Bigger doesn’t always mean better. So it was with this pre-war Queenslander in Brisbane’s
leafy suburb of Bulimba, which on paper seemed to tick all the boxes – plenty of space, elevated aspect, and even a pool out the back. But on closer inspection, it appeared that four decades of ill-considered additions had created a dysfunctional space. Even the sparkling pool waters were set so far from the house that they seemed like a distant pleasure. In short, there was no flow.
Cue the new owners, who had once lived in the neighbouring suburb of Morningside and were looping back to Brisbane with their three children after a stint in Perth. “We always loved this area and saw plenty of potential in the home,” recalls the owner, who crossed paths with builder Luke Kruberg of LAK Constructions through word of mouth and soon had Stewart Smith of SMITH Architects also on board. After a decade of working together, the two firms were superbly aligned and a natural fit for this extensive project.
“We wanted a light, bright home with good airflow and an efficient use of space,” explains the owner, who was also keen to maximise the home’s stellar views. A year of careful planning and detailed design and documentation, followed by a 12-month build, addressed everything from persistent drainage problems on the steep site to designing bespoke furnishings.
“We ended up stripping away all of the previous renovations, back to the original Queenslander, which gave us a chance to properly orientate all rooms so we could get light and breezes where we wanted,” says Stewart. “It also allowed us to make every room feel inviting.”
As part of the overhaul the kitchen was relocated from the west of the house to a new rear extension, flanked by a generous deck, and the house raised to accommodate new ceiling heights. Fresh air is now welcomed through a series of expansive sliding doors, glass louvres and panels inspired by traditional casement windows, while strategically placed skylights and a wash of Dulux ‘Vivid White’ throughout creates that essential light-and-airy feel.
Connection and consistency underpinned every decision, right down to the refined palette. “Selecting a combination of subtle but consistent elements sets the tone and helps the home feel coherent as you walk through,” says Stewart. SMITH Architects‘ considered use of curves in pendants and mirrors brings a touch of softness to the classic VJ panelling and durable blackbutt flooring intersects beautifully with the pine floors of the original Queenslander footprint.
The glow of brass draws the eye as it threads through the home in a variety of bespoke details, from ribbons of gold on the deck to a covetable kitchen shelf. As an accent it lends a sense of luxury with a nod to tradition. “It was about using elements and materials common in original pre-war homes, just in a different way,” explains Stewart.
The front entrance offers glimpses through the home (in traditional Queenslander style) while still maintaining a sense of private introduction and reveal. In the original part of the home, a generous master suite with ensuite, study nook and walk-in robe creates a spacious retreat while a general-purpose bathroom and fourth bedroom have been placed where the kitchen used to be.
Capturing views on this level was top of mind, and not just the city and mountain vistas from the new west-facing deck. “We often have a cuppa on the front stairs,” says the owner of their informal north-facing haunt. “We love the connection to the street, and it’s one of my favourite viewpoints.”
Family life happens in the gorgeous kitchen, overseen by an enormous skylight that frames a captivating show of cloudscapes and rain showers. Clean lines and dashes of brass and stone are offset with simple white tiles in this highly functional space, which leads on to a second lounge area. “I love the kitchen and deck,” says the owner. “They’re really the hub of the home and I can see right through to the city and still be involved in what’s going on with the rest of the family.”
Protection was paramount on the deck, where the summer sun can be both tamed and showcased through an intricate framework of moveable screens and panels. “We played a lot with which panel should go where and why,” says Stewart. “It had a lot to do with the sun but also with framing the views at different times of day.” Opting for the deck roof to dip rather than soar was another strategic choice that shields the space while referencing traditional awnings.
When it came to the 1980s kidney-shaped pool (now just a few steps from the deck) budget called for rejuvenation rather than replacement. Fresh coping and new pebbling together with bench-style seating and an outdoor shower have breathed new life into this family favourite. A generous swathe of levelled lawn has created a ready-made playing field just a stone’s throw from the huge sliders, which open onto the lower level, home to a rumpus room, two bedrooms, a powder room, laundry and mudroom-style space off the double garage. An almost-identical palette of materials and colours unifies upstairs and down, bringing a harmonious sense of completion.
“I feel like everyone had a win,” says the owner of the finished project. “Every room now has a purpose, everyone has something special, and it’s very comfortable year-round.” She also notes the symbiosis that comes with having owners, architects and builders on the same page – a renovating trifecta. “The combination of talent worked so well,” she says. “We trusted their skills and the guys were all great to have on site.”
The architect agrees, noting the happy outcome is a testament to “being able to see our vision through to the finest detail with Luke and his team at LAK Constructions.” And his favourite aspect? “Watching the light change by the hour – the sun moving through the kitchen and living spaces and playing through the deck screens,” he says. “I also like knowing a space that was previously dark and unusable now has illumination and purpose.”
Words: Nicole Deuble | Photography: Andy Macpherson