MISS MIDGLEY’S: Pretty in Pink

“The beauty of working with someone that has so much experience is that you can trust that it’s going to work out,” says Izzie, daughter of retired architect Lisa White and one half of the duo behind Miss Midgley’s. 

“It worked out really well – I think she pushed me harder and really made me stick to my guns on a few design decisions,” adds Lisa. “And she encouraged me to follow through on a few of the bigger ideas.” 

I sit down with Lisa and Izzie in the ‘Assembly Hall’, one of the five apartments that make up the latest iteration of 135 James Street. The new narrative of this iconic building has been retold by the mother-daughter duo with their vision of sustainable, heritage accommodation in the heart of New Farm. We’re also joined by Stella, the latest family addition and true muse for the pet-friendly aspect of the place.

“Not everyone gets to do their dream project and I guess it would be fair to say that this is as close to a dream project as anything.”

Miss Midgley’s is a collaborative work of preservation and reimagination that from the start was considerate of the local community. They tell me that playing the roles of developer and project manager allowed Miss Midgleys to become a reality far quicker than they ever expected – Lisa being more than aware of the importance of consistent communication with builders – “communication is a gentle word for it,” she laughs. But it also helped them establish a connection with the neighbourhood from the beginning.

“We were very transparent,” says Izzie. 

“But we had nothing to hide!” adds Lisa.

Izzie continues: “We were able to make some braver design decisions that helped preserve part of the story of the fabric of this community. Even something like keeping the pink was quite contentious. We ran polls on Instagram trying to get people to come on the journey with us. Pink is a really important historical colour for this building.”

Staying true to their vision and executing it with the utmost authenticity has allowed a suburban icon to glow again and join the repertoire of Brisbane’s illustrious ‘pink palaces’.

Watch exposé‘s exploration of Miss Midgley’s heritage accommodation:

Even Brisbane City Council aided with a smooth and timely process. “They loved it, they loved the vision, they loved what we were doing”, says Lisa. “We had QR codes on the front that linked to our instagram site, we went to the local councillor, to the local heritage society just to let them know what we were doing in case anyone in the community was concerned. We covered all bases early.”

“We feel very privileged to have been able to be part of that journey,” Izzie adds. “We did a lot of research on the history of this building and we commissioned an architectural historian to write a book on it, the prebuild and then on the early stages of the building.”

When asked if architecture was a solid career path for her (perhaps confronting to answer in front of her established mother) Izzie says she wishes it was more of an expansive discipline: “I’d love architects to be doing films, books, art, fashion shows; I think a core skill we have is creative problem solving.” Izzie’s exploration of website design, social media, art, graphics and branding helped to quickly establish the identity of Miss Midgley’s and run a successful and engaging Instagram account to share their story. “We both have diverse skill sets and one of the best things about working together was being able to combine them totally,” she says.

“Isabella has also discovered a niche in the market for the storytelling of buildings and I think there might be something there for her in the future,” Lisa adds. 

There is such a symbiotic connection between these two that even in conversation with me one steps up when the other can’t find the words, completing the story if you will.

“To have somewhere outdoors designed for you to bring your dog is great.”

“This is one of the first projects I’ve seen come to an end whilst I’ve been on it,” says Izzie. “Mum could have faith in what wasn’t built yet and was able to pick tiles and colour palettes, while I was struggling to understand how this was all going to come together on site.”

“We had to adapt, as the building unravelled,” says Lisa. 

“You assume underneath all the carpet you’re pulling up that there’s going to be something like a beautiful floorboard and once you start ripping it up it’s just full of construction putty – there’s so much you just can’t predict,” says Izzie.

“I was hoping to uncover a real gem”, admits Lisa. “The arch above the front door, a beautiful fragment of wallpaper but that’s almost it. No bones or anything though, no broken bits of crockery; it was almost as if someone had swept the site clean of any old historic references. We found one packet of Tally Ho cigarettes, that was it!”

What the duo have achieved, in spite of the artefactual shortage, is keeping the spirit of the namesake alive. Each of the other rooms (aptly named the Principal’s Room, Locker Room, Refectory, Drawing Room) feature a vintage school desk/bench – a nod to its roots as an educational establishment. While there is a coherent style throughout: the iconic pink expressed with curved lounges by Didier and curtains by Decorators Workroom, the brass bathroom fittings by Brodware and Shaws Butler sinks from Luxe by Design; each apartment has its own unique energy, layout and vantage points.

One of the fundamental successes of Miss Midgley’s, operationally speaking, is that Lisa sought about creating a space she would want for herself and her family (with pets being a prime consideration). This establishes an affinity with many of the guests that come to stay.

“To have somewhere outdoors designed for you to bring your dog is great,” says Lisa.

“That’s been a fun perk of being a pet-friendly accommodation,” says Izzie. “We’re always getting snaps of dogs lazing in the sun. It has been quite joyful!”

“This whole thing has been quite joyous,” adds Lisa, who tells me it has very much been a family journey, with Izzie adding: “It meant so much to work with mum on this. First project together. We’re lucky that we’re very similarly inclined.”

“It also was a family home when it was first built. It was so great being able to see mum achieve such an incredible project. Not everyone gets to do their dream project and I guess it would be fair to say that this is as close to a dream project as anything. So that was awesome to be part of as her daughter.”

At this point I have Stella’s face resting in my palm and she’s gazing (I’d like to think) quite adoringly at me through all her curls. At that moment it really felt like I was just a guest in someone’s family home – another poignant and organic achievement of this place.

With its prime location, there was legitimate concern from the neighbourhood about what was going to be constructed here and one could argue that it’s quite serendipitous that Lisa found it first. Perhaps another developer would not have had the same level of appreciation for its history or respect for its community.

“We felt like it was a perfect match for us and our skill set and whenever we came to work on site we were so happy and for us there was a real sense of belonging,” says Lisa.

“The building belongs here.”

Book your stay at Miss Midgley’s here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

A Trailblazer in Brisbane’s Real Estate Market – Meet Danny Zhou

A Trailblazer in Brisbane’s Real Estate Market – Meet Danny Zhou

In 2018, he made a bold decision to embrace sales and relocated to Brisbane as