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Extravagant Houses in Australia
Storybook Style Houses in Australia
Storybook style houses are 1920s-1930s buildings inspired by Hollywood fantasy set design, such as for Walt Disney productions.
The storybook style is a nod toward the Hollywood design technically called Provincial Revivalism and more commonly called Fantasy, Fairy Tale or Hansel and Gretel.
While there is no specific definition of what makes a house storybook style, the main factor may be a sense of playfulness and whimsy.
Most Storybook houses seemed snapped out of a craggy old-world village with intentionally uneven roofs, lots of cobblestone, doors and windows which may look mismatched and odd-shaped. (Wikipedia)
Storybook style homes, initially a product of the American 1920's, show a distinct flair for theatre, a love of fine craftsmanship and a love of whimsy. Note that we are NOT referring to building companies of the same name.
Storybook style homes thus have three attributes:
They show exaggerated and cartoonish medieval design
they suggest great age with clever use of artificial materials
they embody 'whimsy', a joy in creation, and are not meant to be taken seriously.
Roots of Storybook style:
Storybook style grew out of the Picturesque fashion championed in Britain by use of the vernacular forms of architects such as John Nash, who produced some of the most theatrically picturesque homes which were built there.
Nash is famous for his Royal Brighton Pavilion for the ruling Prince Regent, which in 1815 produced a 'Middle Eastern mirage of onion domes and minarets.'
In 1811, Nash also produced a group of nine cottages in Blaise, Gloucestershire, which show medieval designs using thatched roofs, and irregular massing to lend an air of antiquity to the buildings.
Other Picturesque creations for British Royalty are
Windsor Castle (George III and George IV renovated and rebuilt Charles II's palace at colossal expense, producing the current design of the State Apartments) and
Balmoral (by architect William Smith of Aberdeen),
which are more modern fake castles than real historical castles, much like
King Ludwig II's Neuschwanstein.
Arts and Crafts
The Red House built for William Morris in 1859, used a vernacular design palette which re-awakened interest in simplicity and hand craftsmanship and which gave birth to the Arts and Crafts movement.
Other influences on Storybook style are found in Art Nouveau and the creations of Antoni Gaudi. Read more on our page: Art Nouveau.
Above and Below: Storybook English Castles:
Top: Windsor Castle, updated by King Georges III and IV who renovated and rebuilt Charles II's palace at colossal expense,
Below: Balmoral Castle, completed in 1856 and the old castle demolished shortly thereafter.
Above: The Royal Pavillion at Brighton, UK
An early enclave of Storybook Style homes can be found in the subdivision of Hollywoodland, in the hills Northwest of Los Angeles, developed by S.H. Woodruff and Tracy Shoults, who advertised their development by constructing a fifty-foot high sign spelling out Hollywoodland on the slopes of Mt Lee.
Hollywoodland's dramatic setting inspired flamboyant medieval-inspired home designs built by a wealthy clientele including actors Bela Lugosi, Humphrey Bogart, and Gloria Swanson. Other home-owners were cellist Efrem Zimbalist and gangster Bugsy Siegel.
Sharply pointed roofs and sloping, curved walls
Handmade doors and windows
Peaked gables, and high turrets
Internal ceiling beams
Superbly crafted masonry and woodwork
Below: Image gallery from the book "Storybook Style". illustrated at left
Extravagant Houses in Australia
Fortuna Villa, Bendigo VIC
IT WAS the biggest house in Australia, an opulent 19th century mansion eccentrically decorated by a man with unbridled wealth and questionable taste.
Fortuna Villa was made famous by decades of extensions and decoration by gold baron George Lansell and his wife in Bendigo.
Now owned by Paul Banks all 70 rooms have been renovated and the house is open for tours and weddings.
CONSTRUCTION: Predominately stucco (often roughly troweled), frequently with half-timbering (often curved); use of rubble stone, crazed brick, and clinker brick are common; all-stone, all-brick, and all-wood construction are sometimes used. Turrets with conical roofs are a common feature, as are faux dovecotes.
