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Art Deco Gems In Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs

By June 28, 2023 No Comments

Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs are home to a range of architecture in almost every style and era.

But perhaps the most perennially popular style is Art Deco.

We take a look at exactly what Art Deco is and where you can find it in Sydney’s Eastern Beaches and Eastern Suburbs.

What is Art Deco?

Art Deco emerged in Europe in the 1920s and took its name from the “International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts” held in Paris in 1925.

Known for its symmetry and simplicity, and for decorative features like geometric brickwork and chimneys, interior art deco styling included stained glass, ceiling moulds and elaborate cornices. According to ArchDaily, Art Deco was:

“Influenced by the abstract and geometric forms of Cubism, the bright colours of Fauvism, and the exoticized crafts and styles of countries such as China, Japan, and Egypt… From the 1930s, however, the style began to establish a closer dialogue with industrial manufacturing and the possibility of mass production.”

Art Deco landmarks across the world include the Chrysler Building and Empire State Building in New York (think concrete and steel) and the sculpture of Christ the Redeemer in Rio.

Whole cities, including Miami in the USA and Napier in New Zealand, are famous for their distinctive Art Deco architecture and its famous shades of yellow, green and blue.

Beyond architecture, Art Deco also influenced all forms of art and design – from film to fashion, as well as interior and graphic design.

Aficionados will know that there are also different types of Art Deco architecture, from the curves, render and ocean liner vibe of nautical-deco/P&O-style Art Deco, to the more functionalist style. Spanish mission and Californian Bungalows were also popular during the Art Deco era.

The Art Deco period in Australia roughly spanned the interwar period, from the 1920s to the 1940s. As Randwick Council explains:

“Art Deco architecture contrasted starkly with the more ornate Victorian and Federation periods. Art Deco had a pure, no nonsense simplicity, and an uncluttered design style and has a timelessness which makes it still one of the most popular periods of design and architecture in our history.”

“The 1920s-1940s saw an explosion of residential building activity in Randwick and Coogee, catering for the boom in population between the wars… Art Deco architecture and objects reflected a time of unprecedented change in the world, and its clean, geometric design was appealing to many in a world that would continue to rapidly change.”

Art Deco apartment living

The building boom during the art deco period led to the popularity of apartment living. An advertisement from the Sydney Morning Herald on 9 June 1936 sells a new opportunity in Bondi:

“New flats, known as The Vanderbilt, have been completed at Bennett and Stephen Streets, Bondi, as Illustrated. Each of the thirteen flats contains lounge and dining rooms, two bedrooms, kitchen, balcony, and other accommodation. The construction is of brick with tile roof, and double soundproof wood floors. The long staircase window, shown in the front elevation, is treated with copper glazing and stained glass. The internal joinery throughout is in maple, while the fittings are in chrome. The building was erected by W. Gawne and Son to the design, and under the supervision, of C. Reynolds Winter, architect.”

The building’s exterior brickwork was featured in a 1936 issue of the journal Building. Almost ninety years later, The Vanderbilt remains one of the area’s best examples of Art Deco apartments.

An era of apartments

I always enjoy selling the many Art Deco properties in the Eastern Suburbs. From rare P&O style houses with their steel windows and curved render to the classic, character-filled Art Deco apartments found in Randwick, Clovelly, Coogee and Bondi.

Typically low-rise and walk-up, these Art Deco apartments were the height of fashion in the 1930s. While most are one or two bedrooms, some contain a third bedroom or sunroom. Most have separate kitchens and internal hallways.

A great example is 14/3 Nathan Street, Coogee, or 5/55 Bream Street, Coogee. Many offer a variety of original features, like Unit 3/202 Clovelly Road. Others, such as 1/292 Arden Street, Coogee, or 1/3 George Street, Randwick, have the added bonus of common green space outside or a shared rooftop terrace.

Some, including Unit 5 or Unit 6, 15 Barry Street, Clovelly, have been completely renovated and reimagined for luxe, contemporary living.

Art Deco icons of the Eastern Suburbs

Iconic landmarks from the Art Deco era in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs include:

The Randwick Ritz

This famous cinema was designed by Aaron Bolot and built in 1937. Local lobbying saved it from demolition in the 1980s. It’s now heritage listed.

Tea Gardens Hotel, Bondi Junction

Tea Gardens was remodelled around 1940 in the art deco style. Its facade retains the era’s distinctive look.

Robin Hood Hotel and Charing Cross Hotel, Waverley

Standing on opposite corners, these fabulous Art Deco hotels are great examples of 1930s pub architecture. The Robin Hood was built by brewers Tooth & Co in 1938, while the Charing Cross was the oldest pub in the area, dating back to 1833. It was rebuilt in 1935 and still offers Aussie pub style accommodation upstairs.

Bondi Pavillion, Bondi Beach

Recently renovated and reopened, the iconic Bondi Pavilion, with its classic rendered verandah arches, was originally built in 1928. It was then the “Playground of the Pacific” and included Turkish baths and a ballroom back then.

Want more?

Randwick City Council offers free self-guided walks of Randwick and Coogee, which include some of the best examples of Art Deco architecture.

Thinking about buying or selling in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs? Get in touch with my Park Coast East team today.

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