 until WW1, the Edwardian period, also known as the Federation period, saw homes drawing inspiration from both the Victorian and Queen Anne eras. Double red brick was dominant during this period, as were steeply sloped hipped roofs with wide eaves and prominent gable ends and L shaped verandahs adorned with timber fretwork. Victorian period ornaments such as cornices and ceiling roses were still popular during this time.
As with all period homes, if you’re considering a renovation you need to consider the heritage overlay first. Generally, the focus is on maintaining the facade’s period features, while it is common for a modern interior to be built behind, but the local council will explain how ‘heritage sensitive’ a renovation needs to be.
Arts and Crafts
Between 1890 and 1930, a number of Australian architects were heavily influenced by British and American Arts and Crafts movements, which focused on embracing natural elements. Ornate timberwork with native Australian flora motifs, gabled roofs, prominent eaves, plenty of windows and an emphasis on open spaces, were common during this time. Their considered design focused on elevated views, sunshine and light and were built in pockets of Stonnington and Boroondara.
Chadwick House is one of three neighbouring houses in Eaglemont designed by Harold Desbrowe-Annear. Built in 1904, it is one of the most significant examples of architecture during this period. The exterior of the home features beveled timber boards and roughcast panels with unique vertical wood patterns on the verandah. The interior is an open plan design, which at the time was a radical departure from contemporary designs and comprises dark stained timber with a raked timber lined ceiling and built in joinery. It is a fascinating architectural masterpiece. Unfortunately, we lost many of these beautiful homes to make way for progress, but a number of them have been preserved and are now heritage listed like this one to protect them for future generations.
Californian Bungalows, influenced by Arts and Crafts concepts and Japanese ideas of simplicity and harmony with the natural setting, were one of the most popular styles in Australia during the 1920s. These homes shifted away from the architectural influences of Victorian and Edwardian styles. Most are single storey and are set well back from the street. The exteriors usually featured gabled roofs with chimneys on outside walls and were typically constructed with timber and adorned with large front verandahs and bay windows. Stained glass windows incorporating Arts and Crafts inspired designs were a popular characteristic of this era as well as timber doors, windows and trims stained in dark tones. These homes embraced the outdoors and adopted a more informal living environment.
When you take a drive through any inner suburb of Melbourne, you’ll come across a number of Cali Bungalows. I remember when I first began my career in real estate, Californian Bungalows weren’t particularly popular and were often turned down by prospective buyers as homes without any character. Now look at how tastes have changed! With their simple interior layout, charm and large yards, many of my clients now love these homes as they allow plenty of options for renovating and extending to suit modern family life.
About the Author
James Redfern, Marshall White Director
Renowned for his sense of integrity and sheer professionalism, James is one of the industry’s most innovative practitioners. As a director at Marshall White, he also heads-up our training program, passing on his accumulated knowledge to new generations of real estate practitioners.
View more about James here.