Don’t write off the 80s 90s house

Injecting older homes with a whole lot of style

Mass plantings of natives and exotics create more street appeal and soften the look of this home. Image: Wayne Zantuck Design & Landscape Construction

They were the decades that brought us Madonna, the rubik’s cube, hyper colour t-shirts, He-man and the Masters of the Universe, mobile phones the size of house bricks, frozen yoghurt and acid wash denim.

The 80s and 90s also brought us a style of home many think will be too difficult to modernise. Generally built of brick veneer, this was the era of colonial or faux period styling, often with dark interiors, lower ceilings and exposed beams.

But don’t be put off. With some relatively simple upgrades these properties can really shine, not to mention offer excellent value for money.

What’s great about them?

Concrete slabs

No re-stumping worries or costs.


These homes have it in abundance. Think built-in and walk-in wardrobes, double garages, pantries, hall cupboards and living room units.


The trend towards open plan living was really taking shape so they often have great flow and large spaces (surely no child of the 80s could forget the rumpus room?). You’re also likely to find at least three if not four bedrooms.

Low maintenance

Unlike weatherboard, bricks require almost no maintenance. Unless you want to change the colour they’ll look great while you do nothing, forever.

Ask an expert

We asked three experts for their top tips to lift a classic brick veneer. First up, Landscaper, Wayne Zantuck from Wayne Zantuck Design and Landscape Construction.

“Front garden design in this era relied heavily on feature ornamental trees, often either side of a central path to the front door, with boundary hedges and lots of lawn,” says Wayne.

He suggests moving away from the rigid lines and symmetrical design, softening the lines with some organic curves and using ground covers that assist with passive cooling, preferably low evergreens. He also favours using a more simplified planting schedule, which can create street appeal at the same time as being functional.

“These days we’re more water and climate conscious – gardens need to be bullet proof!” he says.

“We’re replacing lawns with larger garden beds and mass plantings of what we call ‘set and forget plants. Usually a combination of natives and exotics, like grasses that don’t need to be pruned, plants like rosemary or euphorbia that are self doming and ornamental grape vines that grow quickly and are super hardy.”

Wayne also installs ‘living screens’, vertical walls of greenery that are often as simple as two posts strung together with open mesh, wire or other material for plants to be trained through. It’s a quick, low cost solution that delivers both a lush backdrop and more of that all important passive cooling.

Living screens add lush colour and help cool the property. Image: Wayne Zantuck Design & Landscape Construction

Here in Castlemaine Wayne likes to add sculptural elements made from materials with a link to our history.

“We often use steel, stone and red brick in our gardens,” he says. “It’s a great way to tie a dated house to the area.”

Steel and stone features help tie this property to the area. Image: Wayne Zantuck Design & Landscape Construction

Next time, a local builder and interior decorator share their ideas.