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Artarmon Leadlight Glass

The Edwardian Period


  • The Edwardian era is defined by the reign of King Edward VII (1901-1910) following the death of Queen Victoria.

  • As an architectural style, 'Edwardian' refers to the period 1900 to 1918, also the Federation Era in Australia.

The beginning of the Twentieth Century experienced tremendous technological and social change.

  • The wonders of the modern world, which had only sprang into being in the Victorian Empire of the 1880s and 1890's brought the first rewards of modern industrialization and mass-produced abundance.

  • It was a time where Britain was at its imperial height and one in three of the world's population were her subjects ("Pink" on the world map).

  • On the other side of the Atlantic, Americans were experiencing new-found wealth and indulging in cuisine, fashion, entertainment and travel as never before, the fruits of the "Gilded Age".

  • Perhaps the Edwardian era was best captured in the English series 'Downton Abbey' and in the decoration of the passenger liner 'Titanic', the grand ocean liner which embodied human progress, opulence, and the excesses of the time.

The Edwardian era is viewed nostalgically and often called the "Gilded Age". In Britain, it was a time of peace: sandwiched between the Boer War (1899-1902) and the First World War which broke out in 1914.

  • In the words of Samuel Hynes, it was a 'leisurely time when women wore picture hats and did not vote, when the rich were not ashamed to live conspicuously, and the sun really never set on the British flag'.

  • It was also a time of great inequality, in which the privileges of the rich were made possible by the labour of their servants,

  • an age when the inequalities of wealth and poverty were starkly delineated and

  • the conventions of class were still rigidly defined - there was a place for everyone and everyone knew their place.

Edwardian Architecture

This popular English architectural period is known as ‘Federation’, as it coincides with the Federation of the Australian states and territories into the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.

Edwardian architecture drew upon elements of the Victorian style and Queen Anne revival period of 1865 to 1915.

Queen Anne ruled from 1701 to 1714, and both American and English architecture referenced the grandeur of this wealthy period, adding highly visible medieval or 'thatched' style roofing with decorated chimneys in the Picturesque fashion.

Edwardian Characteristics

Some of the most recognisable Edwardian features include

  • Red brick exteriors with embellished wood detail known as fretwork, or completely constructed in painted timber with fretwork embellishment about the verandah.

  • Red terracotta tiles or galvanised iron are generally used for roofing, which is designed with a steep pitch, featuring tall stylish chimneys.

  • The front-facing gable ends and roof eaves often feature ornate timber brackets, and timber detailing and fretwork are a common inclusion.

  • The roof design in larger homes includes a gable over each outward room, and even a turret over an ornate bay window or verandah gazebo.


Leadlight ("Stained") glass windows including doors and bay windows at the front of the home became increasingly popular during this period and often incorporated native Australian fauna and flora motifs in Art Nouveau designs.

  • Internally, Victorian-era features are still desirable, including decorated but white-painted ceilings, plaster ceiling roses, ornate cornices, tall timber skirting and architraves.

  • The Edwardian period valued marble, tile and decorative timber carpentry and joinery, leading to beautiful fretwork designs in halls and breezeways, and extravagant arches in timber, (no longer in plaster) as well as polished timber flooring, sometimes in parquetry.

  • Edwardians embraced the latest industrial products, especially in the kitchen and bathroom, and were the first houses with hot water, electric lighting and indoor toilets, provided they looked simple and stylish.

The Edwardian Period
Edwardian Architecture
Edwardian Characteristics
Babworth House aerial view

Above: Babworth House, Darling Point NSW,  built in 1912-1915

Below: The Gables, East Malvern VIC, built 1902

THE GABLES at twilight

Australian Edwardian Houses

Houses from the Edwardian era (1890-1915) were built in line with expanding tram and rail routes and can be found in leafy inner and middle ring suburbs such as (in Melbourne) Middle Park, Armadale, Hawthorn, Camberwell and Ascot Vale.

Although the Edwardian period was short compared to the Victorian era, it coincided with a housing boom in the suburbs. Particularly around the big cities, there was a huge demand for large homes and country houses that were close to railway stations for an easy commute to the city.

Why do people like them? Mark Rimell has the answer. “It was a brilliant period for construction. The Edwardians built big, solid homes with light, airy rooms and the detailing was a cut above what anyone was used to at that time.”

