A Victorian Villa with a claw-foot bath, marble kitchen and white shuttered windows….
If there is an era of housing which is more beloved than any other in Melbourne,
it would probably be the Late Victorian Villa,
with its ornate cast iron lace and elaborate mouldings,
deep verandahs of tessellated tiles
and a simple floor plan based on a central corridor.
The astonishing wealth of the city, courtesy of the Gold Rush,
was reflected in the ornate details of the exterior of homes,
(pin tucked stone or brick, coloured glass windows, iron lace),
all intended to display one's success in the young colony,
even on smaller, single level houses.
This era of housing lasted from 1875 to 1901,
encompassing the extraordinary boom years of the 1880s,
when the city doubled in size,
as immigrants flocked in from all over the world
to share in the wealth both from the gold,
and also from the supply industries such as transport, tools and food.
Built in 1890, this villa in Coburg, called Lilberta,
reflected the contemporary love of ornate detail, in both the exterior and interior,
even though it was actually quite a modest house in scale.
Look carefully, and you can even see a moulded architrave under these window sills.
Cast iron lace patterns began to incorporate the fern fronds of the native plants,
a motif which would become more and more popular as Australia
reached a sense of independence from Britain.
Floor plans were based on the central corridor,
with a prominent front door in the middle of the house,
surrounded by small windows - often of coloured glass.
The central corridor gave access to the "good rooms" at the front of the house:
the parlour and the dining room,
where visitors would be admitted,
and behind those two rooms, to the bedrooms.
There would have generally been a lean-to type construction at the rear,
housing the kitchen and staff quarters,
which has now been replaced with an open plan extension
in this example.
The new extension has incorporated many of the stylised mouldings and details
from the original section, such as panelled timber doors, deep cornices
and an elaborate fireplace.
If you recognise this kitchen
it's probably because it has been photographed for Home Beautiful,
and is a great example of combining old and new elements in a practical manner.
Pressed tin was used both on ceilings and below dado rails,
as a rather practical way to protect the walls against knocks and bumps.
It's possible to still get these charming panels,
which can look fabulous when incorporated into unexpected places,
such as cupboard doors or on banquettes.
There is only one bathroom in this house - which would draw a gasping of breath
amongst most families, but of course, in 1890, even one bathroom was a luxury….
How times have changed!
The house is going to auction later this month,
and is expected to fetch around $850 - $925k.
I shouldn't expect they will have any trouble selling it under the hammer,
because with its white shuttered tall windows,
polished floors and a sense of old-meets-new,
it's a style of renovated history which appeals to a lot of people.
Would you love to live here?