Evolution of a Queenslander

Evolution of a Queenslander


by Danielle Townsend 

A history-filled classic Queenslander is updated for today’s modern family.


Lindy Johnson’s big old Queenslander, ‘Brentford’, is 110 years old and has been in her husband Peter’s family for nearly 100 years. In fact, Peter’s grandfather, who recently passed away aged in his early 90s, was born in the house, so it is certainly overflowing with family history and memories. Peter has lived here for 20 years and Peter and Lindy’s young daughter is now the fifth generation to reside here; a wonderful shared family connection.

Thanks to a much-needed renovation, the home has now taken on a dramatically different appearance with the addition of contemporary elements that have removed the “dark and dreary” feeling that once permeated many of the spaces. Fortunately, though, the renovation has respected and embraced the original core of this very picturesque and intact early 20th-century Queenslander.

Before the renovation, the house was elevated and closed in at the rear, with no outdoor living space or connection to the garden. It was really only two bedrooms with a sleepout verandah; not at all adequate for a family of five. Nor did the house maximise the existing space underneath, as the ground level was only used for storage and a laundry.

Living areas were a series of disconnected rooms, with the kitchen, dining and living separate. “The kitchen was always sectioned off in Queenslanders, which meant the mother was always segregated when cooking,” Lindy says.

The house certainly did not maximise the block’s available opportunities. The project initially involved developing an 800m2 inner-city corner block, with the subdivision of 200m2 at the rear to create two allotments. A new 190m2 detached infill house was designed and built on the newly formed allotment. The challenge was to then rationalise the space between the existing house and the new infill house as part of the refurbishment of and extensions to ‘Brentford’.

The design vision of the clients and architect, David Gole of Riddel Architecture, involved the removal of the existing rear sleepout verandah on the southern side in favour of a new family living space connected to a new outdoor living space, L-shaped pool and pool terrace. This allows the family absolute enjoyment of the Queensland seasons, whether it’s spring, summer, autumn or winter.

“The scheme respects the existing house and the design was inspired by ideas of modern Queensland living, with the new extension feeling like it is part of a big rear verandah; being very open to the pool and garden,” says David. “The indoor and outdoor living areas had to be flexible to cater for a range of different family activities and living options.”

A large retractable set of sliding doors divides the living spaces of the old house from the extension to create two living zones when needed. “The whole rear of the house was taken off and a pool put in the house,” says Lindy. “The living area is completely open to the pool, and open-plan, so the kitchen, big deck and living/eating area are all one.”

This design strategy addressed the home’s previous problem of a separate kitchen and dining area and ensured that no one would miss out on the fun of entertaining or enjoying a simple family meal. “The new indoor/outdoor space is our favourite area. We can all eat together here. And the whole back of the house concertinas with bifolds, which lets in a lot of light,” says Lindy.

David admits his favourite part of the renovated space is the L-shaped window seat in the new family living room. “This seat has a lowered ceiling and is a cosy spot in the bigger family living room, connected to both the pool and garden as well as back to the living room and kitchen,” David says. “Every house needs one”.

An internal ladder stair creates access to the two new lower-level bedrooms and takes up far less space than a conventional stair. 

An ensuite with luxurious freestanding bath and a dressing room were added to the master bedroom by enclosing the eastern verandah; they are flooded with light thanks to louvre windows.

The new kitchen fuses modern elements, such as white Colourback glass and Laminex cabinetry in Aloe Vera and Espresso with traditional features, such as tallowwood benchtops.

The front façade of the home has been refreshed but still maintains those muchloved original characteristics of the traditional Queenslander style: the wide verandah, decorative fretwork and extensive use of timber.

Working with a modest budget of $265,000 (plus pool) required the careful selection of materials, finishes and detailing. The site also presented its own challenges. “The site was constrained by limited space between the rear of the house and the back boundary,” says David. “Building up to the rear boundary to create an outdoor room connected to the house required careful consideration of privacy (both visual and acoustic) from immediate neighbours. The lightweight pool structure allows for both privacy and filtered light. Using standard steel sections and Hardies Super Six fibreglass sheeting provides a cost-effective and functional solution.

“This renovation is special because it has given a high-quality original house a viable future as a larger family home. It is also special because five generations have lived in the house”.

“It’s now a very positive house, not dark and depressing,” Lindy says. “The style is very contemporary. It’s really the evolution of a Queenslander and is very family friendly.”

The design brief for Brentford called for:
• The creation of a functional home for a family of five, building on an early 20th-century Queensland house.
• Embracing modern Queensland living through the creation of large open outdoor living spaces connected to the house.
• A new open-plan inside/outside living area on the southern side of the existing house built up to the rear boundary and including a pool, pool terrace, outdoor and indoor family dining, new kitchen and storage area.
• Access to the lower level.
• Two additional lower-level bedrooms.
• Dressing room and ensuite bathroom/parents retreat.
• Ability to separate the living areas to accommodate a range of different family activities and living options.
• Respect for the original early 20th-century house core.
• Sun protection and privacy from neighbours.
• New colour scheme.
• Achieve the design brief for a very modest budget of $190,000 plus pool (stage 1) and $75,000 (stage 2 — painting plus ensuite, dressing, study).

Energy-efficient/environmental considerations:
• Large openings to maximise ventilation.
• Use of the pool adjacent to the family living area to act as natural air-conditioning.
• Roof overhangs and shade structures for sun protection.
• Use of garden for shading and sun protection.
• Screens and skylights to allow filtered light to outdoor areas.
• Insulation.
• Water tanks and water-saving sanitaryware.
• Reuse of existing building fabric where possible.

Photography by Christopher Frederick Jones  

Designed by
Riddel Architecture
PO Box 1267, Fortitude Valley Qld
07 3831 4155

Built by:
Jamie Cottee, Cottee Construction
0418 746 949

Kitchen, dining, living, bedroom + stair: Clear hoop pine — satin one-pack finish
Outdoor: 86 x 19 shot edge hardwood decking

All new walls: timber stud frame
Kitchen + casual dining: Original timber VJ
Dining: New areas painted
Living: Plasterboard
Bedroom: New bedrooms — painted plasterboard/original bedroom VJ
Stair: Original VJ
Outdoor: Chamforboard wall cladding

Lighting by Light and Design Group, pendants by Euroluce — Romeo Moon
Bathroom: Reece Plumbing (generally)

Benchtop: Tallowwood laminated planks
Splashback: White Colourback glass
Cabinetry: Laminex Industries laminates Aloe Vera and Espresso

Windows + external doors:

Red cedar timber joinery doors and windows, Breezway louvres

Pool paving: Homestone charcoal
Stone: Flamed basalt