  • Particularly sought-after Federation/Edwardian properties are found in Sydney's Eastern and Northern suburbs, as the railways developed, and in VIctoria, Malvern's Gascoigne EstateHawthorn's Grace Park Estate and Camberwell's Tara Estate.

  • Either brick or weatherboard, such properties often have complex terracotta tiled roofs, wooden verandahs, stained glass window panels, and ornate plaster cornices and ceiling roses.

  • Scott Patterson, director of Jellis Craig in Hawthorn, says there is a strong demand for Edwardian properties. "Anything built between about 1860s and 1920s is in strong demand."

  • Expect to spend well over $2 million to $2.5 million for an unrenovated property in Grace Park, with renovated properties starting at $3.5 million. In other less well preserved areas of Kew and Hawthorn, Edwardian properties can be snared for between $1 million and $2 million.[3]



















Above: Edwardian house in England, ostentatiously showing a hallway(!) furnished with a desk and even a fireplace surmounted by a mirror, with perhaps a bench seat to the right.

Houses had wider frontages so there was often more room for a hall; in larger houses this was even used as a living room: for example, it would be furnished with a desk and perhaps even a fireplace.

  • The underlying themes of buildings and interior design of the Edwardian era were for expensive simplicity and sunshine and air.

  • Colours and detailing were lighter than in the late 19th century, looking back to the Georgian era of a century before. The desire for cleanliness continues.

  • As gas and then electric light became more widespread, walls could be lighter as they did not get so dirty, and so looked better in the brighter light. Decorative patterns were less complex, both wallpaper and curtain designs were plainer. There was less clutter than in the Victorian era.[5]

white house 5.jpg
Australian Edwardian Houses
Edwardian hallway  3_gxvk4w.jpg

Key features:

  • Externally, it is common to see red bricks or painted weatherboards (Note: 'Edwardian' often means weatherboard in Victoria, see illustration above)

  • The roof is made from slate, terracotta, or corrugated galvanised roofing and is usually gabled in form, often with finials (decorative ornaments that emphasize the apex of the roof).

  • Many Edwardian homes also feature roof shingles, which is a type of roof covering consisting of overlapping flat tiles.

  • The windows are often white-painted, timber framed and feature decorative leadlight.

  • These houses also contain timber ornamentation to the external facade which is much simpler in design than Queen Anne homes.[6]


  • Roofs steeply sloped, usually hipped roofs with wide eaves, sometimes prominent, front facing gable ends

  • Walls of red brickwork with flush joints, sometimes with cream painted render to base and gable ends or in bands on larger buildings

  • Timber houses generally have square-edged or bull-nosed weatherboards, sometimes with incised weatherboards simulating blocks of stonework, painted cream

  • Return L-shaped verandahs, roofed with corrugated bull-nosed metal and generally embellished with timber details including fretwork

  • Windows often grouped, frames painted white or cream

  • Sunshades, supported by timber brackets, are common on the North and West

Key Features
White house 1.jpg


  • Victorian period ornaments such as plaster cornices, ceiling roses, skirtings and architraves still popular

  • Leadlight Art Nouveau glass in front windows, featuring geometric and curvilinear shapes and sometimes native plants or birds

  • After the heaviness, clutter and dark colours of Victorian interiors, people wanted something new and cheerful. Edwardian style was a breath of fresh air.


  • fresh and light

  • informal, feminine

  • bamboo and wicker furniture, especially outside

  • flowers and floral patterns for carpets and upholstery

  • pastel colours

Tiffany lamp dragonfly.jpg

Influences on Edwardian style

1. Art Nouveau

When art nouveau was showcased first in Paris and then in London, there was outrage; people either loved it or loathed it. Within the style itself there are two distinct looks: curvy lines and the more austere, linear look of artists such as Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Some aspects of art nouveau were revived again in the 1960s.






















Above: Gallery of Charles Rennie Mackintosh room designs

Left: Gallery of European Art Nouveau from Wikipedia

Art Nouveau could be said to be the first 20th century modern style. It was the first style to stop looking backwards in history for ideas, taking inspiration instead from what it saw around it, in particular the natural world.

