Past master: A new Queenslander makes memories come alive

by Francene Ridley, published in Brisbane News

When it comes to her childhood home in Sandgate, Lorelle has a selective memory. She grew up in the high-set Queenslander built by her grandfather and while she loved the character of the old family seat, it was proving unliveable as she neared retirement age. So Lorelle chose her favourite features of the old house and fashioned a completely new home on the block in front of the original.

“I had a reasonable idea about what I wanted but because it was going to be a small house in terms of floor space, I wasn’t sure how to design the house to use the area efficiently,” Lorelle says. “I also didn’t know how to make the outside look nice. People study this for years, so I decided to just get someone who knows what they are doing.”

“Lorelle had all the ideas, she just needed someone to sort them out and interpret them to make them work,” John says. A curved ceiling, for example, was how John managed to get 3.6m-high ceilings in the living and dining area. It’s a solution Lorelle says she would not have arrived at on her own, yet high ceilings were a feature of the old house that she definitely wanted in her new home.

“The ceiling is 3.6m at the very top, but then it curves down so you can access the lights. The space also becomes a bit more intimate, especially at the end with the morning room.” The morning room, or breakfast nook as Lorelle calls it, also has one of the great defining features of this house: a magnificent leadlight window – inspired by another classic feature in the old house – in a chequerboard pattern of different coloured glass.

“The morning room gets the northern light and it sits where, traditionally, we might have put a front veranda,” John says. “However, sitting on a veranda there would have meant listening to traffic from the road below so I’ve created a conservatory-type space.” Of course, the house wouldn’t be the nouveau Queenslander that it is without some sort of deck, veranda or balcony. John included the outdoor living area at the rear of the house where Lorelle can see her grandfather’s built legacy and the persimmon tree he planted. Further reference to the old place is seen in the material used in the new home. The deck ceiling is lined with mini-orb, while a mix of weatherboard, battens and fibre cement sheeting gives the outside of the house a texturally layered look.

There are more leadlight windows at the front of the house, in Lorelle’s bedroom. A second bedroom and the main bathroom, together with Lorelle’s room, make up the western side of the house. They are on the top level, with the morning room, which is in an open-plan layout with the dining room, lounge and kitchen.

Downstairs, Lorelle shows off her retirement plan. “The room size and plumbing are set up so the level can be gutted and refitted for disabled access,” John says. “When I get old, I can live downstairs,” Lorelle adds. “But at this stage, my friends use this space when they visit.”

With its spacious bedroom and bathroom, separate access and outside living area, it’s a set-up Lorelle says is great for guests to enjoy extended stays. The outdoor living area here is also part of a larger architectural solution. “The retaining wall provides some enclosure for the outdoor living area, and separates the house from the ground,” John says. “A path around the house funnels the water away. Lorelle’s block slopes and I’ve seen too many houses on the same sort of block that have been damaged by water.”

Learning from experience, avoiding past mistakes and celebrating history’s finer detail: hooray for the selective memory.

CURVE THRALL ... a soaring arched ceiling
creates space. Photographs • Steve Tyssen

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