Beautiful, elegant, timeless – I’ve used these words before to describe one of my favourite styles of house, the Queenslander. Constructed of timber, Queenslanders are distinct and have a commanding presence. But what is it about them that makes them a Queenslander? And can we say that all timber homes then are a type of Queenslander? Let’s explore…
The quintessential Queenslander, with its timber construction and corrugated iron roof, first appeared in the 1840s and is still a popular style today. Houses of this type are common throughout Queensland and northern New South Wales and although they share features with architecture in other parts of Australia, they are unique and easily distinguishable.
Prominent external staircases, steep gabled roofs, French doors and the defining trait of being built on stumps are essential features of the classic Queenslander. But it is the front and side verandas of these single storey, high set homes that really characterise a timber home as a Queenslander. This simple, external space extends the living area, creating a semi-formal space and links indoors to out. Its importance as an architectural feature can not be underestimated though…providing protection from the sun and late-afternoon downpours, the veranda is a vital element of this style of home.
What we love about Queenslanders is that they incorporate a number of simple yet smart design principles! Doors and windows are aligned to encourage uninterrupted airflow throughout the structure. High ceilings, ceiling fans and above-door vents enable cross-ventilation and passive cooling. Steep roofs encourage fast water run-off and capture during Queensland’s typical summer downpours of rain while stumps help avoid termite attack, overcome uneven terrain during construction and also contribute to cooling airflow beneath the house. What’s not to love?
Now while Queenslanders feature these characteristics, there are several distinguishable styles spanning the decades. Brisbane showcases beautifully the evolution of this architectural style with Victorian, Federation, Colonial and interwar timber homes common throughout the city. Victorian and Federation Queenslanders were grand, beautifully ornate and are often situated in the more affluent areas of the state. When war hit, houses became smaller, often losing some veranda space, with the colonial and interwar styles becoming more common.
During the interwar stage, the Ashgrovian Queenslander evolved in the Brisbane suburb of Ashgrove. These homes were an adaptation of the bungalow style of home, always fronted by a grand gable roof and often surrounded by smaller secondary gables. Verandahs still featured but were smaller and often closed in to create sleep outs. By the end of the Second World War however, the need for cheaper homes saw the style change. Verandas were reduced to small landings or removed altogether; internal walls were constructed of fibreboards such as asbestos sheeting; concrete rather than timber stumps were used as the foundation; and although house frames were constructed of timber, the use of brick veneer became more common.
In recent years, the desire for an elegant, grand Queenslander has increased with many owners tending to focus on one of three directions:
Building a new ‘replica’ Queenslander style with modern materials.
Renovating their old home to its former glory with time and energy spent on revitalising its historic elements. These are the traditionalists among us, and are often prepared to get in and personally assist with some time-consuming restoration work.
A combination of tidying up the original home, but then complementing this with a new modern extension. Absolute care and respect must be given with this path as there is an irreplaceable history to the timber home.
We love an old Queenslander but we also thrive on creating contemporary and innovative ways to modernise the style and make it work flexibly for families today. A quick glance at our portfolio of renovation work would appease your mind of our experience and respect for these homes.
There are plenty of architecturally designed innovative, bold, ‘timber and tin’ home designs that in some way and form feature a Queenslander characteristic or two. It cannot be argued that a true Queenslander commands respect, there’s something about them that makes you stop and stare, they make you smile – “joie de vive” comes to mind!
Reference: Place to start for more history is Brisbane City Council or the State Library