It is a defining Brisso experience to live in a “Queenslander” house.
The distinctive weatherboard houses, perched on stumps or stilts, are open to the elements, with their central ‘breezeway’ corridors and generous verandas.
Brissos are rightfully proud of these weatherboard gems and will have strong feelings of nostalgia associated with them.
All politicians and public figures originating from Queensland must live in Queenslanders when in Brisbane.
In fact, most Brissos will have lived in one at some stage, perhaps growing up as a child, or when staying with grandparents, or later as a young adult living in a share house, or when first married. For the Brisso, the Queenslander is the “container” of significant memories.
Some of these memories will not be happy ones. These light-weight boxes are also open containers for cold and heat, mould, noise, moths, mosquitos, cockroaches, possums, rats, and the occasional snake.
But the idea of the Queenslander is a great thing. So great in fact that it surpasses and transcends the actual experience of living in one.
This is a good thing as it helps with the enormous amount of denial required to live in a Queenslander, denial about the high levels of maintenance required by the building, and its poor insulation and protection from the elements, vermin and unwanted relatives or friends who are sorting themselves out.
While Brissos might talk about the design that is suited to the sub-tropical climate – the clever elevation with stilts, the use of louvers and verandas for cross ventilation – in reality they will have suffered a great deal to live the dream.
Every Brisso knows what it’s like to be woken through the night by the racket of possums in the ceiling, hissing and cackling like devils being exorcized.
Every Brisso knows that cringe worthy experience of overhearing things in a Queenslander that were never meant to be overheard. Or being overheard by someone they didn’t realise was home.
Many Brissos will also have renovated a Queenslander. What to other people might look like a humble box of a house, the Brisso can see as a potential “traditional Queenslander”. The Brisso will talk about “lifting it up”, “pushing it back” on the block, “turning it around”, “building in underneath”, “opening up” verandas, putting on a deck, extending out the back, and so on.
This may end up costing more than the construction of a whole new house, but the wonderful thing is that the real estate market tends to reward such labours of love. There is nothing as reliable as the street appeal of a Queenslander.
One can renovate an architect designed seventies house, transforming it into a luxurious and functional home, yet find it hard to recoup the expense upon resale but money spent on dressing up weatherboard cottage goes a long way.
Renovation of the Queenslander, apart from being an important cultural and symbolic activity, is also an essential part of the Brisso’s wealth accumulation strategy. Brissos will have often ‘got ahead’ by selling a weatherboard house that they have turned into a Queenslander.
Brissos will have happy memories of ripping down an internal wall or two. And the joy of seeing those bi-fold doors open up onto the deck, cancels out the pain of paying for them.