Renovating classic homes in Australia
Whether you’re a design nerd, real estate fiend or an architecture aficionado, when you think of our east coast cities you’ll think of their signature homes too. The borderline mansion-esque Queenslander houses in Brisbane, becoming more and more lavish as you creep further towards the city. The beautiful, narrow terrace houses covered in green vines and Victorian era aesthetics that line the inner suburbs of Sydney. The romantic art deco buildings and homes scattered throughout Melbourne that make the city look as though it’s filled to the brim with culture and history.
Who doesn’t love a beautiful Australian home? Who doesn’t love seeing a classic home receive a futuristic twist to lunge it into the future? Not us, that’s for sure. We’ve put this together to give you some inspiration for your home, whether you’re renovating in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, or their rural counterparts.
Brisbane, home of the jacaranda, XXXX, and of course big, beautiful Queenslander homes. Brisbane is one of Australia’s hotter capital cities with a humid climate and a lot of sunshine. While Queenslanders do have some significant architectural pitfalls, they are designed pretty specifically for the hotter weather. They’re on stilts to allow cold air in through the bottom of the structure and normally have windows placed strategically to get a nice breeze through the home. They typically don’t let a lot of sunshine in either.
There’s a decent bit you can do when it comes to renovating Queenslanders. The biggest change a lot of homeowners would like to see in these houses is a downstairs area. The thing with converting the downstairs into rooms or a living space is that Queensland law dictates that the ceiling above a bedroom must be at least 2.4m and above a kitchen or laundry area must be 2.1m. The process of having the top level lifted can be crazy expensive, but definitely worth it. People are really loving the notion of an open plan living area that leads into the backyard and outdoor dining area. It creates a beautiful, open entertainment area for visitors or the family. If the idea of the construction bill at the end is frightening you, it could be converted into a double garage with extra storage space (which Queenslanders tend to lack).
Without performing a mini demolition by knocking down half your walls, there’s other small finishing touches you can incorporate when renovating your Queenslander. An easy way to bring your classic home into the 21st century is with the right fittings. Install a modern kitchen sink or replace the (usually) tacky patterned tiles in your bathroom. Things like luxury light fittings, skylights, and lovely soft wooden tones throughout the home can give your home’s style an extra touch of class.
Melbourne city offers a little bit more history. There’s architectural masterpieces any way you look and they’re smothered in vines and surrounded by lots of red brick, flashy lights, and trams. Art deco apartment buildings are littered throughout Melbourne, and while the art deco look is seen in Sydney and Adelaide too, nowhere does it quite like Melbourne.
“Art deco really goes beyond architecture – it’s especially relatable to industrial design – jewellery, fashion, cigarette cases, cocktail shakers – so you can look to these sorts of elements to inspire a home renovation,” Michael Nikolajuk, director at Chancellor Patrick and Associates told Domain.
Art deco buildings came about somewhere in the middle of WWI and WWII, mostly in the 20s. So they’re great for that ‘effortlessly artsy’ living space — but if that’s something that appeals to you then it’s likely that you’re willing to put in a little extra effort to make yourself a stunning apartment. Most art deco homes you find are apartments in buildings because the homes are heritage listed, already snapped up for good, or a combination of the two. So, we’re more so recommending refurbishments here.
Upgrade your kitchen and bathroom to have modern fittings like an above counter sink but integrate some classic finishes, like art deco door handles and taps. One of the most common apartment woes is not having a bathtub, choose a new bathtub to bring your apartment into the future and add a touch more luxury. Give your home the ultimate art deco aesthetic by coupling exposed brick with rich reds or navy blues with gold trimmings. Decorative and ‘fancy’ metallics and pastels can lift the design as well as classy light fittings (think chandeliers or victorian era light shades).
Australia’s biggest and busiest city, Sydney is home to the terrace home. Terrace houses are scattered throughout Melbourne as well, but play a crucial part in housing so many people in the one area. Their narrow but tall design is space-efficient design at its best. They’re classically two to three storeys tall to really make the most of the space they have. The key feature of terrace homes aside from their narrow design, is their front fenced area. Keeping with Sydney’s lifestyle and overall theme, there’s usually a little DIY herb garden or some flowers growing in this small area.
Sydney’s terrace homes make up for the size they lose in width and make up for it in length. These homes are more ‘long plan’ than open plan and typically lead out to an opening to a courtyard area. When renovating, it’s always crucial to have a plan, but here you want to have a solid and detailed plan. It’s good to really consider how you live and navigate between rooms before you decide on a plan. Other things to consider here are: where the breeze comes from, natural sunlight, and the connection between the indoors and outdoors.
Without doing the whole nine on your terrace home, there’s a lot of smaller ideas to make your home the most livable and stylish. Install more window openings or even a skylight — terraces can often be quite dark because of their narrowness. Exaggerate the victorian era detailings like fireplaces, wall trimmings, and flooring. Keep the finishes and details throughout the terrace matching for a classier look.
The most iconic of terrace bathrooms seem to keep their victorian era touches and finishes like the tiling and vanities and modernise in other parts like with a modern toilet or newer, chic bathroom accessories.
The city of churches has a number of architecturally aesthetic terrace homes scattered throughout the city’s suburbs. In fact, it’s argued that it has the most “terraces” out of all cities. Some of the earliest types of residential structures can be found in the inner-suburbs of Wayville and up on the hill of North Adelaide.
Old churches converted into homes are becoming more popular as “no religion” rises, according to the latest 2016 Census. Farr House (photo above) in Mitcham was an orphanage for girls operated by the Anglican Diocese of Adelaide until the early 80s, before converting into a private residence.
Preserving glass-stained windows will help to retain the character of the interior and can serve as a talking point at dinner parties. While you may opt to remove steeples and symbols of Christ, you will need to check with local council regulations. However, you‘re going to want to convert the bathroom and kitchens into something more divine.
The demand for heritage weatherboard and 1900s Victorian homes continue to picque Perth property buyers’ interests in an otherwise slow market. Since 2014, the housing market has suffered a decline in property values as a result of the mining boom demise. But buyers are still willing to pay a premium for Federation homes in good condition.
With over 3000 heritage listed properties in Fremantle, it can feel like you’re walking back in time to the colonial era. Convict-built homes often built from limestone with ornate facades and have evolved into different styles over the years. The sandstone buildings from the gold rush era give the area a unique sense of character and personality. According to Domain, 1920’s homes in suburbs like Mt Hawthorn and Inglewood are prime for outward or upward development. Their large block sizes and changing lifestyle behaviours means they are prime for renovating.
Laws by State
When it comes to renovating classic heritage or character homes, check the regulations with your local and state government departments: