The art deco style found its way Down Under in a myriad of architectural styles that first appeared in the 1920s and went through to as late as the 1940s. Defining the quintessential art deco style is difficult, given the disparate ways in which it was interpreted, from Georgian, through to what’s referred to as streamlined modernism. From the heavily decorative to the crisp and sharp, art deco is experiencing a revival.

1. 36 St Georges Road, Toorak

Originally built in the late 1930s/early 1940s, this house captures the graciousness and elegance of this period. Designed by architect Geoffrey Sommers, the home was extensively reworked and expanded by Inarc Architects. Although its white-painted brick façade and slate pitched roof could be at home in the Hamptons, its rear elevation, with its generous steel and glass pavilion, brings this home into the 21st century. In contrast to the home’s period details, including turned timber balustrades and original open fireplaces, the rear addition, encompassing the kitchen and informal living areas, are sleek and minimal.

2. The Langi Apartments

Location: The Corner of Toorak and Lansell Roads, Toorak

Designed by the eminent architects Walter Burley Griffin and his wife Marion Mahoney Griffin, these distinctive late 1920s apartments express the Prairie School of Architecture founded by the renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright (the Griffins worked in Wright’s office in Chicago). Low slung and with a distinctively Japanese feel, the Langi Apartments include a rich mélange of art deco features, including open fireplaces, leadlight windows and decorative ceilings. Framed by now-established lemon scented gum trees, a hallmark of the Griffins, these highly coveted apartments rarely come onto the market.

3. The Marcus Martin House

Location: 42 Wallace Avenue, Toorak

Designed by the eminent architect Marcus Martin for a Mr. Hamilton Sleigh, an oil magnate, this relatively unadorned house conceals a richness of art deco styles and detailing. Pivotal to this 1937 design is a dramatic staircase set into a double-height void that also contains a lounge with an open fireplace. French-style doors connect to the terrace, with the C-shaped floor plan creating a sense of privacy and intimacy in the process. Martin was highly prolific in the Toorak and South Yarra areas, offering a sense of the past with a hint to the future.

4. Streamlined Modernism

Location: 68 Hopetoun Road, Toorak

Prominently located on the corner of Hopetoun and Toorak roads, this striking modernist home could easily have been built today. When it was designed in the 1930s, neighbours would have been impressed with its wide steel-framed windows and its sharp modernist lines. Designed around a swimming pool and Mediterranean-style gardens, the house was ‘rescued’ by architect Michael Bialek, a director of SJB Architects, when he purchased it. The fine period detailing was restored, with subtle contemporary additions creating a fine family home.

5. B.E Architecture’s revitalisation of a 1930s classic

Location: 1 Hopetoun Road, Toorak

Originally built in the 1930s, this house has been completely reworked by B.E Architecture. Although the original structure remains intact, the rooms and layout have been significantly changed to allow for fine contemporary living. Large steel and glass windows allow the garden to feel integral to the home, with fine period-inspired details, such as curved arches and a liquid-like staircase, creating a sense of nostalgia for the magical art deco period.

Text by Stephen Crafti
Images courtesy from Peter Clarke

36 St Georges Road, Toorak


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