Federation Renovation

Renovating a Federation Home

This page is compiled from


  • See also Renovation, Manly guide
  • See also Queen Anne restoration

Renovating a Federation Home

Mar 5, 2012 by Rob Schneider
Topic: Renovation

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.

What is a Federation Home?

Federation homes were not defined as such until long after the Federation era in Australia passed. At the time, Australian architects and builders
were constructing homes in keeping with Edwardian architecture,
with touches of Art Nouveau and other late 19th century styles. The trend began in Australia in about 1890,maturing at the turn of the century, at the time of Federation. Originally considered an Australian version of Edwardian architecture, it wasn’t until 1969 that the term “Federation style” was coined to give credit to this uniquely Australian style of home.
external image period3450.jpg

Hallmarks of a Federation Home

Some of the hallmarks of a Federation home that distinguish it from Victorian architecture include:

  • Smaller size, to eliminate the need for a housekeeper and make the home affordable for the average person.
  • Decorative motifs included plants and animals from the Australian bush.
  • Wide verandas were constructed to take advantage of the warm Australian climate.
  • Federation homes often included large backyards that were used for growing vegetables.
  • Ornate details such as gables and leadlights often included a rising sun emblem, denoting the dawn of a new era for Australia.

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.
external image period1450.jpg

Renovating a Federation Home

There are several common ways of renovating a Federation home:

  • Builders and other tradespersons use the same materials to restore structural work, basically faithfully reproducing the original construction where needed and refurbishing existing components wherever possible. Modern paints and other finishing products are acceptable, but must be faithful to the original.
  • Recycled materials are used wherever possible. This is an especially effective way to make a home extension blend in with the original house.
  • Modern materials manufactured and/or rendered to look like Federation era materials are used to restore and improve badly damaged Federation homes or homes that were built from fibrous cement. Brick and stone veneers are examples of this.
  • A post modern approach to renovating Federation homes includes stylistic elements of the era and ultra-modern features that are in keeping with the original spirit of these homes. For example, double-glazed floor to ceiling windows and sliding doors may be used at the back of the home to open it up to the garden. The garden may include native flora, a spacious lawn, a gazebo, a spa, a swimming pool or a combination of features.

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.

From ‘What house is that?’

Queen Anne 1895 > 1910


external image queen_anne_house.jpg
Derived from English and American styles that revived elements from the architecture of Queen Anne’s reign (1702-14), these picturesque houses are deliberately complex, creating a kind of vigorous grandeur. Most are freestanding and set well back from the street, but terraced versions do exist. Houses usually have complex roof forms and asymmetrical floor plans. The roof form is a key feature of these houses.


  • post-Depression domestic architecture is less ornate than Late Victorian
  • Art Nouveau style of decoration becomes popular
  • preference for natural building materials like red brick and timber
  • Marseilles tiles, initially imported from France, become the typical material for roofs
  • by 1890 cable trams extend from city centre to emerging suburbs
  • Federation inspires a search for an identifiably Australian architectural style

Related Renovation Story:

A Step Back in Time

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by Tony Potter

Renovating period homes in Australia=

external image periodbw.jpg

by realestate.com.au

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.

Establish your boundaries

  • 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.


Tap local resources

  • 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
    starting point.
    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


Edwardian 1901 > WW1

Colour & Design
Exterior Colours
Detail Colours

external image edwardian_house.jpg

Utilise a specialist

  • 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
    specialist provider.
  • It’s worth investing in the right person to save the costs of redoing
    inappropriate work.


Consider colour

  • 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.


(Re)define period

  • 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.

Explore period facades in our Home Ideas Collections for more inspiration and ideas


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