I feel that the post war ‘austerity houses’ are an unappreciated but important part of the historic fabric of Melbourne’s suburbs. They are humble buildings, but they capture the pride and optimism of post war Australia. Although many of these houses were poorly built and small, at the time they represented a bright and boundless future, providing the backdrop for a generation of family memories. The original houses were built in the late 1940’s but were finished with many 1920’s architectural details. We took inspiration from these details and the austerity era of the house, combining traditional construction methods with highly crafted details. While many of the original architectural elements of the two houses are the same, we used contrasting design details, materials and colours to give each it’s individual personality. Understanding the architectural delight and historical context of these houses has informed the design and led to value being placed on an efficient footprint and layout. Both houses remain within their original 90sqm footprint in order to retain their large backyards. To successfully house two young families, they rely on an inventive use of space, the introduction of natural light and careful design detailing to create warm, inviting and functional family homes. We bought the first of these houses as our first home. It is one of three houses in a row, all built in the late 1940s, in a funny narrow street. We renovated it with enthusiasm, determined to create our own little pocket of domestic happiness.
We had plans for a small but carefully considered extension, so focused our efforts on the front of the house which we knew we were going to keep intact in the future. Things slowed down a little after our first baby was born but generally there was steady progress. When the very dilapidated house next door went up for sale we decided we’d try and save another little post war weatherboard. The house was built at the same time as ours, was around the same floor area and had many of the same issues. It was obviously run down but having fixed up one, we figured we roughly knew what we were in for. We had been putting money aside to finish our home and calculated that we had just enough for the deposit and a nice, but modest renovation. The second house was more than we had counted on – it had everything from missing foundations (we lifted the back of the house up 70cm!) to building repairs done with blu-tac and much, much more. Around the time we found an old pair of jocks stuffed into the wall, used to fill a crack, we decided that if we were going to finish the house up to the standard we wanted, then we would have to re-assess. We changed our plan and worked to finish the first house so we would be able to sell it, while also continuing construction on the second. At this stage we were both working while living on a building site, with another building site next door, a two year old and of course it wouldn’t be a good home building story without … another baby on the way! We made it through and now that both houses are completed, we have some lovely new neighbors and a wonderful finished home for our family.