The building that sits at 135 James Street has assumed many identities since its construction in the 1860s. At various stages of its existence the structure has been an orphanage, the residence of a former Queensland premier, a private hospital and a school, adopting a different name at nearly every stage. Cairncross House, Villa Romagnoli, St Clair, The Pink Flats and Miss Midgley’s Educational Establishment – each adopted guise has added another chapter to the building’s textured historical tapestry. The building’s latest identity pivot will bridge history with the present in a harmonious way, drawing upon the site’s endearing past as a house of learning as the inspirational foundation for Miss Midgley’s, New Farm’s soon-to-open boutique accommodation destination. Mother-daughter duo Lisa and Izzie White – both graduates from Masters of Architecture at University of Queensland – are spearheading this significant revitalisation effort, transforming the two-storey stone dwelling into a collection of chic apartment lodgings just a hop, skip and a jump from one of Brisbane’s most fashionable precincts. The White family, which has experience operating boutique hotels, has named the concept after Annie Midgley, an ambidextrous artist and teacher who opened the private school in 1905 and oversaw it for roughly 40 years.
Works are currently underway refurbishing the building’s interior and surroundings. Lisa and Izzie are going to great lengths to preserve and celebrate the location’s unique natural beauty, demolishing false ceilings and floors, and removing layers of rendering on the walls to uncover as much of the structure’s original fabric. Miss Midgley’s aesthetic will harmonise the building’s heritage materiality (think rough-hewn stone walls) with existing Art Deco quirks such as the preserved decorative plaster ceilings. The colour scheme will draw inspiration from the colours visible in the Brisbane tuff that the structure is wrought from – the stonework’s tones of brown, ochre, reddish clay and pink translating to the overall palette. Upon completion, Miss Midgley’s will boast five two-bedroom apartments, each featuring its own modernised kitchen and bathroom (plus the installation of air conditioning, though openable windows will allow for fresh air). Lisa and Izzie envision Miss Midgley’s as an attractive COVID-safe midpoint between upscale hotel accommodation and casual Airbnb rentals, with the entire building and single apartments able to be booked for short or lengthier stays. The three ground-floor domiciles (each boasting their own generous courtyard) will also be dog-friendly, allowing families to bring their furry friend along for trips to Brisbane. Excavation and levelling works around the building will lay the foundation for a pool and a motor-court-style exterior (boasting on-ground parking spaces for each apartment) inspired by European villas, with native foliage (including pink floral plants to complement the existing pastel-coloured walls) adding a touch of lushness to the landscaping.
Miss Midgley’s is targeting an opening date before Christmas. Be sure to follow along on Instagram to get a fascinating view of the works to date or sign up for updates through the mailing list via Miss Midgley’s website.
Image one and five courtesy of Izzie White Creative.