WALLS: Often sloped or curving; almost never square or rectangular; wing walls are not uncommon.
ROOFLINES: Always curved in some way—swaybacked, sagged, concave, undulating or sharply pointed; never flat and seemingly never of the straight- and equal-sided triangular form; gables are usually jerkinhead or very sharply pointed; eaves are often rolled; use of catslides is common.
ROOFING MATERIALS: Most often wooden shingles, wooden shakes, or slate laid down in a seawave or other intentionally irregular pattern; though the original materials have frequently been replaced over time, the irregular pattern is sometimes imitated in the more modern material.
DOORS: Round-topped or batten (occasionally both), often with a peek-a-boo; doors are frequently set in an arched doorway lined with stone; when turret is present, the building's front door typically opens into this.
WINDOWS: Sometimes wood-framed but often steel-framed (presumably to more closely resemble medieval windows); on older homes, the glass (unless replaced) is leaded or wavy; figural insets of stained glass are not uncommon.
CHIMNEYS: Chimneys are seldom regular in appearance; most feature a combination of stucco and seemingly haphazardly-placed stone or brick.
IRONWORK: Wrought iron door hinges, handles, knockers, and locksets are common, as are other wrought iron embellishments.
OTHER: Most storybook structures are fairly small, though many make use of deceptive perspective to trick the eye into perceiving them as being larger than they really are
Storybook Style Houses in Australia
Mystic Falls, 7 Perrins Road Olinda VIC 3788
This magical property known as "Mystic Falls", also has 9.25 acres of glorious natural landscape and architecturally inspiring gardens. Sold for $1.6 million in 2016
This completely renovated residence has been totally updated to the most exacting standards.
Elegant features and high-spec design provide sumptuous comfort and opulence throughout.
Fine finishes are apparent with hand crafted spiral timber staircase and leadlight windows in the turret, imported marble floor tiles in the foyer, kitchen, and on the 5 balconies, circa 1800's French and Italian chandeliers, solid brass antique lighting throughout , and rich wood wainscoting.
11 Alexandra Avenue, South Yarra VIC 3141
Magnificent 1930’s solid brick home showcasing exquisite period features, expansive room proportions, five bedrooms plus study with generous living spaces and an abundance of natural light on an elevated 730m2 approx. allotment overlooking the picturesque banks of the Yarra.
Pretty enough to have come straight from a picture book.
You could imagine the decorative arched timber door being opened by Snow White; discovering Goldilocks fast asleep in one of the attic-style bedrooms; or peering through a diamond-leadlight casement window to see Rumpelstiltskin spinning gold from straw.
12 St Johns Parade, Kew, Vic 3101
Sold on 15 Jun 2013 for $1,697,000
The OAST House 18 Clarinda Avenue Faulconbridge
LAYOUT - Main House: 4 living rooms, including huge oak panelled formal lounge/pool room, family media room (or snug) with feature stone walls & built in cabinetry. An interior of beautiful settings where quality materials and hand crafting evoke a warm inviting ambience. Timber kitchen with exposed beams, and slate floor.
LOCATION - Nestled in a private and tranquil location at Faulconbridge with a glorious bush setting, conveniently positioned 350m to train and only 450m to bus and entrance to the Sir Henry Parkes Victory Track bush walk.
STYLE - 18th Century style, hand built sandstone character filled English country manor, including the only Oast house in mainland Australia. An individual property of exceptional character with picturesque views from every window.
Ravenswood, 113 Mountain View Road, Mount Eliza, Vic 3930
A story book Tudor with a double story facade, with arched doors, lofty ceilings with exposed rough sawn beams and a series of imposing reception rooms.
Sold on 23 Oct 2017 for $1,162,000.
Wikipedia on Storybook House Style
Our pages on
Introducing Storybook style architecture - Daily Mail Wednesday, Feb 7th 2018
Mansion built on gold goes on sale - NINO BUCCI JUN 20, 2012
Storybook Style — 1920 to 1930s
Storybook Style: America's Whimsical Homes of the Twenties by Arrol Gellner