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Australian architectural styles have certainly come a long way since the original wattle and daub houses with bark roofs from of early settler days. Since the mid-1800s when the nation struck gold, as the economy boomed, architectural design evolved rapidly to reflect both global trends and our warmer climate. Most of us have heard of the classic California bungalow, but what’s the Waterfall house? We’ve profiled some of the most iconic eras in Australian architecture from the 1910s to the 1950s.



Iconic Eras of Australian Architecture 1910s

15 Northcote Avenue Killara New South Wales Australia (Wikimedia Commons)

Edwardian architecture was popular in the British Empire during the reign of King Edward (1901–1910). After the Federation of Australia in 1901 when the colonies collectively became the Commonwealth of Australia, a new age of architecture began, drawing on the Edwardian style, yet adapted to the Aussie climate to create something distinctly Australian. The grandeur of high ceilings, timber floors, stained-glass and ceiling roses were highly prized, yet paired with verandas with bullnose pergolas to manage the hot Australian sun, along with kangaroo and emu motifs to symbolise Australia’s Federation. The Federation period was also the era of the prized inner-city terrace house.

Architectural elements

  • Red-brick or painted weatherboard exteriors
  • High-pitched gabled roofing
  • Bullnose verandas embellished with fretwork
  • ‘Iron petticoats’ (metal fretwork)
  • Stained-glass windows
  • High ceilings
  • Plaster cornices, ceiling roses & skirting
  • Arched walkways with decorative corbels
  • Timber flooring, such as parquetry


  • Aussie motifs such as kangaroos, emus, native flora & the rising sun to commemorate the Federation & new Australian identity
  • Blue & white ceramics
  • Florals cushions, fabrics & rugs
  • Classic European-style art


California bungalow

Iconic Eras of Australian Architecture 1920s

California bungalow, Kensington, Sydney (Wikimedia Commons)

Dealing with the aftermath of World War I, Australia was ‘California dreaming’ about a better life and was looking to American for new inspiration. Moving swiftly away from European style that had previously defined Australian architecture, the California bungalow offered an affordable solution for the average Aussie family to build a small-to-medium-sized home and one that was more suited to the warm Australian climate… with a backyard to boot, as many returning veterans were rewarded with a block of land. Meanwhile, a new style, Art Deco, was emerging from Art Nouveau and the Roaring Twenties had begun, which greatly influenced the world of interior design.

Architectural elements

  • Weatherboard or red brick
  • Single level
  • Moderately gabled roofline
  • Front veranda held up by columns / pylons
  • Set further back from the street with a garden
  • Front door opening to living room
  • Simple layout & more open plan


  • Art Nouveau & Art Deco
  • Bold geometric patterns
  • Gold & silver coloured homewares
  • Chevron & zigzags patterns
  • Luxe materials & animal motifs


Spanish Mission

Spanish Mission style house in Heidelberg, Victoria by Nick Carson (Wikimedia Commons)

The zigzag, geometics and chevron patterning of Art Deco continued to grow in popularity in the 1930s and they married well with a new style of architecture that came to Australia. Originating in California, the Spanish mission style was a Hollywood-meets-the-Mediterranean aesthetic. It reflected both the golden age of Hollywood as well as the Los Angeles revival of the 18th-century Spanish mission. During this inter-war period and Great Depression era, building and construction focused more on cost-effective solutions. Stucco facades, arched windows and terracotta tile were defining features of the Spanish mission home, along with pastel colours, which were inspired by the glamorous movie industry.

Architectural elements

  • Usually single level with ochre terracotta tiles
  • Stucco rendering that mimicked mud-brick
  • Arched colonnades with twisted columns
  • Arched gateways, doors & windows
  • Painted shutters & exposed timber ceiling beams
  • Parquetry flooring & mottled tiles


  • Glamorous pastels such as pink, mint, lemon & pale blue
  • Clean, symmetrical, bold geometric lines
  • Chevron & herringbone patterning
  • Soft curved cabinetry
  • Hollywood glam



c Eras of Australian Architecture 1940s

Waterfall-style home, Roseville NSW (Wikimedia Commons)

Reminiscent of ocean liners with their dramatically curved lines, Waterfall architecture was influenced by Art Deco and defined by walls, windows and balconies sweeping around corners. As servicemen and women returned from World War II, there was an enormous demand for housing and the baby boom had begun. Yet with shortages in materials and labour, more cost-effective solutions in building and construction were sought. Over the 1940s, as the nation began to boom, there was also a huge influx of immigrants from Europe who brought with them incredible artistic and intellectual talent. It was an exciting dawn of design innovation that came to known as mid-century modern.

Architectural elements

  • Ocean liner aesthetic with nautical themes
  • Glamorous curved facades
  • Curved or porthole windows & venetian blinds
  • Moderately pitched gabled roofline
  • Cream brick veneers or exposed brick
  • 3 steps creating a ‘waterfall’ at the entrance
  • Descending curves in chimneys & other vertical elements
  • Interconnecting living spaces & more open plan


  • Colourful wall paint
  • Art Deco décor
  • Move away from pastels to bolder shades


Mid-century modern

Iconic Eras of Australian Architecture 1950s

A spectacular example of mid-century architecture (Wikipedia Commons)

Open-plan living, simplicity and bold geometric shapes defined the mid-century modern home, along with an emphasis on indoor-outdoor living. Sliding glass doors were designed in to open to patios, gardens and even swimming pools, which became more accessible to the working class at this time. As the post-war period progressed and wealth was accumulated, homes of this era expanded, some to even incorporate a master ensuite, second living room, large entertainer’s kitchen and double carport out the front to display the prosperity of the two-car family. Prints, colours and patterns, stripes and polka dots became popular, along with futuristic space-age motifs that reflected the ‘space race’ in America. Palm tree motifs became popular as Hollywood movie stars hired architects to design holiday homes in Palm Springs, just outside of Los Angeles. The clean, open-plan, indoor–outdoor flow of mid-century modern design forms the foundation of contemporary architecture.

Architectural elements

  • Simple lines with minimal ornamentation
  • Open-plan design
  • Maximising views with floor-to-ceiling windows
  • Connecting indoors & out with sliding glass doors to garden
  • Outdoor living space, such as a patio or deck
  • Large entertainer’s kitchen


  • Contemporary graphic patterns & bright colours
  • Light timber & Scandinavian influences
  • Futuristic space-age motifs, such as statement chandeliers
  • Plastic & chrome homewares & furniture
  • Palm tree motifs

More in-store

Visit us in-store and online to discover plenty of home decorating ideas to complement the Australian architecture of your home. And for more inspiration, check out What’s Your Style.


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