Life in the Sunshine State is simple: live here long enough, and you’ll see the home which shares our state’s name in droves. The Queenslander takes on many a form –sometimes, it’s rickety and showing the wear of its years, with paint peeling and geckos crawling through gaps in the wall. And sometimes, it’s given new life, restored to live in the modern world with a charming touch of classicism.
This home on Brisbane’s north side has seen both forms, and it’s emerging from its second chrysalis as we speak. For interior decorator Jenny, husband Ben, and their two children, there was potential from the moment they glimpsed the property.
The house has seen years pass, and that was before it had been moved to its current home on a two acre block “decades ago”. As such, it had a few lingering features from ages past – an outdoor toilet for one, and outdated colour schemes another. For Jenny, it was a matter of prioritising; although she recommends ’living’ in a house before making changes, in some cases quick decisions had to be made.
“Our first project was to install a decent bathroom. We had a builder friend who took to a bathroom tile with a hammer, so there really was no turning back!” Jenny laughs. “Ben had great joy in gutting the bathroom – he found it very therapeutic.” Following this, the family created a courtyard area, perfect for alfresco living.
Initially, Jenny and Ben intended to renovate over five years. It was a timeline that, to date, is still plodding on. “It was always the plan to renovate our home over five years,” she explains. “However, we’re now into our seventh year and we’re still going – though we are nearly finished. Perhaps ten years would have been a more realistic time frame!”
The renovation has been slow, yes, but its gradual pace has allowed the practical and aesthetic changes to occur on an as-needs basis. The outdoor living area’s sheds and earthworks, for example, were scheduled ahead of changing the garish colour scheme – even though this was a task Jenny was itching to begin.
“The internal walls had beautifully ornate domed ceilings, but were painted pink in some rooms and green in others, with gloss painted cornices. One wall was even fire engine red!” she says. “The paint work was actually very good and would have been lovely back in the day, but for today’s look we needed to act fast.” A cacophony of colours does not a relaxing home make, so Jenny eschewed the lolly pink and mission brown hues. Now, a lick of Antique White USA gives the rooms a refined, classic aura.
Jenny still hasn’t finished all her pet projects, including the very first she dreamed of upon glimpsing this home – a wide deck, perfect for entertaining on a balmy summer’s eve. “Here we are seven years later, and it will probably be the last project we do,” she laughs. In the years to come, a new kitchen will replace the temporary, ‘cosmetically overhauled’ kitchen, where vivid green paint and linoleum floors have been covered with paint and a new island bench. “It will do,” says Jenny, “until we’re ready for a total gut and redo along with the deck.”
The thought of completing their dream home, finding ways to improve the space they live in – it’s what keeps the family going, despite the renovation being a mammoth task. But Jenny’s convinced in the transforming power of paint, hard work and a bit of love, and she and the family are thrilled with everything they’ve done. “Our old girl is a house we’re all very proud of today,” she says with a smile.
Photography by John Downs