The small balcony of my Woolloongabba apartment is used to dry my wet socks, I hardly ever eat a meal on it – preferring to dine in the comfort of the 23-degree airconditioned room inside.
As more high-rise apartments pop up around Brisbane and homes are renovated, verandahs are used less and less.
Brisbane heritage architect Andrew Ladlay said people would now rather entertain inside or in the backyard, away from the prying eyes of their neighbours.
“People don’t want to sit on their front verandahs anymore, they want a nice deck or courtyard out the back,” he said.
“Part of the reason verandahs are not used as much anymore is people are much more private these days and don’t really socialise with their neighbours as much.”
Verandahs used to be only one place where one could chat over a cup of tea, watch a storm roll in, attempt to catch the hint of a breeze, all the while discreetly keeping an eye on the neighbours.
The first Queenslanders in my family were Luigi and Constante Danesi, Italian migrants who fled Mussolini’s rule in the 1920s and owners of the state’s first pasta factory.
The Danesi brothers were leading voices against the British Preference League, which sought to cut Italians out of the north Queensland sugar cane industry in the early 1930s.
It was on their verandah that the brothers would hatch strategies to boost Italian employment, learn to speak English, relax with other canecutters after a long day in the field, sing snippets of operas and reminisce about home.
On any given night the jovial sounds of the accordion would waft over parts of north Queensland as Italians gathered on their verandahs.
The front deck at my family home in Bardon, north-west of the CBD, was used in much the same way, complete with customary cane furniture and potted plants.
Hundreds of birthday candles were blown out on the verandah and our visitors would rarely spend time inside the house.
My first share house as a university student, also in Bardon, had no airconditioning. Just a pedestal fan that circulated hot air.
That meant socialising was restricted to evening glasses of cask wine on the back verandah where the breeze could stop makeup melting off our faces before we hit the town.
The verandah of the house – shared by a group of four girls in their early 20s – was also helpful for low key surveillance.
We kept a close eye on one strange neighbour who we believed kidnapped our kitten and also used the vantage point to eyeball the group of boys who shared a house a few doors down, particularly on hot summer days when they washed their cars.
Mr Ladlay said while the original purpose of the Queensland verandah was to catch the breeze and protect the thin external walls from lashing rains and the scorching sun, it was a fantastic spot to keep an eye on things.
“I guess they [verandahs] used to be used a lot for watching the world go by and casual surveillance,” Mr Ladlay said.
“In the city, it was a place you could see people walking down the street and say hello to them.
“But now everybody is out the back. It goes part in parcel of having a pool and a garden out the back, people want more space than you get on a verandah,» he said.
“I guess it is a change of lifestyle really.”
Mr Ladlay said front verandahs of Brisbane homes were now more “decorative” rather than functional.
“There are some architects doing modern interpretations of a verandah, and I think that makes more sense because putting a verandah in for the sake of looks, I think is a little bit redundant,» he said.
“And in a lot of the houses that have been renovated around the city, people enter from the lower levels of the house now rather than the front steps up to the verandah.
“That changes the whole flow of the house.”
He said as the city continues to develop, more needed to be done to protect the traditional Queenslander around Brisbane.
“People aren’t building them anymore and a lot of them are being renovated to death,» Mr Ladlay said.
«People like the idea of having a Queenslander then obliterate all of the features that make it a Queenslander.
“I think they are under threat from more intensive development, people wanting to split blocks and so on,» he said.
“If you want to see the best ones you have to go out to the towns where there has been less pressure to develop like Ipswich and Maryborough. They have some perfect ones.»
Lydia Lynch is a reporter for the Brisbane Times