California Bungalows: Part 4, Style Trends in Melbourne’s Northern Suburbs

Over the last three weeks, we’ve examined in detail every aspect of the Californian Bungalow. We started with its early origins in India, followed by its perfection and proliferation in California and throughout the US. Next, we covered its antipodean migration during the early part of the 20th Century and the unique distinctions of the California Bungalow in Australia. For this, our final blog in the Californian Bungalow series, we’ll be taking a closer look at how the California Bungalow shaped and was shaped by Melbourne’s vibrant northern suburbs.

The Californian Bungalow and Melbourne’s Northside Culture

To denizens of Melbourne, the term “northside” conjures a particular lifestyle, one defined by warehouse parties, vintage clothing, and an almost religious fervour surrounding the preparation and consumption of coffee. While the very young throng to Brunswick, Coburg, and other suburbs for the nightlife and arts culture, the area is also home to a number of other notable demographics. In the mid- to late 20th Century, the area became home to a thriving immigrant population, mostly from Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries. In fact, outside of Athens and Cyprus, Melbourne has the largest Greek population of any country in the world, and the community is largely concentrated within the city’s inner north. It was often these immigrant families who moved into the newly built Californian Bungalows.

The north is also home to many young and growing families, especially further afield in suburbs like Thornbury, Northcote, and Fairfield. These families are looking for a spacious, comfortable home but are still drawn by the excitement and career opportunities offered by the big city. If they’re very lucky (and sufficiently solvent), some are still able to snap up a Californian Bungalow at auction.

Finding a Californian Bungalow in Melbourne Today

Getting hold of a Californian Bungalow in Melbourne today is becoming increasingly difficult. From 1913 to the mid 1940s, Californian Bungalows were so popular that virtually no other style of residential family home was built in Australia. The spacious, versatile floor plan, elegant but homely design, and inviting outdoor spaces made these the obvious choice for anyone planning to start a family. The market was far less crowded and the houses themselves much more affordable.

In 2021, as any current or prospective homeowner will tell you, it’s a very different story. The homes being built today tend to be smaller, especially those in the inner suburbs, and predictably they are usually designed to reflect a more modern aesthetic. Californian Bungalows boast ample space and timeless appeal, and they can be found much closer to the inner city than most other homes of comparable size. So when someone gets a Californian Bungalow, they’re very likely to hold on to it for as long as they can. Just this June, a Californian Bungalow in Essendon went to auction that had been owned by the same family for 95 years!

However, the fact that these houses tend to be older can work in your favour. Many people don’t want to take on a potential fixer-upper, or they may not realise how a quality extension can transform a heritage building into a modern family home. This is just the kind of project we love at Hylton Constructions.

Californian Bungalow Extensions and Present Day Design Trends

As the Californian Bungalow boom in Australia began over a century ago, many of the houses are now getting on in age. Many homeowners have chosen to update their home with a modern extension. While this style of home generally offers more space than others, homeowners often opt to create even more common space with a large, A-frame extension. It is also common to build an extension that introduces more natural lighting with the use of large windows.

When adding an extension to a Californian Bungalow, it is best to try to blend the existing portion of the home with the new structure. This doesn’t mean that you’ll need to sift through antique stores to find a particular doorknob from 1927. You can still add your own modern twist, but if you try to add a space-age, super-minimalist extension onto your early Twentieth Century home, you’re very likely to be dissatisfied with the results.

Present day owners of Californian Bungalows rarely perform any drastic changes to the front of the house. After all, the distinctive design features of the Californian Bungalow’s facade are a big part of what makes it such a sought-after style of home. You can and should perform any required maintenance and you may decide that a concrete render will protect the exterior while also creating a slightly more contemporary feel, without detracting from the overall character of the house. You can also use a render and new coat of paint to help blend the front of the house with the extension on the back.

Talk to Hylton Constructions Today About Your Californian Bungalow Project

Hylton Constructions have been building extensions on period homes for over 20 years. Our expert team has the experience and expertise to make your dream home a reality, and we will work with you to ensure the final product exceeds your expectations. To start planning your Californian Bungalow extension or new build today, get in touch with us by phone or email.

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