Contemporary renovations for traditional Queensland homes

Contemporary renovations for traditional Queensland homes

Renovations, Tips and Advice

contemporary renovations period renovation traditional architectureTraditional Queensland homes, from 1880 to 1930 colonials, have long been popular among renovators – and even more so recently for those seeking contemporary renovations. Packed with plenty of desirable features they are commonly found in sought after suburbs. But while they were great in their day, they do not offer the range of comforts that modern homes do – hence the reason they are commonly renovated.

Traditional or contemporary?

The question – Traditional or Contemporary – is commonly asked by people who have bought a traditional Queensland home. Should their renovation focus on a replica outcome, or should they go more contemporary?

The answer is obvious. It is up to the client. Nine times out of ten homeowners desperately want beautiful contemporary renovations completed that respects the existing architecture of the home while giving them a more comfortable, liveable outcome.

It’s important that any renovation blends in with the existing home. Done poorly, you lose the character of the home as the finished result looks neither historical nor modern, but instead a confused mishmash of eras that adversely affects the value of the property. It’s vital that the new compliments and merges with the existing to create a visually appealing outcome that adds real value to the home.

And keep in mind that there are likely to be plenty of appealing features that should be preserved from the original structure.

Desirable features of traditional Queensland homes

One thing that most people love about traditional Queensland homes is their high ceilings. Great on hot days, as the warm air rises above head height, rooms with high ceilings almost always feel cooler. Aimed at natural cooling, the design of these traditional homes took advantage of what nature had to offer.

Many Queensland homes from the 1880 – 1930 era feature spacious verandah’s that are both visually attractive and eco-friendly. These verandahs allow the home to stay cooler in summer and warmer in winter. Often featuring decorative balustrades and handrails, they are a key component of the home’s overall character and charm.

Speaking of character, it was also common for homes from this period to feature some stunning plasterwork. From ornate cornices, arches and corbels right up to elaborately detailed ceiling roses and centrepieces, many of these homes have an old world charm that is still highly desirable today.

Downsides of traditional homes

But for all their beauty there are things about traditional Queensland homes that don’t suit a modern lifestyle.

Closed off rooms connected by narrow hallways are no longer popular. Today most people understandably prefer larger, more inclusive living spaces. And although the build quality of homes from this era tends to be very good, these homes are still prone to draughts and often lack insulation.

Often these homes featured small windows reducing the amount of natural lighting that enters the home. When combined with the numerous walls and hallways, these dark spaces are uninviting.

Stunning contemporary renovations – seeing the potential

Of course, the good news is that there are easy corrections to these problems and the homes themselves often have enormous untapped potential.

Commonly built on stumps, these homes can be turned, lifted, moved or even raised if they haven’t already been. The existing structure, with its smaller rooms and hallways, can be renovated for sleeping areas, while a new open planned kitchen/dining/living area can be added either to the side, above or more commonly underneath the original home.

Most traditional Queenslanders have had their open downstairs areas enclosed to form a lower floor. And while there wouldn’t be many Queenslanders still around today that haven’t been built in underneath, it’s possible to find some that still offer this untapped potential.

Verandahs can be enclosed, although I would caution against rushing into that decision too quickly. As I mentioned verandahs are often the source of much of the beauty and character of these properties.

Typically these homes offer great natural ventilation and are designed to be comfortable in hot conditions without the assistance of air-conditioning. By addressing the insulation and draught challenges, these homes very quickly become environmentally exceptional – resulting in low running costs and reduced power usage.

Are you thinking about renovating a traditional Queensland home?

Done correctly, renovating traditional Queensland homes can produce stunning outcomes that dramatically add to a property’s resale value. Done poorly, they can look appalling and cost you money.

At dion seminara architecture we specialise in converting traditional 1880 – 1930 colonial homes as well as true Queenslanders. Our expertise is in creating beautiful designs that give a wonderfully contemporary outcome whilst still respecting and enhancing the existing features of these gorgeous homes.

So if you’re looking to renovate a traditional Queensland home, contact dion seminara architecture today. We know how to achieve your lifestyle goals in a way that will add real value to your home.

Dion Seminara Architect


Hi, I am Dion Seminara, practicing architect and licensed general builder for 20 years as well as an environmental sustainable design (ESD) expert. I graduated from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) with honours, QLD in 1989. Registered as an architect in 1991 and registered as a builder in 1992, I am also a fellow member of the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA). Having received 12 ArCHdes Residential Architecture Awards, LJ Hooker Flood Free Home Design Award and the 2016 AIA Regional Commendation for Public Architecture, my expertise with both residential renovation (to all types of houses, especially Queenslanders, 50s/60s/80s), new contemporary homes and luxury residences has earned me a reputation as one of Brisbane's architectural specialists in lifestyle design architecture, interior design and landscape design.