We are fortunate to live in an area known for its unique character, leafy streetscapes and liveability. To retain Boroondara’s valued neighbourhood character, it’s vital that future developments align with the established character and amenity of the City. 

To help you retain the unique look and feel of your neighbourhood, we’ve put together some useful tips to discuss with your architect, builder or draftsperson to help ensure it fits in with the surrounding area.

Before you start any building or renovation, it’s important to check whether you need any permits. Read our Build a new dwelling guide, which will walk you through the process of determining the permits you may need.

Maintaining your neighbourhood’s character

To maintain the look and feel of an area, it’s important to consider how other properties on your street and in the surrounding area are designed. The main elements of a street’s or neighbourhood’s character include:

  • lot pattern and dimensions
  • size of the front garden
  • separation between neighbouring houses
  • location of car parking structures
  • architectural style and era of buildings
  • design of buildings, including their height and bulk
  • roof form
  • style of landscaping and the presence of mature trees
  • front fence height and style.

When designing a new house, you can help retain the look and feel of your neighbourhood by:  

  • responding to the prevailing building scale in the area (i.e. is the area predominantly one or two storey dwellings)
  • incorporating building heights, building forms, roof forms, roof pitch and building mass found in the immediate neighbourhood
  • retaining established onsite vegetation (such as mature canopy trees). 

This will help ensure your house fits in with the neighbourhood rather than clashing with the existing streetscape.

Front gardens and landscaping

Most residential streets in Boroondara have houses set back from the footpath with a landscaped front garden, which helps soften the visual impact of a house. Established trees and vegetation are prevalent and contribute to Boroondara’s character. 

When designing a new house, try to:

  • match the front setback of adjoining houses rather than sitting forward of them
  • provide a transition between houses of different alignment  
  • dedicate a generous proportion of the front yard to landscaping
  • avoid extensive hard-surfaced areas (such as driveways)
  • incorporate a variety of vegetation, including canopy trees and smaller plantings
  • set garages and car ports behind the main facade to reduce their visual impact
  • set upper levels further back than the ground floor level for two-storey houses.

The distance between buildings 

Leaving a decent space between your house and the side fences (side boundaries) maintains the amenity of adjoining neighbours, reduces off-site impacts such as overshadowing and overlooking  and respects the existing street rhythm by having a visual separation between adjoining houses.

When designing a new house, it's helpful to:

  • provide setbacks from both sides to continue the existing rhythm of building separation
  • set upper levels well back from side boundaries and avoid wide sections of two-storey walls in one plane
  • align private open spaces with those existing on adjoining properties
  • utilise side boundaries for gardens and canopy trees. 

Building height

The height of a house is an important factor in the look and feel of a street. A house that is taller than its neighbours will stand out and appear dominant. 

When designing a new house, try to:

  • maintain consistency and coherence within the streetscape by matching the height of adjoining houses
  • provide a transition between building heights where there is inconsistency  . 

In predominantly single-storey streetscapes, try to:

  • place any second storey elements to the middle or rear of the building
  • limit architectural features like porches, verandahs and porticos to single-storey height
  • incorporate an upper storey within an attic to integrate with the existing streetscape.

Renovation vs demolition

Consider retaining and renovating your existing house instead of demolishing and building a new one. Providing the building is structurally sound and does not require significant repairs to become habitable, renovating is often the best option to retain the character of the neighbourhood. 

Existing houses already fit within the streetscape and often have established landscaping and vegetation that soften the impact of any changes to a house.  

The advantages of retention and renovation rather than demolition include:

  • the potential to retain existing established vegetation
  • reduced development impact on surrounding properties
  • reduced environmental impact and waste
  • maintaining the beauty and character of the area.
How useful was this information?