Fascinating Styles of Homes in Sydney: Your Key to Successful Restoration

Have you ever felt lost trying to navigate through the labyrinth of Sydney’s architectural heritage? Have you stood in front of your house, squinting, trying to decipher which style your home represents? 


If yes, then stick around! You’re about to embark on an exciting journey of discovery, finding the unique style of homes in Sydney. 


And who knows? This knowledge might even help you get started on your dream restoration project.


A Quick Look into Sydney’s Historical Architecture


Sydney’s architectural heritage has evolved over many years. Let’s travel back in time to take a peek at the different styles of homes in Sydney.


Sydney’s Humble Beginnings: The Colonial Period


Let’s begin with the Colonial Period when Sydney was but a fledgling city. Homes were modest, functional structures constructed from stone, timber, and clay – local materials that were readily available. 


Echoing the austerity of the era, these dwellings exhibited simple designs characterized by:

  • Simple designs inspired by Georgian architecture
  • Stone, timber, and clay construction
  • Shingled, hipped, or thatched roofs
  • Spacious verandahs


Victorian Elegance Sweeps Sydney


As Sydney evolved, so did its architecture. Older architectural styles were still popular, but the reign of Queen Victoria ushered in an era of architectural grandeur, the Victorian Era. The prominence of this architectural style gives birth to various styles of homes particularly in Sydney, such as Victorian Italianate, Victorian Gothic, and Federation. 


The Victorian era is divided into three: Early Victorian, Mid-Victorian, and Late Victorian, each bearing unique characteristics:


Early Victorian Homes

  • Simple cottages with verandahs and picket fences
  • Prominent colours: terracotta, cream, and earth tones
  • Materials used were bricks, timber, galvanised metal, corrugated iron, weatherboards

Mid-Victorian Homes

  • Gothic-inspired detailing in ceilings, mouldings, and facades
  • Main materials: bricks, weatherboards, sandstone, and bluestone
  • Popular colours: reds, creams, whites, and greys

Late Victorian Homes

  • Decorative and elaborate designs featuring arches and pilasters
  • Houses often featured fireplaces, terraces, small windows, and narrow stairs
  • Popular colours: reds, browns, pinks, and creams
  • Materials used were weatherboards, timbers, glass, corrugated steels, and wallpaper


The Birth of the Federation Style


As we step into the 20th century, we see the birth of the Federation Style, named to commemorate the Federation of Australia in 1901. It is the Australian version of Edwardian architecture, which is an offspring of Victorian architecture.


These homes were:

  • Spacious and simpler than their Victorian predecessors
  • Known for their wide hallways and stained-glass windows


The Interwar Period – A Mixed Palette Style of Homes


The period between the two World Wars saw a mix of styles. The most prominent were the American-style California Bungalow and the decorative Art Deco.


California Bungalows


The California Bungalow brought an American architectural influence to the Sydney housing scene in the 1920s and 1930s. Recognisable by its liver-coloured exterior, a signature hue in Sydney, the style also features known variants inspired by Indian and British designs. 


However, despite its charm and simplicity, it carries a dark secret – harmful asbestos was started to be used in its construction, a health hazard that subsequent generations have had to carefully manage and remediate.


California Bungalows are known for their:

  • Single-story structure
  • Liver-coloured exteriors in Sydney
  • Sloped, gabled roofs and wide verandahs
  • Dormer and paned windows
  • Cream, green, dark brown, dark Indian red, and earthy colours
  • Fence made from bricks, wires or picket


(Read: 5 Considerations for a California Bungalow Renovation and Extension)


Art Deco


Art Deco was also known as Streamline Moderne in the late 1930s. This style introduced a refreshing aesthetic shift, characterised by red and decorative brickwork, double-hung and metal-framed windows, and hipped roofs


Art Deco ushered in the advent of garages and driveways in home design, reflecting the growing influence of motor vehicles in everyday life. This marked a significant evolution in urban planning and home architecture, signalling the onset of modern residential landscapes in Sydney.


Art Deco is popular for having these distinctive characteristics:

  • Red and decorative brickwork
  • Double-hung and metal-framed windows
  • Hipped roof
  • Bricked fence
  • Glass doors between rooms
  • Curved facades


The Influence of Post-War 


The post-war period, beginning around 1945 heralded significant changes in Sydney’s architectural scene. As Europe rebuilt, many war refugees made their way to Australia, bringing with them an array of diverse architectural influences. These inspirations sparked a burst of varied housing styles, each with its unique charm and characteristics.


The lingering effects of World War II still cast their shadows. Due to shortages of materials, labour, and equipment, construction often leaned on cheaper materials.


Despite these limitations, a few key elements became prominent in post-war designs


  • Garages and carports became prominent
  • Brick veneer was used in place of double brick
  • Cement tiles
  • Low fences
  • Melamine bench tops and linoleum or rubber floorings in kitchens
  • White, blue, yellow, red, tan, and pink colours
  • Interconnected rooms


The Rise of Modern and Contemporary Styles


As we march into the modern era, minimalist designs, sleek lines, and generous use of glass define the architectural landscape. The contemporary style, with its open floor plan and emphasis on natural light and generous views, connect a house’s interior and exterior.


The modern and contemporary styles are marked by: 


  • Minimalist designs
  • Sleek lines
  • Generous use of glass
  • Open floor plan
  • Flat roofs
  • Curved driveways or stairs
  • Houses seem floating, raised above ground level
  • Separation of communal and private areas
  • Removal and banning of asbestos 


Breathing Life Back Into Sydney’s Historic Homes


MKJ Projects has reverence for Sydney’s architectural history. We understand the roadblocks you may face. Old house restoration isn’t a project you can merely dive into without ample preparation and knowledge.


You may find yourself grappling with the complex layers of history each room holds. Or perhaps the challenge lies in identifying the original architectural style of your home. You wouldn’t want to install sleek, modern windows on a Victorian-era gem, would you? That’s where the importance of understanding Sydney’s architectural styles comes in.


For instance, take a look at this beautiful example of a restored heritage property by MKJ Projects. We’ve expertly rejuvenated the exterior, and the new windows and frames perfectly align with the home’s historic charm.


Click to Enlarge


This meticulous work requires the right knowledge and expertise, it’s possible to bring even the most time-worn houses back to their former glory.


So whether you own a quaint Federation cottage or an imposing Victorian mansion, learning the hallmarks of your home’s style is the first step in planning your restoration journey. Don’t let your fear or lack of knowledge about your home’s architectural style deter you from restoring your property to its former grandeur.


If you’re feeling unsure about the styles of homes in Sydney and need guidance on your old house restoration, feel free to reach out to us. 


MKJ Projects has extensive experience and passion for old house restorations. We respect and enhance the original character of every house we work on. Request a quote from MKJ Projects and take the first step toward restoring your home’s historical charm today.

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