1970s typical building form

Most houses of this era were rectangular or L-shaped, with a low pitch roof, wide eaves, and aluminium windows and doors. Most were single storey but split-level houses were also common.

Most houses built in the 1970s were detached single-storey units (Figure 1). However, there was a trend towards semi-detached unit development, particularly on inner city sites that were being redeveloped.

Split level houses were relatively common (Figures 2 and 3). On sloping sites single level houses often had a basement garage on the low side of the site (Figure 4).

Though a range of styles was available, houses of this era typically had relatively low pitch gabled roofs with wide eaves, and aluminium windows and sliding doors. A variety of claddings was used, with rusticated weatherboards common.


Many houses were based on standard plans available from books, sometimes produced by building suppliers. Some of these houses were placed on sites that had an orientation and contour that was not suited to the plan, with decks and bridges being used to make the house fit the site. While following a prescribed plan layout, they were built in a range of styles that included:

  • colonial style, which generally had a bay window off the main living area, windows with smaller panes of glass and shutters each side of the window
  • ranch style with exposed rafters and roof beams
  • Spanish or Mediterranean style with arches and stucco cladding
  • contemporary style with skillion roofs and glazing to gables
  • split-level style with garage below
  • the mansard-roofed dwelling, often built with a skillion roof and dormer windows to allow the roof space to be developed (Figure 5).

The A-frame house was another style that flourished briefly in the 1970s. It consisted of a steeply-pitched roof that eliminated the need for external walls on two sides of the building. It was popular because it was relatively cheap to build and was often found as a beachside holiday home or as an alpine lodge.

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Roof pitches during the 1970s and early 1980s were typically 12-15°. However, there were a number of exceptions. For example, it was common in the Wellington region to have unequal pitched roofs or steeply pitched roofs and shed dormers to give sufficient upstairs headroom.

Many 1970s houses had gable trussed roofs, often with skillion construction over living areas.

Dutch gables were also common on a number of spec-built homes, while other roof forms used were the mansard, reverse mansard, and the mono pitch or lean-to.

With lower-pitch roofs, the roof space access was limited when a level ceiling was installed, and was non-existent for skillion roofs.

Eaves were wider than in the 1950s-60s, often providing the only protection to doors and windows as there was often no defined porch or veranda (though exterior doors were sometimes located in a shallow recess to give some shelter).

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Many different types of wall cladding were used. While brick veneer remained popular, other claddings included rusticated weatherboard, asbestos-cement planks or sheets, concrete block, plastic interlocking weatherboards, plywood, board and batten, hardboard, pebble-coated steel vertical profiled panels, metal (single) interlocking weatherboards, and moisture resistant particleboard.

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Windows were larger than they had been in previous decades, typically aluminium-framed, with clear float glass. Opening sashes were generally an awning style, with friction stays to hold them open. Smaller windows in the bathroom and toilet generally had opaque patterned glass. Coloured, patterned glass was sometimes used to allow in light but provide privacy in entranceways, staircases or hallways.

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Outdoor living

A concrete patio or terraced area (Figure 6), or a timber slatted deck, became a common feature. It was accessed from the living room, usually through a large aluminium sliding door or 'ranch slider'. The patio was not always located in the best position for sun, privacy, views, or prevailing wind direction.

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Houses of the 1970s typically had a single or double garage, often incorporated into the house with internal access.

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Architect-designed houses

Around 3-4% of houses were specifically designed by architects (Figure 7), and many others were influenced by architect-designed houses of the 1960s.

Sarked timber ceilings, dark-stained oiled timber finishes, plywood cladding and lining, external timber bracing, clerestorey and porthole windows and recycled brick were all features of architecturally-designed houses.