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People move to Australia for many reasons, but architecture is not generally one of them! However, the vast array of Australian house styles, ranging from beautiful 19th Century Victorian mansions to modern Hampton style homes is something that really surprised me as an expat.

I remember watching programmes like Wanted Down Under years ago, and thinking that Australian houses all seemed a bit bland. After house sitting in over 100 homes in Sydney, I can confirm that I couldn’t have been more wrong!

I’ve stayed in stunning Federation bungalows, Victorian terraces, cottage style homes, modern mansions and everything in between. I also take pictures of interesting homes a lot as I’m walking around. (No one has chased me away yet!)

So, if you’d like to learn more about Australian house architecture through the ages, keep on reading!


Colonial Homes (1800-1849)

This early style of housing is usually made from stone or brick and features corrugated iron roofs, small multi-pane windows and a symmetrical design.

Many Colonial homes also have verandas, which was a design that the British military brought over from India.

19th century Colonial houses in Balmain, Sydney.
Colonial Homes in Balmain, Sydney

The Queenslander House (1840 Onwards)

Possibly the most iconic style of housing in Australia is the Queenslander house, which came about during the mid-nineteenth century and continues to be built today. These light, timber-framed houses, raised from the ground on stumps, are built to suit the hot, wet Queensland climate.

The large, shaded verandas that wrap around the building provide shade, and the steep corrugated roofs are fireproof and allow for high ceilings to cool the rooms.

The elevation of the homes on stumps maximises airflow to lower the temperature and reduce mould from the high humidity. It also allows heavy rain to flow underneath the house and protects the building’s base from pests and termites.

An old Queenslander style home.
An old Queenslander House in Auchenflower, Brisbane

Victorian Homes (1850-1901)

Victorian-era homes are very common in some of the older-established areas of Sydney. The designs can be quite ornate, as you can see from the pictures further down.

Victorian Terrace Houses

I would say the two-storey Victorian terrace houses with balconies is the housing style most synonymous with Sydney. These properties are really common in some of the inner-city suburbs, as well as parts of the Inner West.

They usually have a very flat frontage with the iron work across the balconies being the main decorative feature. While they look extremely narrow, they can have many rooms tucked one behind the other and sprawl back quite far.

Typical Victorian terraces in Sydney: one of the most common Australian house styles.
Typical Victorian terrace houses in Sydney

You’ll also see some quite unusual, more decorative Victorian terraces in Australia. The iconic homes below, sweetly named Lilac, Aster, Lily and Tulip, are on Lennox Street in Newtown, Sydney. Two-bedroom Aster sold for $1.3m in 2020.

Painted Victorian terrace houses on Lennox Street, Newtown, Sydney.
Painted Victorian terrace houses on Lennox Street in Newtown, Sydney

Detached Victorian Houses

On a larger scale, you also get some beautiful and very unique detached Victorian homes in Australia. The ones below look like The Munsters could live in them!

Grand and imposing two-storey Victorian homes in Summer Hill Sydney. One of the most unique Australian house styles.
Imposing Victorian homes in Summer Hill, Sydney

Federation Homes (1890s to 1920s)

After the Victorian period came the Federation (Edwardian) era. Homes from this time are also very common in parts of Australia and have quite a different look than the Victorian houses.

Federation homes are often red-brick with high chimneys and terracotta-tiled roofs that jut out in multiple places (I’m sure there’s an official word for that)! They can be one- or two-storey, and tend to have lots of decorative features inside, like ceiling roses and original fireplaces.

A white Federation home in Australia.
A Federation home in Sydney’s Inner West

Californian Bungalow (1915-1930)

The simple, single-storey Californian bungalow home design became extremely popular in Australia during the 1920s. The roof is A-framed with a lower gradient than the roof on a Federation home, and there’s often a long veranda and open-plan living spaces.

A renovated Californian bungalow in Sydney’s Northern Beaches

Art Deco (1930s)

Art Deco-style housing became popular in Australia in the 1930s, slightly later than in the rest of the world. These designs are a little harder to find than Victorian and Federation homes, but if you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll spot a few Art Deco houses in Sydney.

