Queenslander Tropical styles

The ‘Queenslander’ Tropical Federation housing types

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This page is largely extracted from the Queensland Museum:
external image 07-qldmuseum-banner-2.jpg?

The Queenslander, that odd and ungainly looking house, is unique to Queensland. First created in the 1850’s, this wooden house on stumps was surrounded by verandahs and lattice, had straight through halls and corridors, and was capped by a pyramid shaped red tin roof. It created a unique lifestyle and helped shape the Queensland character. The outdoor, leisurely way of life in sub tropical Australia, was moulded by this home with its wide verandahs, huge area underneath and yard out the back providing the perfect place for Queensland kids to play.

external image Queenslander1.JPG

Evolution of the Queensland house

Queensland has more than one type of housing but a tradition of timber building is dominant.

  • This distinctive tradition originated with rough timber huts of early settlement and developed into the multi-gabled bungalows of the 1930s.
  • Buildings continued until, and were adapted after, the Second World War, leading to contemporary ‘Environmentally Sustainable Timber Houses’.
    A decorative Queenslander house in Annie Street, Torwood, built around 1890
    A decorative Queenslander house in Annie Street, Torwood, built around 1890

The most typical early twentieth century Queensland house is characterised by:

  • timber construction with corrugated-iron roof;
  • highset on timber stumps;
  • single-skin cladding for partitions and sometimes external walls;
  • verandahs front and/or back, and sometimes the sides;
  • decorative features to screen the sun or ventilate the interior; and
  • a garden setting with a picket fence, palm trees and tropical fruit trees.

‘Queenslanders’ are now valued as a key element of Queensland heritage

  • Conservation and renovation of Queenslanders is widespread.
  • “Many Brissos will also have renovated a Queenslander. What to other people might look like a humble box of a house, the Brisso can see as a potential “traditional Queenslander”.
  • The Brisso will talk about “lifting it up”, “pushing it back” on the block, “turning it around”, “building in underneath”, “opening up” verandas, putting on a deck, extending out the back, and so on.”
  • “This may end up costing more than the construction of a whole new house, but the wonderful thing is that the real estate market tends to reward such labours of love. There is nothing as reliable as the street appeal of a Queenslander.”

– Living in a traditional Queenslander house

  • Our forebears were very practical people and when they first settled in Queensland they came upon flood, white ants, snakes and heat. And they also found plenty of timber. The house that was created in answer to these problems was the Queenslander, which is an amazingly a practical house.
  • Set high on wooden stumps, the house was safe from all but the highest floods. The blackened tar coated wooden stumps also kept the white ants at bay and being so high off the ground meant those unwelcome visitors from nature – snakes, fleas, ticks and leeches, could be kept at arms length.

But it was in keeping Queenslanders cool during the intense heat of summer that the house excelled.

  • The huge shaded ground underneath the Queenslander, coupled with the wide verandahs, straight through halls and five metre high ceilings meant the slightest breeze gave maximum relief from the heat- But of course this air-conditioning effect continued on into winter. Well you can’t have everything! And when those bitterly cold westerlies blew, pushing blasts of cold air through the cracks in the tongue and groove panelling and the floorboards, the family huddled together around the kitchen stove. Of course this provided the opportunity of hearing that choice piece of irony, as the Canadian or English visitor, while shivering in the kitchen, complained bitterly that they had never been so cold.[1]

Queenslander architecture

– from Wikipedia
Queenslander architecture is a modern term for the vernacular type of architecture of QueenslandAustralia.

  • Shares many traits with architecture in other states of Australia but is distinct and unique.
  • The type developed in the 1840s and is still constructed today, displaying an evolution of local style.
  • The term is primarily applied to residential construction

The Queenslander, a “type” not a “style”, is defined primarily by architectural characteristics of climate-consideration.

  • They have been constructed in the popular styles of the time including, but not limited to colonialVictorianFederationArts and Crafts/Art NouveauInterwar styles, and Post-WWII styles.
  • The Queenslander is popularly thought of as an “old” house although Queenslanders are constructed today using modern styles as well as “reproductions” of previous styles.- from Wikipedia

Filigree Type

Queen Anne Type

external image 220px-Queenslander3.JPGA high-set Victorian era Queenslander with large verandahin New FarmBrisbane.
external image 220px-Queenslander1.JPG

A largeFederation stylesuburban Queenslander
in New FarmBrisbane.

