It’s alright to go ‘all white’

Written by Celine Louie

If ever there was a type of house that pulls at the heart strings, a Queenslander must certainly be at the top of the list.

Defined simply as a wooden house, built on a platform with a wide verandah, Queenslanders are an icon of our Australian heritage. These breezy, character-filled homes are known to stir up deep feelings of nostalgia and are the very definition of what life in Queensland is like.

Introducing Mel and Duncan Board, two people who fell in love with a Queenslander in dire need of renovation, and who, over the course of one year, transformed their early 1900’s aptly nick-named ‘Shrine to Pine’ into a stunning, light-filled, award-winning Coastal Queenslander.

Mel is an early childhood teacher by day and self-confessed renovating show addict by night. She’s the energetic ‘ideas woman’. Duncan, a building designer, knows what can and can’t be done, and manages to calmly bring Mel back to earth.

Together, with the help of their good friend and Queenslander renovation expert Dean, from Dean Wright Builders, they formed a renovating trio like no other to create a Master Builder award-winning family home in the heart of Maryborough that is a tribute not only to the past but to Australia’s beachy way of life.

As a family of six, living just out of town on five acres, life was flowing quite nicely for the Board family until early 2020, when an unexpected move to Boonooroo during Covid put a spanner in the works and it was there that Mel decided they’d benefit from a move to a more central location.

“I wanted to give the kids an in-town experience so they could be closer to their friends,” Mel recalls.
Once the search for a new home started, they quickly found a Queenslander in town. Laden with termites, an asbestos ceiling, and affectionately labeled ‘The Brown Cow’, due to its dark timber and oiled external cladding, it wasn’t without its long list of problems. Pushing through with a vision, Duncan drew up plans for a large extension. However, the hefty quote to do it forced a rethink.

“I cried so much over that house. I had fallen in love with it. It had such beautiful character features. But Duncan never liked it; he just saw the work, whereas I just saw the love,” Mel says.

“Then this house came up, and it was like someone had our list. It was big, had five bedrooms – which is hard to find – a large deck to entertain on, and a pool. It was on the street we wanted. It really ticked all our boxes so we put an offer in that afternoon”.

Then began a year-long renovation project, transforming a house with oppressive dark pine floors, half walls and ceilings, sandwiched between dated lemon-painted walls. Evidence of many changes to the layout made by previous owners was made glaringly obvious at every turn, by the many doorways. Now everything is painted white, Mel’s favourite decorating colour.

“Duncan has always teased me about it,” Mel admits with a smile. “He says to all the trades ‘she can have any colour, as long as it’s white’. But it works,” she laughs.

The end result is an open plan, light-filled, breezy, coherent house that works for their large family.
“Duncan’s the one who’s good at making things work. I just come up with the idea, and he gets on his computer and to see if it’s possible,” Mel says.

Removing unnecessary walls and opening up the spaces has allowed air to flow and has made lots of room for their large family to spend time together, while cleverly incorporating extra storage into otherwise un-used spaces, which addresses the usual complaint about the lack of storage in a typical Queenslander.

Mel has selected sheer floor to ceiling curtains – white of course – to draw the eye to the impressive height of the living room ceiling and its exquisite pressed metal finish that could otherwise go unnoticed.

Mel’s secret to styling a house is to keep it simple.

“Less is more. I regularly put stuff out and go no, that’s too much, and put it back. I generally go for a neutral colour palette because I find that calming”, Mel says.

“I like to decorate with little bits of the same type of thing such as rattan, natural wood, greenery from plants, sticking to natural textures, nothing too busy.

“I do love a good traditional Queenslander, but it’s not my style, not my style of furniture. I like to keep all the beautiful features of a Queenslander while adding a modern touch,” She admits.

The couple sing Dean’s praises for the way he supported them through the monumental build. Being a friend first, he may have experienced the highs and lows of the emotions going through Mel a little more than your average builder, but his calm nature and extensive building experience ensured that there were no major hiccups. The biggest challenge was keeping all of Mel’s creative ideas within budget.

“Sometimes you can have ideas, but you have to ask yourself, do I need to do it? Does it function as it is? Sometimes you have to bank the ideas for the future,” Mel concedes.

When asking Mel what advice she would give those contemplating buying a Queenslander to renovate, she jokes: “Duncan would say ‘don’t buy one’, but I would say you’ve got to be able to walk in and be able to imagine how you could live in it.”

The home they have created is certainly one designed for living life every day, incorporating functionality and style for a large family.

If you would like to delve a little deeper into Mel and Duncan’s renovating journey, head to
@our_borough_abode on Instagram.