Story: Domestic architecture

Page 2. Early 20th-century domestic architecture

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Big Edwardian houses

Like their late 19th-century predecessors, architect-designed houses of the Edwardian period (1902–10) were often grand in scale. Some featured boards fixed to exterior walls to suggest the half-timbering of Elizabethan or Tudor architecture. This was a reaction against the more intense ornamentation of the Victorians and a reference to a pre-industrial language of comparative restraint. Inside, wood panelling was used where practicable, particularly in entry foyers and grand stairwells. Some houses still had an adjoining servants’ wing of smaller scale.

These trends are readily apparent in Daresbury, Christchurch (1897–1901), by Samuel Hurst Seager, and in the lower North Island homesteads designed by Charles Natusch, such as Bushy Park, Whanganui (1906), and Maungaraupi Homestead, Marton (1906). Wellington architect Joshua Charlesworth was doing similar work, including at Homewood, Karori (1903), and Brancepeth Station Homestead in Wairarapa (1905).


With its shaped gables, Dunedin’s Olveston (1904–7) is sometimes described as Jacobean (the 17th-century movement that followed Elizabethan). It was designed by the well-known English architect Sir Ernest George and supervised by a local firm, Mason and Wales. It is a brick house, pebble-dash rendered with Ōamaru stone facings and, internally, all modern conveniences including central heating.

Arts and crafts

In the Edwardian period, an increasing number of New Zealand architects became interested in the arts and crafts movement, led by English social reformer William Morris in the second half of the 19th century. Morris was concerned that industrialised production was soul-destroying for workers and advocated a return to handcrafting.

In New Zealand, the buildings of James Chapman-Taylor best demonstrate Morris’s emphasis on crafting, including trowel-finished plaster, hand-adzed timbers, hand-forged iron door and window latches, and much built-in furniture. Chapman-Taylor travelled to England in 1909 to meet the movement’s protagonists and returned to produce key houses such as Plas Mawr in New Plymouth (1913) and Whare Ra in Havelock North (1913). More generally, the movement promoted simplicity, directness, clean lines and a delight in the textures of building materials. Other examples include:

  • the Basil Hooper-designed Scoular House in Dunedin (1911)
  • Gerald Jones’s Hanna House in Remuera, Auckland (1915)
  • William Gummer’s Tauroa Homestead in Havelock North (1916).

English and neo-Georgian

English domestic architecture remained popular in New Zealand architectural circles between the world wars. With hipped and gabled roofs, such houses are generally considered to be traditional and thus comparatively conservative, in some cases with neo-Georgian symmetry and an awareness of American colonial precedents. Examples include:

  • Cecil Wood’s Bishopscourt in Christchurch (1926)
  • Helmore and Cotterill’s Vogel House in Lower Hutt (1933)
  • Gummer and Ford’s Te Mata Homestead, near Havelock North (1935).

American influences

Throughout this period, American influences were increasingly apparent. The Christchurch house Los Angeles, in the suburb of Fendalton (around 1909–13), was one of New Zealand’s first, and best, Californian bungalows. Waiohika (1920–26) in Gisborne, by Louis Hay, was a local variation on American architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s ‘prairie houses’ of the early 1900s.

The American film industry then helped to popularise art deco and streamlined moderne styles. Both were given fullest expression in public and commercial buildings, but also influenced domestic architecture in the 1930s, including detached houses and, notably, apartment buildings, which ranged from two to seven storeys. Examples include:

  • Kerridge House in Gisborne (around 1935), designed by Birr and Mirfield for cinema magnate Sir Robert Kerridge
  • Cintra Flats in central Auckland (1936), by Horace Massey
  • Anscombe Flats in Wellington’s Oriental Bay (1937), by Edmund Anscombe.
How to cite this page:

Julia Gatley, 'Domestic architecture - Early 20th-century domestic architecture', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 16 July 2024)

Story by Julia Gatley, published 22 Oct 2014