1940-60s typical layout

Orientation for sun, and efficient use of space, were hallmarks of state house layout.

Typical layout

With early state houses, the internal layout ensured that all habitable rooms received sunlight for at least part of the day. The living room was located to receive maximum sunlight, kitchens were generally located to receive morning sun and bedrooms morning or afternoon sun.

By altering the layout of spaces within the dwelling and changing the position of porches and windows, a wide range of plan variations was possible.

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The design had both the front and back doors set in recessed porches that were positioned to provide shelter from the prevailing wind.

To minimise space devoted to circulation such as hallways, the front door opened either onto a narrow hallway off which rooms were accessed, or, in some cases, the front door opened directly into the living room.

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Living areas

The living room was the largest room in the house and intended to be the hub of family life.

The windows of state houses were positioned as much as possible to avoid looking into the windows and porches of adjacent properties and, although a view of the street was considered an advantage, it only occurred where the sunlight access was not compromised.

By the 1960s, it became more common for homes to have an additional family space or formal lounge. These were more typical in privately built homes.

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Kitchen and dining areas

The first state houses were designed with a dining alcove in the living room, and the kitchen was used for food preparation and cooking only. However, an early survey indicated that tenants preferred to have cooking and dining spaces combined, so floor plans were soon adapted.

Kitchens were modern for their time, with built-in sink bench units and storage and an electric range. The hot water cupboard was sometimes in the kitchen and sometimes in the laundry or hallway.

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The houses typically contained two or three small bedrooms, but one-bedroom as well as four and five-bedroom homes were also built. All bedrooms included a built-in wardrobe.

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Bathrooms and laundries

Rooms containing plumbing services – the kitchen, bathroom and laundry – were grouped together to reduce plumbing costs.

The single bathroom contained a bath, a hand basin, a wall-mounted medicine cabinet and a towel rail, and the toilet was generally in a separate room.

Access from the back door to the rest of the house was often through the laundry. It contained two concrete tubs and, in later state houses, a washing machine was provided instead of a copper.

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The Housing Department introduced a range of different styles to meet different needs and to find lower-cost housing alternatives by experimenting with different methods of building. Most of the alternative styles were not built in large numbers.

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Open plan

They included Hammond and Wilson houses, built in the early 1950s and named after the architects who designed them. They featured an open plan layout in an attempt to make better use of the floor space by reducing hallways.

Although initially not popular, the open plan concept became part of the state-owned housing construction programme in 1954, when they were interspersed with other styles. By 1955, one third of state-owned housing was built with an open plan layout.

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Partially completed and expanding houses

During 1953-54, the government built a number of houses that were left unfinished so the home owners could purchase a new home at a lower cost and complete it themselves.

Expanding houses – these houses, built during the 1950s, were designed as small houses but with view to being able to easily be extended as required.

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Increasing variety

The late 1960s saw increasing variation in plan forms, including L and T shapes or shallow vees or a boomerang (departing from the rectangular plan).

See 1940s-60s typical building form for other variations.