Love your verandah
Changing shape, size and purpose of an Aussie essential
THE most outstanding feature of the Australian house, the verandah, was primarily a response to climate. As time progressed, it came to fulfil a variety of functions. Shutters or blinds provided protection from the elements. Master craftsmen provided a decorative dimension with simple timber or more elaborate cast iron materials.
An important feature of the Queensland house which encourages informal, relaxed and open lifestyle is the verandah. When early Europeans settled in Australia, they transplanted building forms familiar to them in their home country. The basis of house designs was Georgian, a style well established in the UK. Faced with long, hot summers, it did not take long for the early settlers to make appropriate modifications to allow for greater comfort by providing shade around the house. The first step was to extend the eaves which later became verandahs. Windows became larger to let in breezes during the wet season.
The importance of verandahs as an architectural element in a Queensland Australian house cannot be underestimated because it is one area which lent itself to an informal semi-outdoor lifestyle ideally suited to the climate. In the northern regions, verandahs invariably enclosed all four sides of a dwelling and often occupied more area than the ‘house’ itself which was limited to providing storage room for household possessions. Verandahs were used day and night and in some areas for the whole year. People used them for living, eating, sleeping and entertaining.
So verandahs became an integral part of every house and their use an essential part of the Australian way of life. They offered a welcome refuge from the heat and glare of the piecing sun. The cool dark space framed with white posts and decorative balustrades became a symbol of the tropical house as an essential link between indoors and the outdoors.
When early shingles were replaced by galvanised iron, special sheets were made for verandahs. At first, they dipped in a slow graceful arc from below the eaves to the connecting verandah posts. Later, the metal sheets ran straight from below the eaves for three quarters then dipped in a quadrant to the post line.
The form of early verandahs was fairly simple and direct, but later examples incorporated a variety of embellished features. The straight horizontal roofline of the verandah was invariably interrupted at the entrance to emphasise the link to the stairs. It was either a highly decorated panel or a half-round section.
Somewhat stark verandah facades were also broken by trees and shrubs, also providing a shaded screen during the hot summers. In most cases this form of shading was insufficient, so the builders added a metre high balustrade of open slates or crossed trellis. The balustrades lent themselves to a variety of decorative treatments where panels of cast iron under the handrails of verandahs added a welcome touch of opulence.
Post second world war saw the verandahs enclosed to provide sleeping areas for the expanding families of returned soldiers.
The street scape is now returning to the picturesque vista of the open verandah.
RESTORING a classic Ipswich home to her original grandeur has been a labour of love for over a decade, but its one that the Jumelet family take great pride in.
Ron remembers the moment clearly when he took his daughters to see their future home.
He could see the potential, and couldn’t wait to get stuck in to what is going to be a renovation project that will knock the socks off those who said it couldn’t be restored.
After converting an old church on a large property in Fernvale, the travel to and from Ipswich took its toll on the family, and the couple decided to make the move closer to the girl’s school in 2005.
They had decided on home near Limestone Park, and then Ron saw Rhossilli, a large home right next to the five ways intersection outside Ipswich Girls’ Grammar School.
Overlooking the fiveways intersection sat a property, and after some period as flats, was in 2005 a hostel for mentally ill patients. It was tired, run down, filthy and needed a lot of love.
Ron and Liz had to stand there as all three daughters took one look at the rundown place, then burst into tears.
There is little historic information on the house, but it is known that the house was built in 1888, thanks to the fact that a Mr E Greenaway, a local stonemason, had scratched his name and this date in the base of one of the fireplaces. The home has seen several prominent owners, including Postmaster Richard Gill, Solicitor William Summerville who sent on to be Ipswich Chief Magistrate, an Alderman and Mayor in 1903.
Today the verandas are no longer enclosed bedrooms, and the house has been lovingly restored with formal dining rooms, ensuites, double garage, formal living room, a large kitchen, and a charming modern family room which opens up to an undercover barbecue area. Incredibly you can see the Brisbane CBD from the veranda.
Ron has been retired for over seven years, and admits he wonders now how he had the time to go to work.
“I can’t believe how much we got done, and still go to work 60 to 70 hours a week,” Mr Jumelet said. “We lived for 28 years in Fernvale before moving here in a restored church on which I did most of the work myself. We’d decided to move closer to school and work, and we’d put a contract on a house up the road, and I was showing someone online the house I’d bought. As I was going through I saw Rhossilli was up for sale. I had noticed it before and I remember I wondered what was underneath all the fibro.
“At that time, it was still operating as a hostel, with
about 20 residents, most of who were intellectually impaired. It was appalling, and an indictment of the system at that time which allowed this to go on.
“Anyway, I had a look at the place. I was at the bottom of the stairs looking up and I thought ‘What am I thinking?’ I had a look underneath and called my wife to come and check out this house. I had another few looks and found the house is solid, there’s not a brick out of place, the foundations are unbelievable.”
Ron struck a deal with his family. He’d get stuck in as project manager of what was to become a year long process of demolition, renovation and building work, involving at one point 17 tradies on site at the same time.
“The people had to move out, and for many years they would still turn up, I’d find them sleeping underneath the house and I felt for them,” Mr Jumelet said. “One chap lived here for 14 years!
“I knew it was going to take time and money. I didn’t look at it as an investment (with the aim of selling). We knew it would make a great family home, and that was the number one objective. I’d be surprised if I got the money back today, but that doesn’t matter. It was never the plan.
“We took out between 250 and 300 tonnes of rubbish, around 20 tonnes of lino alone, and about 50 tonnes of concrete,” Ron added. “I had three cleaners come in for two days each to clean the place, before we even began demolition. That’s how grotty the place was.”
After a year of overseeing the work, finally the family moved in and the family hasn’t looked back, revelling in the homes history as it unravels.
“We know it was built in 1888, as we had a heritage architect helping us. She couldn’t find any records on it, but when we were cleaning out the fireplaces, one had all the original tiles and behind that is inscribed ‘E. Greenaway 1888”. We know that he was a well-known stonemason, and nephew of Francis Greenway, a famous colonial architect,” Ron said.
“My favourite part of the house is the kitchen area. It doesn’t matter who you are, or how big your house is, you spend about 90% of your time in the bedroom, the bathroom and the kitchen area.
“I also love what we call Whiskey Corner where we can have a drink in the afternoons on the veranda.”
The girls have all grown up and left home, but Ron and Liz feel satisfied that the house has been restored to her former grandeur, and in May this year featured as part of the Great Houses of Ipswich open day to celebrate the home’s 130th birthday.
There is still work to be done, but Ron plans to take his time and enjoy it.
“You can’t beat having a decent size garden,” he said overlooking the sloping garden. “You look at new homes now and I wonder where the kids play? When we have visitors over the kids bolt to the backyard, they love it. It’s something generations of people took for granted.
“What’s good about living here is what’s good about living in Ipswich. We love living here. Twenty years ago, I’d never have said that, but I’m a convert. I love the place.”
Ipswich is perfect for making the most of your verandah
The view from the end of the garden. Above: The formal dining room Left: An historic photo of the house, date unknown
Rhossilli’s beautiful verandah. A classic entrance. The newly-built media room which opens onto a vast deck with a barbecue. Linking the old home with the new garage. deck and rumpus.