Timeless charm

This stylish home with its eco-friendly features is a contemporary take on a classic Queensland design.


Philip O’Brien

For over a century, the traditional Queenslander house has made Brisbane’s suburbs distinctive. Made of lightweight materials and with shade and airflow enabled by verandas, wide eaves and steeply-pitched roofs, these houses were ecologically sustainable long before the concept of ‘smart building’.

A challenge for contemporary builders is to rework this vernacular style in an era where sustainability and eco-friendliness are more critical than ever.

HIA member Cameron McDonald of MCD Construction has done just this with a modern take on a classic design. The result is a house of chic provincial appeal, with vaulted ceilings and exposed rafters contrasting with recycled timber beams and feature sandstone throughout. Integrated energy- and water-efficient systems ensure it ticks important green boxes.

‘The clients wanted a large house to accommodate four children which would be their home for a long time,’ Cameron says. ‘A resort-style living arrangement which would allow for all the needs of their family.’

The house sits on a 2,186-square metre block in the Brisbane suburb of Wilston, four kilometres north of the CBD.

Designed by Bayden Goddard of BGD Architects, the six-star energy rated house has six bedrooms, seven bathrooms and two offices, in addition to multiple dining and living areas. Floor-to-ceiling windows and French doors enhance these spaces, allowing for easy indoor-outdoor living. Two sandstone fireplaces, along with a gym, wine cellar, eight-car garage, an infinity pool and tennis court add to the impressive list of family-friendly amenities.

‘Building on a suspended concrete slab allowed for better thermal insulation...’

The property sits on a battle axe block behind a heritage-listed home now used as a function centre. The previous house at the rear of the block was only 12 years old but was hot and poorly designed for cross-flow ventilation, Cameron says. Replacing it presented some construction challenges.

‘In order to build a lower-level carpark and basement living space, we had to go underground. Under the topsoil was clay and then a lot of hard rock. This all had to be dug out and during construction the hole frequently filled with stormwater.’

This lower level now provides an important feature of the family home with an entertainment centre separated from the gym by custom-built barn doors; on the same level is a wine cellar made from recycled bricks and wharf timber beams, along with a spacious garage.

Upstairs, the immediate impression is one of light and space with three-metre high ceilings, soaring rafters and walls painted in off-white. The interior’s lighter shades suit the climate very well, Cameron says.

‘One variation from the older Queenslander style is that this house has been built not on stilts but on a suspended concrete slab,’ he says. ‘This allowed us to build a larger structure with better thermal insulation and better support for retaining walls.’

French oak flooring in living spaces
the wine cellar features recycled bricks and wharf timber beams

Entering the main living space, one’s eye is immediately drawn to an impressive double-sided fireplace with sandstone ballast walls and slab hearth.

Adjacent is the expansive Shaker-style kitchen with glass-fronted cabinets and Calcutta marble benchtops. Nearby, a butler’s pantry with black-and-white chequered tiles contrasts with French oak flooring in the living areas.

These oak floors are also a feature of the upstairs bedrooms, while the bathrooms have Herringbone vitrified tiles, with Calcutta marble vanity tops. All throughout the house louvre windows ease the flow of cooling breezes.

MCD Construction specialises in residential projects that require a high standard of workmanship and attention to detail, factors which played a part in the Wilston property winning the 2017 HIA–CSR Brisbane Region Custom Built Home (over $2 million) award. Sustainable design principles and eco-friendliness are also important parts of the business’ ethos, as is working with HIA GreenSmart Builders and Professionals to improve energy efficiency.

‘This means using natural elements wherever possible,’ Cameron says. ‘Cross-flow ventilation rather than extensive airconditioning, overhanging eaves, protecting internal walls from sunlight, proper insulation and the use of light-based colours. We try to let a house breathe.’

This home then naturally includes a number of these fundamentals as well as a 22,000-litre underground water storage unit, a 13kW solar panel system on the roof and an automated C-Bus system that controls the home’s energy consumption. Additional features include a cellar, with air purification and temperature and humidity control in a rustic environment of recycled timber beams and travertine floors.

‘Our preference is always to salvage as much as can be recycled,’ Cameron says. ‘That includes reusing rock and soil within the immediate location rather than transporting it across town and creating more pollution.’



Originally apprenticed as a carpenter and joiner, Cameron has spent 25 years in building, supplementing his original trade qualifications with a university degree and TAFE certificates.

He enjoys working with architects, such as Bayden Goddard, who share his interest in using modern technology to enhance sustainability in construction. And he especially values his membership of HIA: ‘It provides a support network at those times when you really need someone to call for human resources or technical advice,’ he says. ‘It’s also about joining a group of people who are striving to be the best that they possibly can. The HIA awards program recognises that.’

Cameron says that the success of the Wilston property is a reaffirmation of age-old principles of eco-sustainability. ‘Brisbane has many older homes which were well-designed for the climate. But, for some years now, these principles have often been overlooked. For example, overhanging eaves are there for protection; houses need insulation and ventilation in order to breathe.

‘The older Queenslander houses still offer lessons for later generations. It’s a matter of reaffirming that tradition, and using it, rather than ignoring it. This house does all of that with style and timeless charm.’


Design details

Builder: MCD Construction
Designer: BGD Architects
Location: Wilston, Brisbane

  • Roof structure: hand pitched 190x42 Kwila hardwood
  • Roofing: Colorbond Trimdek
  • Exposed rafters/feature truss: 190x45 Kwila hardwood
  • Walls: 133 VJ Boards, plasterboard, ‘Berrimah’ and ‘Hillbilly’ sandstone, subway white tiles
  • Posts: 150x150 recycled wharf timbers
  • Floors: 230mm pre-finished French oak, herringbone vitrified
  • Benchtops: Calcutta marble
  • Control system: C-Bus and Control 4
  • Cellar: recycled bricks and wharf timber beams

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