Bungalow type

Porch & Gable –

Edwardian or Arts & Craft style

external image 320px-Queenslander2.JPG
An interwar Queenslander in New FarmBrisbane.
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A single-storey Queenslander ca. 1935

Evolution of the Queensland house

There are differing styles of the famous ‘Queenslander’, but all (four federation) styles share distinct construction style, internal spaces, furnishing, and gardens.

These are the four Federation Residential Styles corresponding to the ‘Queenslander’ styles illustrated above and below:

Victorian to Edwardian Periods:

  • Federation Filigree (with wrap-around verandahs, symmetrical frontage, and square roof)
  • Queen Anne (Victorian Boom period, asymmetrical frontage, verandah roof discontinuous, window awnings)

Edwardian to Inter-War Periods:

Postwar Period:

  • Federation Revival post war construction, built high on stumps, large verandah, can be two storied.
Victorian to Edwardian Periods

1870s – 1930s: (Filigree)

Colonial, Federation and Interwar Bungalow
Colonial, Federation and Interwar Bungalow

1870s – 1930s (Boom, Queen Anne)

Colonial, Federation and Interwar Asymmetrical Pyramid/Hip House
Colonial, Federation and Interwar Asymmetrical Pyramid/Hip House
Edwardian to Inter-War Periods Postwar Period:

1900s to 1930s (Bungalow)

Federation and Interwar Asymmetrical Bungalow
Federation and Interwar Asymmetrical Bungalow

1910s – 1930s (Edwardian, Arts & Crafts)

The Interwar Porch and Gable House
The Interwar Porch and Gable House

Postwar – 1980s

Postwar Timber and Tin Housing Revival
Postwar Timber and Tin Housing Revival
The above information reprinted from: –
Evolution of the Queensland house
(Queensland Museum Illustrations)

The traditional Queenslander house

Illustration of the above four Federation styles from the blog: ART and ARCHITECTURE, mainly on The traditional Queenslander house

Typical Federation style Queenslander with filigree screens
Typical Federation style Queenslander with filigree screens
Ornate Boom style with gazebos echoing Queen Anne style
Ornate Boom style with gazebos echoing Queen Anne style
Bungalow with filigree screens
Bungalow with filigree screens
Arts and Craft style, with porch and decorative gables
Arts and Craft style, with porch and decorative gables

The Federation Queenslander

Big, bold and beautifully ornate, 1901 – 1914

  • The Federation style Queenslander, originally built between 1900 and start of World War I, has been commonly referred to as the Australian version of the English Edwardian house. You can appreciate that the time of Australia’s Federation filled many colonials with a sense of national pride and significant financial gain for a burgeoning class of traders, bureaucrats and professionals.

Key features of Federation style Queenslanders include:

  • detailed fretwork in the roof gables
    Queenslander house on Brisbane hill-top
  • 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


The Ashgrovian Queenslander

Ashgrove Qld animation.gifGrand Gables, sheltered verandahs and ‘sleep-outs’, c 1920 – c 1930

  • See also Ashgrove Queenslander Style
  • Ashgrovian is the term coined for ‘grand gabled’ Queenslanders built between the late 1920s and World War II, originating from the Brisbane suburb of Ashgrove.
  • The Ashgrovian can be described as a distinctly Queensland take on the Californian bungalow – which was very popular in and around Sydney at the same time.
  • Taking elements of the bungalow’s gabled roof and front porch, local Queensland builders developed homes that presented grand gable roof, often surrounded by secondary smaller gables behind. The smaller gables usually sheltered verandahs and sleep-outs.

