A Queenslander Turned Multigenerational, Japanese-Inspired Home

Queenslanders are renowned for their traditional charm and high-set position, but less so their connection to the outdoors. When extending their home to better suit multigenerational living, the owners of this home in Northgate (nine kilometres north of Brisbane’s CBD) saw potential to overcome this missing element. 

Recognising the under-utilised space beneath the original timber structure, the clients came to Arcke architects with a brief to lift the house and design a two-bedroom, self-contained apartment underneath. Designed for elderly parents, this apartment contains a generous bathroom (to accommodate wheelchairs), a concrete foundation prepared for a future elevator, bedroom, and laundry. 

Connection and separation became key themes of the project, allowing the family to lead independent lives but come together in mutual spaces. Arcke turned to Japanese architecture to accomodate – a style that provides surprising similarities to the typical Queenslander. 

Arcke architect Matt Kennedy explains, ‘In Japanese architecture, an “engawa” is a covered area facing a garden that also serves as a passageway or sitting space. In Queensland, the verandah provides a similar role. and the crossover between these two cultural similarities enabled some interesting architectural exploration in thresholds and filtration of privacy.

Consequently, an outdoor dining area was created on an intermediate level between the main residence upstairs and the apartment below. This space and its relationship to the garden provides for social interaction between the family, without particular ownership by the upstairs or downstairs occupants. 

By opening up this enclosed rear of the house, a serene green outlook designed by Dan Young Landscape Architect is able to be enjoyed from above, below and within. The peaceful aspect is complemented and contained by the landscaped roof of the single carport.

‘We’ve peeled away the rear of this Queenslander to create multiple spaces occupying the edge, expanding the habitable threshold between inside and out,’ says Matt. 

To enhance connections to nature and imbue a feeling of calm, Arcke chose three shades of green for the external facade including Dulux Penzance, and Dulux Concealment, as well as green accents (mainly Laminex Spinifex cabinetry) throughout the interiors. 

‘Reflecting the natural environment in materials and colour selection is important in our architectural practice. As “heritage” green is also a traditional paint shade for a Queenslander, it seemed appropriate to give this a contemporary spin with a modern interpretation,’ says Matt.  

The use of Japanese design principles in this project goes beyond merely an aesthetic appreciation to address subtle degrees of privacy, garden connections, and considered procession of movement. Inside and outside now co-exist where previously the house was internalised without significant outlook or aspect.

Matt says, ‘In all our work we aspire to elicit feelings of serenity and joy, and this project exemplifies many of the values we celebrate.’ 

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