The Classical Villa

For many years now I have loved New Zealand Villas, the style, design and period furniture, but it wasn’t until I researched this housing type for an assignment that I truly feel in love with it.

From the large bay windows, to the decorative fretwork, every inch of a Villa has an element of class and sophistication to it.

These houses began to appear in the 1880’s from a small symmetrical box cottage with a small veranda out the front and a return front gable forming the typical “T” plan with a bay window. With the growth of New Zealand at the time and the success and wealth of some business men, the demand for large expensive houses became evident in this time thus architects designed the Villa style. The Villa took aspects from the Italianate style, taking classical details such as the mouldings on the veranda posts, paneling under the bay window and cresting of the top of the bay windows. It also combined details from the Queen Anne style such as decorative turned finials, decorative barge boards and timber valances under the veranda roofs. By the early 20th century plans became more complicated with details such as double bay windows, corner-angle bay windows and even two storey Villas. With popularity growing, some New Zealand timber companies started to publish catalogues showing a wide range of decorative timber details to enhance windows, verandas, gables and roofs.


The interiors of these Villas were beautifully decorated with features such as timber ceilings with beautiful ceiling roses, Kauri or Rimu flooring and features, and pressed metal features, such as ceilings in the “important” rooms. As the era the Villas were built in was a very conservative and private era, visitors were only allowed into the two front room, with hallways having an arch or lintel to separate the private and public spaces within the house. This arch or lintel usually had a curtain hanging from it so visitors couldn’t see into the more private parts of the house.


Popular colours for the exterior of these house were dark reds, browns, greens with interiors colours carefully chosen to harmonise with each other, with common colours including crimsons, buffs, blues, greys, browns, reds, tans, olives, terracottas, greens, and golds.

From doing this assignment I have learned so many new and interesting things about Villas, however some not so great for living in nowadays. I had no idea what a picture rail, a horizontal strip of wood on a wall from which pictures can be hung, or dado rail, a decorative waist-high moulding round the wall of a room, which also protects the wall from damage, were before doing this assignment.


The downfall to living in these homes nowadays are that Villas were always designed to look amazing from the street so the houses were always facing towards the street taking no consideration to the direction of North or South, meaning that these houses can be quite cold to live in now.

Even though this is a major impact on how we live today, I would still love to live in or renovate a Villa some day as I feel the character and style of these house out way the negatives.



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