A Queenslander Cottage in Brisbane Is Overhauled to Open to the Elements

A Queenslander Cottage in Brisbane Is Overhauled to Open to the Elements

By Caitlin Wheeler / Photos by Andy Macpherson Studio
Shaun Lockyer Architects gives a timber-and-tin cottage a sophisticated mullet renovation that responds to the subtropical climate.

In an inner-city suburb of Brisbane, positioned between a busy street and a laneway, this recently renovated home makes one of two impressions, depending on your approach. At the front, Shaun Lockyer Architects (SLa) honored the classic Queenslander typology with a corrugated iron roof, timber framing and cladding, and simple gable form. At the back, concrete abounds. 

"The choice of the concrete was a deliberate juxtaposition to the light, ephemeral character of the cottage," says Shaun Lockyer, founding principal of SLa, who wanted a "heavy, solid, and robust" base for the new home. 

Typical Queenslander homes harmonize with the climate by perching on wooden piles that allow air to circulate under the floors. Here, SLa chose to use the cool underfloor area as a living space, but added vertical slatting at the front entry to hint at traditional stilts. To give the home a sense of privacy from the busy street, SLa lowered the entry, and implemented an extended awning, deep-set windows above, and a cloak of dark gray paint. 

Walking down the front steps, the concrete walls feature recessed arches that add a classical elegance. Each holds a light fixture, and the one at the landing is cut out to allow for drainage during Brisbane’s rainy summers— "Practical as well as poetic," explains Lockyer.  

In another play on the Queenslander typology, SLa implemented a series of verandas that provide spaces for socializing, protect from sub-tropical elements, and allow for breezes to naturally regulate the interior temperatures of the home. The veranda at the front—really more of a sub-floor balcony—can be opened to welcome fresh breezes, and is covered with a gauzy curtain to filter sunlight. The casual, sunlit sitting room inside features a Max Alto Pathos Table and a Fulgens Armchair, both from SPACE furniture. 

Because the home’s footprint takes up the entire lot, the team wove the indoor and outdoor spaces together to maximize both. In particular, SLa made use of the roof, implementing terraces lush with native plants. "All of our work looks to engage the fifth elevation in order to bring the landscape and as much softness as possible into the built environment," says Lockyer. 

SLa placed the entertaining areas, which are also indoor/outdoor, on the middle floor. Here, with panoramic city views, and a resort-worthy swimming pool just beside the industrial-chic kitchen and living area, the client can entertain year round. 

"The pool provides joy," says Lockyer, "but it also provides evaporative cooling, animated lighting at night, and of course a necessary respite from the warm subtropical summers." When the weather gets more extreme, the interiors can be tempered with fans, curtains, and operable timber screening. 

To match the drama of the tropical rooftop and stunning pool, SLa went big with the focal point of the home’s interior: the dining room. With a double-height ceiling, a freestanding monolith of concrete, a wall of warm American oak, and an eye-catching chandelier, the space exudes sophistication. Not only does it perfectly frame the chandelier, but it also provides a backdrop for the client’s whimsical modern art collection.

The use of oak appears again in the bedrooms, hallways, and in the bathrooms. Lockyer explains the choice of timber in the bathrooms as a deliberate subversion. "By choosing a material not traditionally associated with wet areas, we brought warmth and personality to an otherwise sterile space." 

Lockyer reflects on the completed renovation, calling it a true team project that was "rounded off with bespoke landscaping and a fully tailored interior." It was, he says, an "absolute joy" to create. 

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