Classic design elements of Art Deco-style homes in Australia include curved walls and windows, geometric shapes and bright pastel colours.


Post-War Homes (1940-1949)

Due to a shortage of supplies, home design became much simpler and cheaper post World War Two. Cheap-to-make prefab homes became popular, as well as fibro cottages.

Fibro homes, made of fibrous cement sheet, can still be seen a lot in certain pockets of Australia. While some have been nicely renovated, others look very run down. The building material also tended to contain asbestos in those days.

A dilapidated fibro cottage in Sydney. One of the post war Australian house styles.
A fibro cottage in Leichhardt, Sydney

Modern, Simple Brick Homes

Moving into the modern era, from the 1950s onwards, many simple brick bungalows or two-storey homes were built in Australia. These aren’t too dissimilar to modern red-brick homes in the UK.

A neat, modern brick bungalow in Sydney.
A modern bungalow in the southwest of Sydney

Weatherboard Houses

Weatherboard houses are very common in Australia, and suit the seaside vibe. I love the pale colours they’re often painted in. The boards can just be a facade on top of bricks though, or even plastic cladding (I prodded one once and the whole sheet wobbled)!

A very cute, baby blue weatherboard home in Watsons Bay, Sydney with shutters and flower boxes.
A weatherboard house in Watsons Bay, Sydney

Modern, Minimalist Homes

A common housing style for large, very modern homes in Australia is a sleek, minimalist look with lots of flat surfaces and large windows. They’re usually painted in light grey or taupe and have flat roofs and glass barriers on the balconies.

A sleek, modern mansion in Australia in the typical minimalist style.
A contemporary, minimalist-style home in Sydney

Hampton Style Homes

This is my personal favourite of all the Australian house styles, as it epitomises a beach house for me! Named after the Hamptons area in New York, these houses have a modern, coastal vibe, usually with white or pastel-coloured weatherboard facades.

A mint green Hampton style home in Sydney.
A Hampton-style home in Sydney’s Northern Beaches

Contemporary Beach Homes in Australia

Modern beach homes can come in all sorts of designs in Australia, but they often have large floor-to-ceiling windows to maximise the views and light. Here are a couple of cool examples.


Forest Homes

In more forested areas of Australia, such as the northern end of Sydney’s Northern Beaches, homes often use timber or natural colours to blend the building in with the landscape. The house on the right actually has foliage covering the flat roof!


Mediterranean Villa Design

This design is harder to find in Australia, but some homes use rough textures and Terracotta colours to give the look of a Mediterranean villa.


Boathouses

With all the waterways in Sydney, you can expect to see a few boathouses here and there! Here’s a picture of a lovely one in Mosman I used to pass on a dog walk.

A very modern boathouse in Mosman, Sydney.

Urban Warehouse Conversions

Old warehouses or factories that have been converted into apartment blocks are quite a common sight in some parts of Sydney. Here’s a cool conversion from a Colgate-Palmolive factory that opened in the 1920s in Balmain!

The old Colgate-Palmolive factory in Balmain, converted into apartments.

High-Rise Apartments

Just in case you’re thinking Australia is all big detached houses and mansions by the sea, there are a wealth of high-rise apartments here too, particularly in the cities! The shot below is from a very new development in Waterloo, Sydney.

One of the modern Australian house styles: high-rise apartments in Waterloo.

Low- or Mid-Rise Apartments

There are also plenty of low-rise and mid-rise apartment blocks in Australia too, particularly around some of the beach areas. They vary greatly in design, from older Art Deco buildings to slick, modern designs.

Red-brick, low-rise apartments in Australia.

I hope you enjoyed this overview of Australian house styles! Are there more designs than you expected? To learn more, check out my blog post on Australian homes vs UK homes! I go into the specific design features that houses in Australia have compared to homes in the UK.

You may also like my post on historical architecture in Australia that surprised me when I moved over here! Thanks for reading!


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