Renovating a 1950’s Post War Queensland home

Renovating a 1950’s Post War Queensland home

Renovations, Tips and Advice

renovating a 1950’s post warIf you own or are thinking about renovating a 1950’s post-war Queensland home this is one article that you will want to add to your favourites list.

Found throughout Brisbane, 1950’s style homes are very common in suburbs such as Holland Park, Carina, Wynnum, parts of Indooroopilly, St Lucia and Stafford as well as Wavell Heights, Geebung, Zillmere, Banyo and Nudgee the list goes on. But whilst they were popular in their day, they really don’t suit our modern lifestyles. They do however have a lot of renovation potential, providing you’re working with someone like dion seminara architecture who know how to create designs that suit these styles of homes.

But before we look at the pros and cons of renovating a 1950’s post-war Queensland style home in Brisbane, let’s first take a look at their history, which will help to explain some of their shortcomings.

Homes in the 1950s

Following on from the depression and the war, the 1950s were a boom time for the Australian economy and housing market. However, the war years had taken their toll resulting in a shortage of skilled labour and building materials. Because of this people began building smaller, more basic homes, often doing much of the work themselves. Many homes built in the 1950s were functional but lacked the decorative features of pre-war homes often making it hard to tell private homes from state housing.

Homes from this era might be built from bricks or weatherboards or even a combination of both, with the availability of materials a major factor in the owner’s choice.

Common problems with 1950’s style homes

Whilst houses from this era vary in terms of layout and design, there are elements that most 1950’s homes share. As mentioned the homes themselves tend to be small, with limited living areas, small kitchens and pokey bedrooms. Hallways are narrow and windows are small often resulting in dimly lit rooms that lack adequate amounts of natural light and ventilation often leading to dampness issues.

Homes from this period can be expensive to run. No insulation and gaps in windows, door frames and floorboards can drive up heating and cooling costs.

The lack of available tradespeople which lead to a lot of owners doing some of the work themselves, coupled with limited materials, means that it’s not uncommon to find some corners have been cut particularly in areas like framing and bracing. Therefore it pays to have these homes inspected structurally prior to commencing any renovation work. Roof pitches should also be checked as they are sometimes under the current minimum requirements.

A potentially serious concern is the possible presence of asbestos and lead. Asbestos sheets were often used on walls and ceilings of homes from this era. The dust from these ageing sheets can be deadly and need to be removed by a professional. Lead-based paints were also popular in the 1950s and lead was also often used to solder pipes and in other building applications. If in doubt you really should have dion seminara architecture arrange for your home to be professionally inspected.

So much potential

Now you might be thinking with a list of potential problems that long you would be better off avoiding 1950s post-war style homes altogether. But the truth is these homes have a number of strong points and plenty of potential.

The plumbing in 1950’s homes typically consists of quality copper pipes. The orientation of these homes was normally very good and some of the timbers used in their construction were of a very high standard. Use of sustainable materials and design principles can greatly reduce the running cost of these homes producing an outcome that is beautifully comfortable all year round.

And whilst the homes themselves may offer little in terms of living space or creature comforts, the blocks are often sizeable offering a lot of scope for future expansion.

How to tap into that renovation potential

Ok so let’s get right down to it and discuss how to make the most from your 1950’s home.

As we have discussed the floor plans don’t suit modern living. Rooms are separate from each other and most of these homes lack the size to create more open planned living spaces. However, the existing floor plans are often perfect for those areas of your home that require, separate, individual rooms like bedrooms, bathrooms, laundries etc. What is needed is an extension/addition where you add on new open plan living spaces that blend in with the existing structure.

Some people recommend a ‘knock it down and start again from scratch’ approach, but why would you demolish perfectly good space to replace it with a very basic pine framed building that is so common today, when that new home could cost you as much as 3 times more than simply renovating and adding to the existing home?

These homes are almost always built on stumps which mean that most of them have the potential to be lifted, rotated or moved around the block to suit your design needs. In essence, the existing home can be viewed as a modular component of your new home that can service your needs in a number of ways.

The key to getting the most out of your home is getting an intelligent, well-thought-out design created that not only considers the building itself but also takes into account the surrounding spaces. Making use of these spaces and incorporating them into a seamless contemporary design is vital to successfully renovate a 1950’s post-war home.  dion seminara architecture understands these principles; we have created a number of beautiful 1950’s renovation projects.

Getting started | renovating a 1950’s post-war home

Typically located in desirable suburbs on sought after streets 1950’s post-war Queensland homes have plenty to offer, it’s simply a matter of getting a contemporary renovation design created that suits your needs.

For all their shortcomings these post-war homes often have great character. There is the potential for a quality renovation design to respect and enhance this character. You will find a number of beautiful examples of 1950’s post-war home renovations in our gallery that illustrate this point.

So if you own, or are thinking of buying and renovating a 1950’s post-war style home, talk to dion seminara architecture and let us show you how to achieve your homes true potential. We specialise in thinking outside the box to help to ensure that our client’s get excellent value from the money they invest in their homes.

Dion Seminara Architect


We are experts at home design, renovations and new homes and ensure good value for money outcomes.

Hi, I am Dion Seminara, practicing architect and licensed general builder for 30 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.