Renovating a Federation Home
This page is compiled from
- hipages.com.au > Categories > Builders > Renovation Articles > Renovating a Federation Home
- David Harvey, Architect, illustrator and historical advisor to the What house is that? booklet
- See also Renovation, Manly guide
- See also Queen Anne restoration
The Federation style is one of Australia’s greatest contributions to architecture. While the style contains elements of British and American design, it was uniquely adapted to suit the Australian climate and lifestyle.
Whether you choose to have your Federation home renovation adhere strictly to its original appearance or to add modern touches, understanding the style and its origins can help ensure that your home remains faithful to its roots.
Federation homes were not defined as such until long after the Federation era in Australia passed. At the time, Australian architects and builders
Some of the hallmarks of a Federation home that distinguish it from Victorian architecture include:
While deep red and dark brown brick was the most commonly used building material, less expensive materials like fibro were also used and are still recognised as Federation style if other stylistic features are included in the home’s design.
There are several common ways of renovating a Federation home:
For the ultimate Federation home restoration, get an architect or interior designer with a background in the style to help you. Together, you can create a home that reflects your modern lifestyle and at the same time honours our rich Australian heritage.
Related Renovation Story:
by Tony Potter
Period homes offer buyers a dose of romance,nostalgia and an opportunity to add value in different ways. But there are special considerations if you’re doing up a piece of history.
- Period home renovators have been popular for some years,
and show no sign of slowing down.
- In the purest sense, restoring a period home is different to renovating
an ordinary house or apartment.
- If you enoy the challenge as much as the end result, it’s probably for you.
Period homes can also also be costly to renovate, because you’re confined
by style or regulations. However, though some traditional materials may be
more expensive, they may last longer than a cheap and modern substitute
– so you’re saving over time.
- If the charm and potential of a period fixer upper has captured you,
these tips will help you stay on course.
- What can you change and what can’t you?
- Properties that are heritage-listed by governments have restrictions
on alterations and additions, so check on these before signing anything
or undertaking any improvements.
- You probably covered this when you purchased the property – and if not,
get across it immediately. You may not be able to add a second level, or
tamper with certain fixtures or features.
- Know how much freedom you have before you plan out your work.
- Learn as much as you can about the period and style of your property.
Explore different incarnations of that style around the country, and try and
find imagery and information about your home and neighbourhood specifically.
- Wikipedia has a great run down of Australian architectural styles as a
The local library or council may have photographs or plans you can consult.
Some councils around Australia also provide complimentary heritage advisory
services to help you preserve the look and spirit of the location.
- The primary heritage body in your state is an invaluable resource.
They usually have a list of contractors and suppliers that specialise in period
homes of the region and can help you bring yours to life faithfully and safely.
Heritage Victoria’s ‘What house is that?’ is a great example of the resources available.
- These bodies don’t usually have commercial interests, so will be able to
offer objective advice based on the integrity of the building and overall impact.
- Heritage Victoria’s ‘What house is that?‘ is a great resource for period renovators
- Appointing an architect, designer or builder who has experience in
heritage projects is highly recommended. Period homes have different
demands and may involve rare or unusual skills and techniques.
- Check their track record, portfolio and licensing, as you would any
- It’s worth investing in the right person to save the costs of redoing
- Colour schemes are an important aspect of a period home, and
renovators should choose their tones carefully when repainting,
especially for the front.
- Check the zoning and take a wider perspective by considering the location,
the amenity and the demographic shifts in the area. In other words,
don’t fixate on period features and ignore all else.
- Look for original period fittings and ones that are rare or difficult to replicate.
High ceilings, big bedrooms, and interesting aspects of interior design.
- If you want to restore with original colours, you can hire a professional
to uncover the original paintwork and get samples of the old paint chips.
If you can’t get it spot on, see if you can identify the colours of nearby or neighbourhood homes and match them to authentically evoke the era.
- Also take note of differences state to state. Popular colours for 1950s
homes in Victoria may be quite different in Sydney, or Perth, even if the
architectural styles are similar.
- Think long term, especially if your favourite period home is a little out of budget.
- Who’s to say that homes built in the 1960s or 1970s can’t be classified as a period home? They are already, and their heritage value will grow and change as time ticks on.
- Well-located period homes are now the offices of lawyers, doctors and accountants. While that’s as much to do with location as heritage, it does show the potential of Australia’s architectural legacy.