History and cool comfort combine at Brisbane’s most charming (and stylish!) boutique guesthouses, as our Editor, Natalie Bannister, discovers with a city staycation in New Farm.
The charming inner-city suburb of New Farm in Brisbane is known for its vibrant atmosphere, designer boutiques, homewares shops, fashionable bars and restaurants, and gorgeous homes that combine classic Queenslander style with contemporary panache (we’ve showcased many of them in these very pages over the years!).
It’s one of my favourite precincts in my hometown, so when I heard about a grand old dame that had been converted into stylish boutique accommodation here by a design-savvy mother/daughter duo, it was all the inspiration I needed to start planning a staycation.
Tucked away on the quiet residential end of trendy James Street is the delightful Miss Midgley’s, an urban retreat housed in a heritage building that dates back over 160 years, where retro charm combines with modern design to create a unique and unforgettable luxury experience.
From serving as an orphanage to being the residence of a former Queensland premier, the building has a colourful past. In 1905, it became the site of Miss Midgley’s Educational Establishment, a private school founded by the talented artist and teacher, Annie Midgley: the inspiration behind the guesthouse’s name.
Transforming Miss Midgley’s into a luxury accommodation destination has been the passion project of Lisa and Isabella White, who both hold Masters of Architecture degrees from the University of Queensland. Their commitment to preserving the building’s history while infusing it with contemporary elements is evident throughout the property.
The heritage conversion of Miss Midgley’s has been carefully and lovingly executed by Lisa and Izzie, demolishing false ceilings and floors, and revealing hidden architectural details that had been concealed for years. The preserved decorative plaster ceilings, original Petrie brickwork, and mismatched floorboards showcase the building’s rich heritage. At the same time, contemporary touches including Brazilian granite benchtops, brass-topped kitchen tables, pink Italian porcelain tiles, bold salmon-hued walls, and velvet upholstered curved lounges add a dose of modern luxury.
Miss Midgley’s features five fully equipped, air-conditioned apartments, each named after a different area of the former educational establishment. The Refectory, Principal’s Office, Locker Room, Drawing Room and — our gorgeous home-away-from-home for the night — Assembly Hall.
From the spacious rear deck of the Principal’s Office to the rediscovered kitchen in the Locker Room, each apartment has its own unique elements that set it apart. The bedrooms, designed to provide a tranquil retreat, feature minimalist white interiors and functional joinery, creating a sense of zen amidst the vibrant surroundings.
Each apartment at Miss Midgley’s has access to a small deck or balcony, allowing guests to soak in the ambience of the neighbourhood. For those looking to cool off, a pool surrounded by lush tropical gardens awaits, complete with a small sun deck adorned with vintage-style fringed umbrellas, creating a serene oasis to enjoy.
To further enhance the experience, each room is equipped with a copy of a book commissioned by Lisa and Izzie and written by local architectural historian Marianne Taylor, which provides a fascinating glimpse into the building’s historical importance to the area. Throughout the rooms, you’ll also find immersive artworks and quirky lines of prose on the walls to entice guests on a journey through time, offering further insight into the stories and significance of Miss Midgley’s past.
The property can be booked in its entirety for group stays, and we learn that weddings have also become a thing here — the property is perfect for small and intimate celebrations of love! Or do as we did and reserve an individual apartment for a short stay, and settle in to relax and make yourself at home. The ground level’s pet-friendly policy even allows guests to bring their furry friends along for the adventure.
The attentive and responsive team managing the stay adds an extra layer of hospitality, making every guest feel welcome and well-cared for. There’s even a Miss Midgley’s Spotify playlist, with a mix of classic, vintage and soulful tunes so you can really tap into the vibe of the place (I loved it so much, it’s now made its way onto my own playlist!).
Whether you’re an architecture and interior design lover like me, a history buff, or simply seeking a unique and comfortable place for a staycation or short break, Miss Midgley’s offers the perfect excuse for an inner-city sojourn.
Photography: David Chatfield