A renovator’s guide to the Queenslander

For all its glory, this architectural style does have some pitfalls – but the Queenslander home holds buckets of potential, too. With the right experts and guidance, you can create a remarkable home that honours its heritage while embracing our modern lifestyle needs.
Words: Thea Rowan

A Clayfield reno by dion seminara architecture

The Queenslander home comes in many guises, from high-set bungalows and federation, pre-war and inter-war styles, often incorporating two or three gables, flanking verandas and sleep-outs.

Whether you look to extend the indoor space by making the layout more open plan or utilise the dead space under the house, thereby creating a multi-level dwelling, there’s plenty of clever ways to bring the classic Queenslander into the now.

Di Henshall Design / Photo: Phill Jackson

Hire The Gurus

Surround yourself with creative, innovative and strategic minds when recruiting your design and build team – they will govern how smoothly your renovation will run, so choose well. There are many architects and builders who specialise in Queenslander home renovations. Their ability to understand the pros, cons, and potentials mean that you can trust that your new home will be in the very best of hands.

Looking for your own talented architect or builder to help you with your dream home? Discover them here.

Toowoomba’s grand Bunya Park / Photo: John Downs

The key to a successful renovation all comes down to understanding your lifestyle needs and talking to your architect about how best to improve your home’s unique features. As in all styles of home, it’s potentially better to separate the main living area away from the kitchen – which is where the Queenslander shines. This kind of layout is perfect as most Queenslander homes are already set up that way, with the kitchen located close to internal and external dining areas. Opening up the kitchen allows for much more practical living and layout options.

Related article: Classic Queenslander renovated into a sleek family home

The lovingly restored and renovated Bunya Park in Toowomba / Photo: John Downs

The Check List

Before you purchase or begin your renovation plans, be sure to call a local town planner to check on the relevant building and suburb restrictions. Check if the home is listed on any character or heritage registers. If so you may need to organise permits from the council to allow renovations to begin.

There can be many of these ‘grey’ areas to address when renovating a Queenslander, as Nicole Cox and her family found out when they purchased their old Queenslander in Ipswich (the beautiful Pen Y Llewich, a major subject of her blog, The Builder’s Wife). “Having a home that is over 100 years old certainly threw a few curveballs our way, but having a thorough building inspection before purchasing the property meant that we knew exactly what we were in for,” she recalls. “That said, council approval for our ‘history site’ home has proven a little tricky – but it was nothing that couldn’t be worked with. It just meant that there was stricter planning to adhere too.”

And essential before beginning any renovation is a comprehensive asbestos check! Asbestos was used throughout the building of homes up until the mid-1980s and, as with any kind of renovation, you’ll need to make sure that your Queenslander is not riddled with the material. Although not harmful unless airborne, it’s recommended that it’s removed before renovating begins (not during!), by a professional asbestos specialist with an ‘A’ class removal license.

A Queenslander renovation by dion seminara architecture

The ‘Problem’ Areas

Queenslanders have the ability to lure you in with their good looks, but unless you’re buying an already renovated home then expect to have a large task at hand – these homes are often begging for attention in areas that you didn’t even realise may need it.

“Always have a contingency budget,” states Nicole. “You just never know what is hiding in a Queenslander, and at least this way you will be covered for all eventualities.”

Despite the Queenslander’s feeling of grandeur they are in fact limited in space and (depending on their era) can be limited in temperature control – they can be too cold in winter and too hot in summer, provide limited light, space and storage options, and can be lacking in many key design areas. The floor plan normally consists of only four to six rooms in total and does not allow for the light and spacious living we tend to crave these days. These are all problems that can be remedied with the help of an experienced architect or building designer.

Photo: John Downs / Styling: Tahn Scoon

The double-hung windows and traditional casement windows typical of the best of Queenslanders are definite redeeming features, as are the impressive ceiling heights common in those Queenslanders with that much sought after, steeply pitched roof. The high ceilings that are part of Queenslanders are the main benefit of these homes – and many of the 1920-30s homes have the casement windows which offer direct ventilation into the home. There’s also now plenty of options for retractable screens on the market that are tailormade for casement-style windows, and that look great and offer a lot of functionality and security.

And Nicole’s one big tip for prospective renovators? “If at all possible I recommend living in your home for some time before renovating. The way most of us live in Queenslanders is so very different to the way we imagine. We have changed our renovation plan three times due to the way we thought we would live being totally different to the way we actually live.”

Di Henshall Design / Photo: Phill Jackson

Period Features

Queenslander homes often feature original heritage detailing – it could be as simple as an art deco door handle or as significant as stained glass windows, French doors, fretwork and pressed-metal ceilings – that are a connection to history and shouldn’t be completely lost to modernism. “Embrace the original architecture and features,” says Nicole. “We are very spoilt to have such unique design qualities to our Queenslanders, which with a little love and consideration can enhance your modern family home.”

Restoring a Queenslander takes blood, sweat, tears and an undeniable love for this style of home. And it’s all worth it once you unveil a space that evokes a sense of history, filled with warmth, charm and a point of difference.

Rylo Building & Design / Photo: Elouise Van Riet-Gray

Whether you are looking for a builder in Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast or beyond, chances are you’ll find them in our comprehensive directory of Queensland Home Builders.