Renovating Interwar Bungalow Style Homes in the Northern Suburbs


Front view of Interwar Bungalow Style

Flexibility and adaptability are traits that any great architect must possess, especially when it comes to a renovation project of a home that is representative of a significant era in our history.

Interwar bungalow style means exactly that – bungalow style homes built in Australia between the two World Wars.

In the early to mid 1900s, this became a hugely popular style of home, and examples can be found throughout Sydney’s North Shore suburbs.

Our approach to renovating these style homes is to pay respects to their original charm while adding modern functionality.

Old Bungalow Style Home

The history


Free standing bungalow homes came to prominence in Australia by way of designs popularised in California.

Features that characterise these houses include sloping walls, dark coloured bricks, triangular roofs, stained glass windows, a front verandah, timber flooring, bay windows, large overhangs, small entrances that open up inside, ornate cornices, high ceilings and architraves around windows and doors. Some include elements of Art Deco styling, such as curved walls and windows.

With heavy influence from America, bungalow style homes caught on rapidly. They became so popular in Australia that it was to become the commonest house form in the inter-war period.

Back view of the house with swimming pool

Investing in an Interwar Bungalow style home today


According to Playoust Churcher architect Brett Churcher, the location of these homes in older areas adds to their desirability and value.

Prior to the inter-war period, people tended to live in close proximity to rail lines. As vehicles became more prominent, people on Sydney’s North Shore moved further north and could acquire larger blocks of land. These larger sites appeal to buyers to this day.

“What also appeals to people are the specific period features such as the large proportions of the rooms, high ceilings, beautiful timber work and general aesthetic details. The window opening proportions were well scaled and pleasing to the eye,” says Brett.

In fact, the entire house is well scaled, which makes the entire building look… just right.

Its vertical proportions were also due to restricted options in building techniques. Spanning large distances was expensive for residential construction, therefore space was achieved via height.

This opens up a whole world of possibilities in bringing together the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ in interwar bungalow style homes.

Front view of a house with garage

Merging old and new


Brett and the Playoust Churcher team have undertaken renovation projects on many interwar bungalow style homes on the North Shore.

Many people fall in love with the charm of the old design styles, but they want more space and need a house that is more suitable for a modern lifestyle.

From a heritage perspective, changes to the facade of interwar bungalow style homes are fairly restricted.

This gives homeowners two main choices: are they going to add modern touches to the interior of the home, but keep the original style intact, giving the whole home a heritage feel, or do they want to create a split between old and new by incorporating open, contemporary spaces at the back of the house?

“It can be really tricky to find the sweet spot between what we’re allowed to do from a council perspective and meeting the client’s needs,” says Brett, which is why flexibility and adaptability are two key traits needed from the architect.

In these modern days, we are able to create larger spans and open spaces. One way to deal with the renovation process is to create a transition zone which links the traditional style to a more contemporary open style at the back.

“Most of our clients want to create more spacious areas at the back with modern touches, while still paying respects to the original design style of the house. In these cases, we create a softer transition from the front towards the rear,” explains Brett.

This means the renovated house would keep elements such as decorative cornices, timber flooring and windows and high ceilings.

Back view of the house with swimming pool

The challenges in renovating Interwar Bungalow style homes


In heritage conservation areas, the rules are often strict regarding what can and cannot be demolished. And these rules can be quite particular, too. For example, in some cases the walls and roof lines must remain intact, while certain interior features are allowed to be demolished.

This is where you need an architect by your side who is well versed in DA processes and who can take care of the administration surrounding the planned renovation project.

Furthermore, it takes great skill and years of experience in heritage renovations to provide a council approved home design that is suitable for your lifestyle.

At Playoust Churcher, we have the know-how to navigate the often complex DA processes and our skills are flexible to work around any restrictions that may arise.

Talk to us about your interwar bungalow style renovation project – we’d be more than happy to help.

Read more North Shore design articles.

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