Post-war Sydney home plans 1945 to 1959

For architects and prospective homeowners alike, the most seductive promise of the immediate postwar years was the prospect of a clean slate, an opportunity to build new, light-filled, houses appropriate to Australian conditions.

By means of questionnaires and polls, newspapers and magazines asked their readers to identify the essentials of the ideal postwar house. Architectural competitions called for designs suited to immediate postwar building. The plans published in response were often described as ‘basic’ or ‘minimum’ but were designed to allow for future extension.

In the 1950s the scale of architectural advice available to home builders grew enormously, as architects, department stores, home magazines and the Sunday newspapers formed a series of partnerships to provide home-plan services. These services commonly offered a complete set of house plans and specifications, prepared by an architect, at a fraction of the normal cost. Some partnerships were short-lived – the Sunday Telegraph’s plan service, offered with architect John P Ley in November 1953, lasted only a few months – but the Small Homes Service initiated by the NSW chapter of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects, and the plan bureaus established by Grace Brothers and The Australian Women’s Weekly, endured into the 1960s.

The Sunday Truth & Anthony Hordern's

In November 1953 Sydney’s Sunday Truth newspaper launched a new home-plans service for readers, in association with the department store Anthony Hordern & Sons Ltd. It was a service, according to Truth, ‘whereby the man in the street, striving to build his own home, may have the expert help of a leading Australian architect at absolute minimum cost’. Truth’s architect was Harry Divola, a prominent designer of modernist houses in Sydney and director of the home-planning bureau of the Australian Legion of Ex-Servicemen and Women.

The Small Homes Service (NSW)

On 1 December 1953 the NSW chapter of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects opened a Small Homes Service, which it had been trying to get off the ground since 1945, in collaboration with Australian Home Beautiful and the Sun-Herald. The service, located on the fifth floor of David Jones’ George Street department store, was geared to providing designs for low-cost houses for the average wage earner. At the same time, the institute intended the plan service to raise the standard and appreciation of good domestic design.

Grace Bros & the Sunday Telegraph

Grace Bros Home Plans Service, established in association with the Sunday Telegraph, Sydney, was launched in April 1954 and operated from the ground floor of Grace Bros furniture store in Broadway. It offered the prospective home builder an architectural advisory service, a range of stock plans, and specially prepared plans drawn to the client’s individual requirements. The store also ran a free decorating advisory bureau beside a full-sized, fully furnished Hudson’s ‘Ready- Cut’ model home. Grace Bros opened a second Home Plans Service in September 1957 in the newly built Parramatta store. A new plan was published each week in the local newspaper, the Cumberland Argus.

Australian House and Garden

In February 1952 Australian House and Garden published plans for the first of its ‘Build-it-yourself’ homes. This was described as ‘a simple but adequate home, which any man with common sense and the basic knowledge of the use of tools could build himself’. The large number of prospective ownerbuilders struggling with shortages of labour and materials made this a highly sought-after home plan. Its success led to the publication and sale by Australian House and Garden of more plans for small homes, and gave rise to a series of booklets. The first, issued in 1955, was titled Book of small homes.

The Australian Women's Weekly

The Australian Women’s Weekly launched its first home-plans service in November 1954, with architect John P Ley adapting a series of US designs for Australian conditions. In late 1956 a new service began in association with Melbourne retailer Myers. Its success led to its expansion into Sydney with a Home Planning Centre established in September 1957 on the third floor of Anthony Hordern & Sons department store. The service published home-plan booklets, and a plan in the Australian Women’s Weekly each week. An advisory bureau offered assistance to intending home owners on such issues as the selection of plans to suit each site, types of materials required and interior decoration. In February 1960 Melbourne architects Borland and Trewenack became the new directors, operating the service until it was discontinued in November 1965.

Woodgraining tools, rollers, stamps, combs

Caroline Simpson Collection

Home and garden design, history and life

Published on