Key features of Ashgrovian style Queenslanders include:TQ-advert-logo.gif

  • Grand gable roof
  • Large, sheltered verandah
  • bay windows

“Federation Style Reproductions

Garth Chapman established Garth Chapman Queenslanders in 1988 after recognising a need in the market for a quality builder of authentic new Queenslander homes.

from the Queensland Museum:

Development of the Queensland house

Picture of Ermabrae House in Brunswick Street, New Farm, built in 1902
Picture of Ermabrae House in Brunswick Street, New Farm, built in 1902
A tall double storied Queenslander in Boundary Street
A tall double storied Queenslander in Boundary Street
A domestic postcard, Queensland 1910s
A domestic postcard, Queensland 1910s

Key factors in the development of the Queensland house were the:

  • availability of affordable, easy to use building materials;
  • the Queensland climate

Building Materials

  • Timber and iron are the characteristic materials used to construct Queensland houses.
  • Sawmilling was established in Queensland in the 1850s, and timber became readily available for construction. Iron could be transported long distances throughout the Queensland colony, and was more durable in tropical storms than tiles.
  • These readily available and affordable materials were also easy to use and so contributed to the popularity of the Queensland house.

Queensland Climate

Basic Queenslander, largely symmetrical
Basic Queenslander, largely symmetrical
  • The materials also directly affected their form. Timber was a light, inexpensive material, but it was vulnerable to attack from termites. Houses were constructed on stumps to raise them off the ground, and the stumps were capped with plates to prevent white ants from getting to the wooden superstructures. The greater height also allowed easier surveillance of termite activity.
  • The warm Queensland climate further contributed to the form and popularity of Queenslanders. The high heat conductivity of tin iron roofing and the poor insulation offered by timber meant that ventilation was critical.
  • Queensland houses were usually constructed to face the street, irrespective of the direction of sun and wind. Houses belonging to affluent members of society were more likely to be situated in higher locations and constructed with more windows to take greater advantage of prevailing breezes.
  • Nevertheless the raised structures provided natural ventilation beneath and around the house, and airflow was enhanced by numerous windows, louvers and fretwork fanlights. Verandahs proved popular in providing additional living space that was outdoors yet protected.


“Ascot”: The Federation Queenslander Big, bold and beautifully ornate, 1901 – 1914


Informal spaces

  • The raising of houses on stumps created valuable space beneath the house that was used for many varied purposes including drying the washing, accommodating animals and even housing an extended family.
  • The retreat from hot internal rooms to the verandah further reflects a less formal Queensland domestic lifestyle. A comfortable verandah allowed residents to spurn formal living rooms and upholstered chairs that enveloped hot bodies. However, in the postwar years, the verandah was enclosed to create more room.

Formal spaces

  • By the 1890s, Queensland houses exhibited many of the features of Victorian domestic ideals.
  • The drawing room was the most important room, where visitors gained an impression of the standing of the owner. During the 1880s, drawing rooms became more decorative and splendid.
  • By contrast, the desired impression in the dining room was of formal dignity and even grandeur. This was the domain of the husband as host and man of the house.


Private and Utilitarian Spaces

  • The main bedroom was a private, predominantly feminine space, decorated in delicate pastels, with an emphasis on comfort and prettiness.
  • Service rooms, on the other hand, were severely practical in their presentation.
    Picture of Drawing room suites from the F. Tritton Furniture Catalogue, Brisbane, circa 1906 (Queensland Museum)
    Picture of Drawing room suites from the F. Tritton Furniture Catalogue, Brisbane, circa 1906 (Queensland Museum)
  • The kitchen was usually a simple undecorated room, while the bathroom was often no more than a built-in corner of the back verandah or beneath the house.

Federation furnishings

  • The furnishings of the main rooms of Queenslander houses changed with the transition from the Colonial/Victorian era to Federation.
  • Red cedar disappeared from fashion – just in time to save it from extinction – to be replaced by silky oak, Queensland maple, white cedar and stained pine. The timbers were often fumed with ammonia to enrich their colour to a warm brown.
  • The new fully-upholstered lounging armchair made its appearance. In the bedroom, the dressing table was a chest of drawers with a mirror attached, and a box ottoman replaced the old trunk for clothes storage.
  • There was a real acknowledgment of our climate in the design and use of furniture. Cane, willow, bamboo and linen grass furniture entered the scene.

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