A Short History of the Veranda

Verandas (or verandahs) have become a part of the Australian national psyche. Although, verandas and other covered outdoor areas have been an important part of world architecture for hundreds of years. While a traditional veranda usually encompasses a large portion of the outside of a house there are other alternatives such as patios and pergolas.

The Origins of the Word

The word ‘verandah’ is purported to have originated from India with a meaning that covered a number of outdoor extensions of a home. There were also similar sounding words originating in Spain and Portugal: baranda as well as a barandilla. It was only later in Australian early architecture that the term ‘veranda’ became synonymous with the covered area, held up by balustrades, around a single structure (usually a house).

Because of the wide range of meanings related to veranda, it has come to mean many types of outdoor covered areas that extend from a house. So while many of us think of the ‘traditional’ veranda, there are many other types that fall into this category. Almost anything that extends from the roof to form a covered outdoor area could be considered a veranda.

Variations in Architecture

While a traditional Australian veranda is around a house there are slight variations depending on the area that they were built. The traditional ‘Queenslander’ is one of the best examples of early Australian outdoor areas with a veranda stretching around the entire house. This type of house is unique because of the tall stilts it is built upon and its open plan style, many with French style bi-fold doors.

The other main type of early verandas were simply extensions of either the front or back roof of a house (or both). This allows for easy entertaining or just for sitting and watching the world go by. This style of outdoor area was also very popular among homesteads and early (often large) country homes featured verandas around the entire house.

Predominance in Australian Houses

The predominance of the veranda around Australian homes can be put down to the climate in Australia. Like other countries (India for example) where hot and often humid temperatures prevail this style of housing is great for making a home cooler. European style housing (whilst popular) would suffer intense heat because of the exposed walls of the building getting hit by the strong Australian sun.

The Future of the Verandah

While verandas did go out of style for a number of years in Australia for more ‘fashionable’ housing styles, they are coming back! This has been put down to the number of inefficient houses built over the last few decades that made the same mistakes early settlers did. By covering the walls and windows of a home in a hot area they become more environmentally friendly by requiring less energy to cool down.

Even newer styles of outdoor coverings (such as pergolas) help by preventing direct light and heat from entering the home. It will also provide a much needed, cool and comfortable place to relax in the heat of the Australian summer.