Iconic buildings of Adelaide: Christopher Smith art deco home in Prospect


An art deco house in Prospect, built in 1938 by renowned style architect Christopher Smith, remains a highlight of the Adelaide suburb.

David O’Loughlin, owner, convener of the Art Deco Society of Adelaide and Mayor of Prospect, took891 ABC Adelaide Afternoon host Sonya Feldhoff and heritage architect David Brown for a tour.

Prominent in the interwar years of the 1920s and 1930s, art deco became popular due to its simplicity of construction — square blocks with decorative shapes added on.

The streamlined era was bold and embraced the aerodynamic shapes of the emerging airplanes, ocean liners and trains of the time.

The lounge room features ornate ceiling and lighting decorations.

“Typically the common style is rendered with horizontal bands and lots of curves, often with bandings and crests and shields and stripes,” Mr Brown said.

The Prospect Road premises encapsulates two sub-genres of art deco, with the rear garage an example of the jazz era.

Unlike the smooth lines of the streamlined style, the jazz era focused on sharper, harsh and angular geometry.

The sharper edges used in the Prospect Road carport define its jazz era.

Art deco also borrowed from Aztec and Egyptian art history.

Colours and patterns were often aligned with the bold gold, blue and blacks featured in ancient Egyptian artefacts.

Mr O’Loughlin said the grandiosity of the building was almost a mirroring of how ancient pharaohs displayed their wealth and prowess to the world.

The golden ceiling of the dining room.

“All of this detailing is what the richness of art deco is all about,” he said.

“It was throwing off the shackles of the Edwardian-Victorian era.”

The wish to depart from the formal nature of the previous eras was also displayed in the routing and painting of trimmings in the kitchen.

An art deco styled kitchen.

Built-in furniture was also prominent in Smith’s design, with the main bedroom having a dressing table, benches and bedside tables installed.

It also had something that was very new for its time — a walk-in wardrobe.

“There were many features in here because they were seen to be modern and this guy was showing the world that he knew what modern meant,” Mr O’Loughlin said.

The main bedroom.

The upstairs bathroom continued the flair of the home, with unique tiling covering almost every angle.

“You can see the five colours in the terrazzo in the design of the floors, with the cross, the diagonal and the rounded-ended features,” Mr O’Loughlin said.

“There are four different types of tiles in the walls — the castellated brown in the skirting, the swirling body tile, the five-coloured zigzag design topped by a bull-nosed tile.”

Four different tile styles are used in the bathroom.

Mr Brown described the house and garage as a masterpiece.

“It is an architect just showing off to the extreme,” he said.

“The attention to detail is just mind-blowing.”

The sitting room.