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Queenslander Style Homes

Updated on May 25, 2014

Travelling around Brisbane suburbs, you will notice a distinct architectural design to many of the homes. You will find that many of the homes are characterised by a large sprawling timber structure on stumps with wide verandahs accessed via French Doors and framed by white posts, decorative balustrades and brackets. This eloquent and authentic home design is known as the “Queenslander” - now an important part of Australia’s cultural heritage.


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Many of these houses were built during the latter half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as a response to the climate. Long hot summer days that often ended with torrential downpour called for the development of a house built on stumps for natural ventilation and wide verandahs to provide a sheltered outdoor area. These characteristics and the light, inexpensive timber material provides respite from the warm Queensland climate contributing to the peculiar vernacular character of the homes.


History of the 'Queenslander'

Between 1900 and the start of World War l, the 'Queenslander' style started to emerge. Coined the “Federation Queenslander”, this timber home was built off the ground similar to today’s Queenslanders. However, the design can be distinguished from contemporary Queenslanders by its lack of extensive verandahs and adornments as the focus during this time for builders was to minimise costs.

The key features of this style include:

  • Detailed fretwork in the roof gables
  • High ceilings – often 14 foot
  • Ornate lead lighting in the front windows, featuring geometric and curvilinear shapes and sometimes native plants or birds
  • Bull-nosed weatherboards
  • Houses were generally on timber stumps
  • The main roof often swept down in one unbroken across the verandah
  • Bay windows were increasing common
  • Joinery such as windows, doors, architraves and skirtings featured increasing use of Queensland pine due to unavailability of Australian Cedar

Federation Queenslander ca. 1905
Federation Queenslander ca. 1905 | Source

In the 1920s to 30s, the 'Queenslander' looked distinctly like a Californian bungalow with its gabled roof and front porch. This type of Queenslander is known as the "Ashgrovian Queenslander" or the ‘Grand Gabled’ Queenslander for its grand gabled roof surrounded by secondary smaller gables to provide shelter for verandahs and sleep-outs.

The key features of this style include:

  • Grand gable roof

  • Large, sheltered verandah

  • Bay windows

Ashgrovian Queenslander
Ashgrovian Queenslander | Source

Many of these homes were demolished in the late 1900s due to the cost of renovations and land. However, thankfully this trend has been stalled as local governments realise the growing importance of urban heritage and implement conversation legislation. In recent years, the trend has moved towards maintaining and restoring these old and rare 'Queenslanders' as they are selling for top dollar in the real estate market for their history.


The 'Queenslander' Today

Today architects are looking for innovative new ways to accommodate this home design for 21st century living whilst keeping the essence of the traditional Queenslander. They are keeping the external features that give the 'Queenslander' class and style whilst internal spaces are being remodelled for contemporary tastes. Builders are renovating old Queenslanders but are also constructing brand new Queenslanders from scratch. These homes are built to suit modern living and the Australian climate with a focus on maximising comfort and minimising energy input.

Contemporary Queenslander
Contemporary Queenslander | Source

What to look for when buying a Queenslander

Some people see the ‘Queenslander’ as being high-maintenance and costly. However there are a number of features that you can look out for when buying or building a Queenslander that extends the maintenance time frame for the home. These features include:

Feature
What to look for
Cladding
Ensure cladding is fibre cement which is resistant and requires very low maintenance
Wall & Ceiling Linings
Ensure gyprock is used or if you want an authentic VJ finish - painted mbf boards are best
Flooring
You want gaps in the floor minimised to reduce dust transfer and keep the home warm - ask about the flooring and if structural sheet flooring is placed underneath the select grade timbers
Energy Efficiency
To save on your energy bills, look for Queenslanders that have been built to maximise energy efficiency. Look at the orientation of the house, ventilation, insulation, building materials, lighting and water efficient appliances.
Verandah Balustrade
As the verandah features are in the weather, they will require upkeep but generally if you keep them clean they will last a long time before repainting. Ensure modern long lasting premium paints are used.

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