What will become of the Queenslander home and should more be done to protect them?
Some renovated Queenslanders still hold their original detail including verandah trims and entrances. (ABC Radio Brisbane: Jessica Hinchliffe)
The traditional Queenslander home is an iconic piece of architectural design, but debate is growing about the best ways to protect their heritage value and keep them standing for years to come.
New developments have now have moved away from the classic style and opted for modern and easy-to-maintain home designs, but they lack the Queenslanders’ distinctiveness and charm.
The classic traits of the Queenslander include tall ceilings, distinctive timber and wide verandahs perched high to catch the breeze during hot summer days.
Verandahs also offered larger living spaces and sleep-out areas.
Shane Earle, the director of Queensland Heritage Restorations, said the handywork seen in the historical homes was part of the reason they should be saved.
“When you get into the older Queenslanders, there are pressed-metal ceilings and archways and fret work — you get to see part of the tradesman in the house,” he told ABC Radio Brisbane’s Katherine Feeney.
“Some of the houses were made with second-hand materials and as you peel them back when you are renovating you get to understand and read the house.”
Mr Earle said many people were drawn to the style because of its unique characteristics or they lived in one growing up.
“In the 1980s my parents started doing up houses and were buying them for $16,000 with a $3,000 renovation budget and would sell the house for $40,000,” he said.
“Our streetscape and lifestyles are made for Queenslanders.”
Still well-suited for the climate
Many buyers or renovators have claimed the homes that were once built to catch the breeze are not needed due to modern conveniences such as air conditioning.
“The elevation of the house was necessary to keep it cool, but they were also elevated to stay away from termites,” Mr Earle said.
A single-storey Queenslander in Brisbane in 1935. (Flickr: State Library of Queensland, John Oxley Library)
“If you look at early photos of Queensland houses, they were entirely devoid of trees as they were trying to keep vegetation away from homes so the termites didn’t eat their houses down.
“I’m not against implementing some of our current lifestyles by opening up the homes and putting in bi-fold doors and decks on the back — we can still do that as well as keeping the character of the home.”
Creating Queenslander zones
Brisbane City Council recently created a Character Design Forum asking people what they believed should be done to preserve Queenslanders.
The website allows the public to discuss design elements and character adaptations and whether zones should be created across Brisbane to protect the heritage style.
One contributor, Blake, said there had to be better balance in the community:
“Heritage protection can involve protecting Queenslander houses in their low-density setting, but sustainable development means we need to intensify development in areas close to services.”
Christine hoped more would be done for upkeep:
“I agree the large majority of old Queenslander homes seen on the way to work in the city have not been kept well, and I know developers have bought up many houses on large lots renting them out without fixing them to cash in.”
Broog80 added that the structure of the homes provided many advantages:
“They are high-set to allow air flow, but as seen in recent flooding events, a Queenslander on stilts has some protection from floodwaters.”
Sue Wright said they were part of Queensland’s identity:
“Queenslanders are immediately identifiable. A Queenslander is a wooden structure with a gabled roof, chamfer boards on the outside and tongue-and-groove ceilings. They help define Brisbane as a unique place.”
Mr Earle said he hoped people would contribute their thoughts and see what the structures did for the wider landscape.
“Those zones attract people from other areas as they know they love that old style and know it’s going to be protected in their area, and that’s why they’re making the investment,” he said.
“Many councils have areas designated as character zones where you simply can’t alter the style of the property.
“I think the money is better spent on the old Queenslanders; although it is an expensive proposition, they are worth every penny.”
Many Queenslanders in Brisbane have been raised with carports and large fences added. (ABC Radio Brisbane: Jessica Hinchliffe)
He said when people looked to renovate, they should keep in mind the character of the house while bringing it up-to-date.
“It’s unfortunate when people completely strip the inside,” he said.
“If there’s nothing wrong with the house don’t change its style — you can move walls to change your lifestyle but keeping the character is important.
“Unfortunately, in some areas the Queenslander is in peril as some people believe it’s easier to knock down a house and build new but these houses have stood the test of time.”
Residents have until December 31 to comment.