Federation Homes in Australia

Federation architecture refers to the architectural style of Australian homes built around the decades before and after 1900 AD.

There are significant differences:

From Australian Stories Australian architecture

  • “The ornate Federation house, built mainly between 1900 and 1914, was a sign of prosperity – an Australian version of the English Edwardian house.
  • Federation houses were detached, with gardens, and with Australian motifs and a roof of terracotta tiles with detailed fretwork in the roof gables and windows.
  • Many houses had a sunrise motif in the front gable as a sign of the dawning of a new century.
  • Add-ons and renovations with heritage restraints were a constant experience of living in a federation house.
  • By the First World War (1914-1918), there was a shortage of tradesmen and materials. The cost of houses had to be reduced, so the ceilings were lowered to create ‘bungalows‘, houses which were built between 1915 and 1940. Gone was most of the detail, and a plainer style lead lighting was put into the front windows.”

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Blackwood House in Melbourne

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Sam Hood (1872-1953), Family with car & Queenslander house, 1920’s.

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Federation house in Cairns, 1914.

Picturesque and eye catching houses

Federation-style houses constitute a unique statement of patriotism since Federation details used Australia’s remarkable flora and fauna.

“For the first time, the flowers, birds and animals of the bush were used to decorate plaster, pressed metal, glass, terracotta and fretworked timber. .”Ian Evans

  • Decorative features such as gables and motifs adorn the roofs of the property.
  • The rising sun emblem that appeared on countless gable ends symbolised the dawn of a new age for Australia and was itself adopted as a national symbol

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Leadlight windows are also a common feature and as a result, Federation houses are often very picturesque and eye catching.” – Archicentre – see below

  • These rambling homes are regarded as the first design style that embraced the outdoor lifestyle. Blocks were deep to allow for homegrown food cultivation.

Since I live in a Sydney suburb with a rich heritage of these houses, I hope to document the details of these and similar houses in these pages. Eventually I hope this site will be a definitive source of Federation decorative detail.

  • Anyone with similar interests is very welcome to contribute to this topic.
  • You can leave comments on my blog Federation Details. To comment here you need to join this Wiki, please.

Federation Features

The features of Federation style architecture include:

  1. Red brick walls of a deep red or dark brown brick, often with a mix of the two
  2. Exposed rafter ends visible under roofs, a characteristic usually visible, not obscured by gutters
  3. Some times the mortar is ‘tuck-pointed” to make a ridge of white mortar running along the joints between the bricks.
  4. Dominant roofs,
    often broken by false gables and capped by terracotta frilled ridges and motifs decorating the exterior of the property.

    Lenoma, (Federation Queen Anne style) 7 Chrystobel Crescent, Hawthorn,
    Lenoma, (Federation Queen Anne style) 7 Chrystobel Crescent, Hawthorn,
  5. Ttimber verandah columns supplemented by elaborate timber decoration, often in art nouveau style –
    “Federation homes are known for their often exuberant timber ornamental decorations.
    Friezes fretwork, balustrades, art nouveau style swirled brackets and arch supports are all common.” – Manly Council
  6. Bay windows with shingles, or in large buildings, oriels on upper floors
  7. Leadlight window panes or a set of small coloured glass windows above the main window set.
  8. Low picket fences usually painted white or cream
  9. Large decorative ceilings often of pressed metal or with decorative cornices
  10. Minimal gardens with hedges.
  11. Australiana decorative detail
  12. Outdoor toilets in un-renovated houses

Keep reading… next page: Four Federation Housing styles or below, Federation Style advice

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A common Federation design designed by builders of the period

Image courtesy Manly Council NSW

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