It’s never more evident how much influence the trials and triumphs of the times had on the houses created within different architectural periods, than when you see them lined up side by side. On The Block this year, we worked with five classic homes from the 1910s, 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s, and witnessed their re-birthing as contemporary homes, while keeping faithful to their past.
Whilst at first glance, there is some similarity between some of the homes, if you look more closely, you can see just how much changed from decade to decade, as a result of shifts in the way people lived, due to the events unfolding at home and around the world.
1910’s Federation (House #4)
Federation was the period from Australian federation on January 1st, 1901 into WWI that saw the creation of several related styles. With growing pride in the Australian identity, Federation unified us, and this clearly showed in the design and detailing of new homes, with Australian native flora and fauna showing up on ceiling panelling and cornices, while the front gable of homes began to feature the ubiquitous sunrise motif.
Federation ‘Queen Anne’ celebrated the outdoor lifestyle Australians had come to love; with decoratively timbered verandahs that reflected our satisfaction and pride and honoured our relaxed and welcoming pastime of sitting outside and enjoying the cooler part of the day.
Federation ‘Filigree’ was another popular style of the period, most easily identifiable as the classic Queenslander with large wrap-around verandahs and layouts and breezeways that promoted the free flow of cool air. This style has still-popular details which can be accentuated, but at the same time, these homes typically need to be given a more contemporary colour scheme, giving not only a more modern look to the exterior, but also facilitating better connections to the interior of the home.
The Block’s Federation façade (pictured above) used COLORBOND® steel Matt in the colour Dune®, creating a much softer and warmer neutral that works well with fresh white accents while also preserving the craftsmanship of the era through a lighter touch of colour. The new extension is only just visible behind the original house – giving you a taste of the contrasting trim colours and an insight into the modern rear build. By including matt surfaces across all exterior components, House #4 was able to unite the softness of the main buildings but use the stronger colour in the brickwork for the extension.
1920’s Art Deco (House #1)
The interwar period of the 1920s and 1930s roared to life, and a level of flourish was seen within homes that truly reflected the optimism of the time. People were flourishing socially and financially and wanted homes of a similar nature. If you’ve seen the Great Gatsby, you should understand what the style of the 1920s was all about. Of course, Art Deco was only one period within the 1920s and 30s that was popular, with Spanish Mission and Georgian Revival also being desirable decorative styles.
The Block’s Art Deco home (pictured above) features the well-known arches, curved walls, rough cast render, and nautical white exterior colour scheme of the period, but the new roof made from COLORBOND® steel Matt in the colour Basalt® gives a stronger, even more attractive accent to the palette. Echoing the exterior, there are curves throughout the interior which are totally on trend today, as arches on stairwells and curved cabinetry can be seen in many new builds. A richer palette of colours on soft furnishings and tiles are then able to bring back the era for a more complete and cohesive result. Geometric shapes were also a feature of the Art Deco period and were incorporated into the rooflines of House #1’s extension. By selecting the much darker COLORBOND® steel Matt in the colour Monument® for this section of the build, the stunning lines of these shapes are accentuated, and the colour also brings the home into more contemporary times.
1930’s Californian Bungalow (House #3)
Californian Bungalows were also a popular style from the early 1920s, reflecting the influence of the glossy Hollywood way of life on the Australian public. And due to the similarities in climate, Californian Bungalows, with their emphasis on connecting to the outdoors through large sliding doors and windows, became increasingly popular. This simple, modest style of exterior had broad roofs, deep eaves, and timber verandahs to bring the outdoors in, and can be easily brought up to today’s casual lifestyle needs with all the design features combining to take advantage of open plan living. It's for these reasons, plus the fact that you can modernise this style beautifully with a contemporary colour palette, that Californian Bungalows remain so popular today.
As with many Californian Bungalows, The Block’s example (pictured above) features a weatherboard build and although not as ornate as the Federation, its timber details allow the craftsmanship of the era to shine. The roof made from COLORBOND® steel Matt in the colour Basalt® worked beautifully with the softness of the weatherboard colour. The colour Monument® Matt was incorporated as a trim colour on the awnings and gables of the original house. This palette combination of light weatherboard and dark trims was successfully carried through to the modern extension by using COLORBOND® steel Matt in the colour Monument® for the custom fascia eave to link these two structures together.
1940’s Post War (House #2)
What goes up however, must come down. The Great Depression struck in 1929 and was followed by the outbreak of WWII in 1939. With yet another period of austerity, the bulk of the male workforce and resources were pushed into the war effort, affecting the number, and quality of finish, of the houses built during this period.
Post War homes were built with modern efficiency, usually single-storeyed with interconnected living rooms and featured mass-produced windows which were a huge shift from the handmade, artisan methods of the past. These economical homes are typically free of flourishes, so can readily be morphed into modern-looking builds.
Changing roof profiles, re-cladding, and renders have all provided renovators with opportunities to give Post War homes a contemporary look, and the team in the interwar 1940’s house on The Block (pictured above) has done just that. Starting with a roof made from COLORBOND® steel Matt in the colour Surfmist®, they have been able to transform this home into a swan, with the new addition at the rear, seamlessly connected to the original home by the continuity of colour across the build. The pale canvas of the exterior means the interior can carry bright colours, which was typical of the era, as accents either in walls, tiles or soft furnishings. Reflecting this, the design adds a playful touch to the to the pale exterior colour palette, where an interlocking profile in a variable seam width was used on the rear extension, and a splash of COLORBOND® steel Matt in the colour Monument® was included in the section between the old and new parts of the house.
1950’s - Mid-Century Modern (House #5)
As the 1940s came to an end, the pendulum swung from austerity back to prosperity, and this shift was reflected in a more modernist approach to design, using even more mass-produced materials and inclusions.
Perhaps creating some of the world’s most striking and iconic designs, the 1950s focused on modern building techniques and industrial materials which allowed for a new way of building and living in homes. Larger openings and internal spans and more dynamic architectural forms lead into the architecture of the contemporary age, elements of which we still celebrate and include within modern homes to this day. We’re seeing a 1950s revisit to mid-century modern architecture presently with exteriors displaying muted tones, crazy paving, large freeform sandstone cladding, breezeblock feature walls and, in amongst all that, very modern cladding profiles made from COLORBOND® steel that bring another new dimension to these classics.
The Block’s 1950’s home (pictured above) looks typical of the era, demonstrating why it works for our lifestyle, with rooflines at varying angles, large windows to embrace the outside, and simple, light-filled interiors. The roof made from COLORBOND® steel Shale Grey™ Matt works perfectly both as a link to the seaside suburbs and, on the new addition, showcases its ability to work with new and popular architectural styling.
It’s easy to see history as a dry subject, but when you look at the iconic ‘period’ Australian homes represented on The Block this year, in the context of what was happening at the time they were built, you can really appreciate the impact that one has had on the other, and where the trends in design have originated from. At the same time, as we watch the five homes on the Block evolve and transform with their modern additions, we can see how perfectly the old and the new can be connected together to create homes that are not only true to their past, but also set standards for how we will live in the future.