Small Homes Service: Victorian post-war architect-designed homes: Do you have a story?

25 September 2018

We are looking for anyone who think they may have grown up living in a Small Homes Service (SHS) House from the 1940s to the early 1970s. If you think you may be able to contribute to the research in any way – whether you or your parents purchased a house from Myer, you have any plans or brochures from the service, or you believe you might live in one still standing today – please fill out the form.

Fill out the form


Who are we?

We are Master of Architecture students at Monash University undertaking research on the Small Homes Service (SHS) in Victoria.

Why do we want your story?

Design has an important role in shaping the future of Australia and its homes. By speaking to you about your Small Homes Service experience, we can further our understanding of the service and how it communicated architecture in a post-war social setting. We want to know how the homes shaped how people lived, and whether a similar model may work today.

It is without doubt that members of the public are currently unknowingly living in homes of huge architectural significance, with our research aiming to find these homes to allow them to be viewed in this social context.

We are hoping that your information will be able to contribute to our research, which may be displayed as part of a series of exhibitions across Victoria in 2019, celebrating the life of Robin Boyd.

Once you fill out the form, we will aim to get in contact with you within two weeks via your preferred contact method for further information about your experience with the SHS.


What’s a Small Homes Service home?

Via Melbourne’s Myer department store, for just £5 you could pick out a house from a range of architect-designed plans, including ones designed by some of the most influential architects in Victoria’s history, including Robin Boyd. Your purchase included working drawings and a specification booklet. It was up to you to then build the house yourself, or hire a builder to do it for you. Selected plans were featured weekly in The Age and became a source of social discussion across the state.

SHS houses were characterised by their groundbreaking modern designs. They typically featured flat roofs, were an open plan design, featured floor-to-ceiling windows, were skewed on their site to be oriented toward north and were less than 100m2. Drawings all featured the Small Homes Service logo and a 3-5 digit code.

What was the Small Homes Service?

The SHS was established in 1947 by the Royal Victorian Institute of Architects. Running under several directorships over the decades, it was initially directed by renowned architect Robin Boyd until 1953. During this time, the SHS became a seminal part of Victoria’s architectural history throughout metropolitan Melbourne and several regional areas.

The SHS sought to educate the public and shared knowledge on modern design. It did this through its partnership with The Age newspaper where a weekly article was written, accompanied by drawings and/or photographs which often sort to educate and instruct readers about architectural design. Robin Boyd wrote prolifically throughout his duration as Director.

The SHS set up its office in Melbourne’s Myer department store. This retail presence allowed the public to speak to architects in the office directly, where assistance was given to select a suitable house plan for their block of land.

The SHS enabled the general public to build well designed homes for an affordable price.