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The Australian tropical house conjures a vision of a large sprawling timber structure on stumps with an extensive, deep, shaded verandah accessed via French doors. The roof is iron and the pitch is steep. A bougainvillaea, a Mango tree, and or a Frangipani adorn the front garden of the house. The primary reason for the development of the Queenslander was the climate. The long hot summer days often ended with a torrential downpour. A house with wide verandahs that provided shelter from these conditions was essential. The importance of the verandahs as an architectural element in a tropical Australian house cannot be underestimated because it is one area which lent itself to an informal semi-outdoor lifestyle suited to the climate. The verandah became an integral part of every house and their use an essential part of the Australian way of life. The cool space framed with white posts, decorative balustrades and brackets became a symbol of the tropical house as an essential link between the indoors and the outdoors.
Being built on stumps up off the ground allows air to pass under the home. This and the light frame construction materials meant the heat was not retained in the structure thus providing respite from the heat of the day.
There is an open friendliness about these houses which, like their owners, is a characteristic of the warmer regions of Australia. They reflect a lifestyle which is a unique expression of the way people have adapted themselves to an environment vastly different from their historic European experience. These qualities have also given these houses a peculiarly Australian form of vernacular character not found elsewhere in the world. The “Queenslander” is an important part of Australia’s cultural heritage. Many of these houses were built during the latter half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries but they seem to have survived remarkably well. There must be a reason for this!
In the 1950s and 60s the ‘post war’ home was born. Also a timber home off the ground but lacking the verandahs and the adornments that gave the Queenslander its class and style the overwhelming requirement was to build as many homes as quickly as possible. Today they are being demolished by the thousands as land and renovations become costly. In the 1970s through to the present day the focus on minimising cost drove builders and clients to build brick boxes. Little thought was given to building for the climate and their visual impact is a blight on the suburban landscape which future generations will reject.
In the late 1970’s and early 80’s, after recognition by Governments of their architectural significance through legislation, people stopped knocking down ‘Queenslanders’ and instead began restoring them to there former glory.
At this time a builder by the name of Garth Chapman began to research the construction methods and design criteria of these unique homes. Chapman dreamed of building replicas true to their original form. “I grew up in a traditional Queensland home in the far north sugar cane town of Ingham during the 1950s. The special memories of my childhood in this home were the inspirational beginnings of my love for the unique Queensland architecture” Chapman said. He paid close attention to retaining the authentic exterior architecture as this is a deep part of the charm of these homes.
One negative to the housing style was the regular maintenance required. However, by using fibre cement cladding, modern longer lasting premium paints, and better construction & engineering standards, the maintenance time frame has been significantly extended and also made easier. The internal design and finishes were also given a contemporary makeover with flexibility to adapt the finishes to suit the client preferences.
A focus on the original climatic reason for the Queenslander drove Chapman to include insulation to all the external walls and ceiling. Window hoods were retained over most of the external windows thus protecting the home from the sun and rain. These energy efficient practises occurred long before the current climate focus began. Double hung windows and French cedar doors helped maintain the architectural integrity and also allowed good ventilation and access to the all important verandahs. Added to this was flexibility in internal design to ensure natural light and breezes entered the home but heat was kept out of important rooms.
“My passion for authentic Queensland architecture remains an important part of my everyday life. We are dedicated to building homes that will bring for future generations, the same happiness and treasured memories of my childhood. Our reputation for preserving the “Queenslander” architecture, excellence in design, quality construction, and integrity in all dealings will always remain the foundation of the Garth Chapman name”.
Why reinvent the wheel. If you want a home that performs better in the climate, is architecturally superior to most other house styles, and suits your relaxed entertaining lifestyle then a Traditional Garth Chapman Queenslander will be the best decision you ever made.
Some things in life really do get better.
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