Art Nouveau characteristics
  • sinuous, elongated, curvy lines

  • the whiplash line

  • vertical lines and height

  • stylised flowers, leaves, roots, buds and seedpods

  • the female form - in a pre-Raphaelite pose with long, flowing hair

  • exotic woods, marquetry, iridescent glass, silver and semi-precious stones

  • arts and crafts - art nouveau shared the same belief in quality goods and fine craftsmanship but was happy with mass production

  • rococo style

  • botanical research

  • Charles Rennie Mackintosh - architect and designer of furniture and jewellery

  • Alphonse Mucha - posters

  • Aubrey Beardsley - book illustrations

  • Louis Comfort Tiffany - lighting

  • René Lalique - glass and jewellery

  • Émile Gallé - ceramics, glass and furniture

  • Victor Horta - architect

Get the Art Nouveau look
  • Floors - are parquet and should be stained and varnished.

  • Colour schemes - are quite muted and sombre and became known as 'greenery yallery' - mustard, sage green, olive green, and brown. Team these with lilac, violet and purple, peacock blue. Mackintosh experimented with all-white interiors.

  • Walls - can either be painted in one of the colours of the palette or off-white, or papered.

  • Wallpaper - designs are highly stylised flowers, particularly poppies, water lilies and wisteria; branches, tendrils, leaves, stems, thistles, pomegranates; peacock feathers, birds and dragonflies.

  • Tiles - use in panels and intersperse patterned ones with white. A technique called tube lining was used to make the design stand out from the surface - think of piping icing on a cake.

  • Furniture - Mackintosh is renowned for extremely high-backed chairs in glossy black lacquer. If that's not your style go for curvy shapes upholstered in a stylised floral fabric.

  • Stained glass - panels went in doors as well as furniture - wardrobe doors, cabinets, mirrors etc, with curved leading for the stalks and leaves, ending in a flower made from pearly enamels or semi-precious stones such as amethysts.

  • Door handles - beaten metal for door handles and light fittings are perfect for that handmade finish.

  • Lighting - you've got to have a Tiffany lamp - the beautiful umbrella-shape rainbow of favrile glass with bronze and metal latticework. Original ones cost the earth but most of the high streets stores produce very good imitations.

  • Fireplaces - look for cast iron hoods with the raised sinuous curves of flowers growing up each side and tiles. Many original ones can be picked up in salvage yards but make sure you know whether you're buying a repro or an original. If you're unsure whether a salvaged item is art nouveau, study the design carefully: it should grow from the ground upwards with a continuous organic movement.

  • Ornaments - in silver, pewter and glass. There are hundreds of outlets selling Mackintosh-style clocks, frames, jewellery boxes etc. Typical art nouveau glass is iridescent with patterns of liquid oil. Lalique glass is usually a pearly opaque with etched designs.

  • Flowers - and peacock feathers are the epitome of art nouveau style.

Influences on Edwardian style
Art Nouveau
Art Nouveau characteristics
Get the Art Nouveau look

Above: Edwardian Hallway in  Lurnea, 85 Oxley Road Hawthorn Vic


Above: Edwardian House at 40 Calypso Avenue Mosman NSW

Below: 14 South Parade, Bedford Park by C. F. A. Voysey 1890

Voysey 14 South Parade Bedford Park

Influences on Edwardian Style


2. Arts and Crafts ​(c.1860 to 1910)

The arts and crafts movement was made up of English designers and writers who wanted a return to well-made, handcrafted goods instead of mass-produced, poor quality machine-made items. 

  • Inspired by socialist principles and led by William Morris, the members of the movement used the medieval system of trades and guilds to set up their own companies to sell their goods.

  • Unfortunately, it had the reverse effect and, apart from the wealthy middle classes, hardly anyone could afford their designs.

  • Visually, the style has much in common with its contemporary Art Nouveau and it played a role in the founding of Bauhaus and modernism.














Left: CFA Voysey designs

Right: William Morris wallpapers



  • handmade

  • simple forms with little ornamentation

  • beauty of natural materials

  • copper and pewter - often with a hammered finish

  • stylised flowers, allegories from the Bible and literature, upside down hearts, Celtic motifs


  • medieval styles - the Gothic revival led by AN Pugin

  • socialism - the ideas of John Ruskin and early Marx, especially the de-humanising effects of industrialisation

  • the Orient - the pared-down quality of Japanese art


The names

Abide by William Morris' s belief, 'Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful '

The Names
Further Reading
Arts and Crafts
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