The Jewel Of The Site

Identifying the jewel of the site

The jewel of the site is the thing you value most about your property. Your site is the land upon which your home is constructed. What is most precious about your particular site? Some might see the jewel of the site as its convenient location, but generally, ‘the jewel’ is more specific than that.

The jewel can lie in the aspect of your site. This is where the positioning of the block or buildings face a particularly pleasing direction. It can be seen in how your site captures the morning light or potential views. The jewel may lie in the opportunity to see the sky from a tight, inner-city block. Or you may find it in your entry, garden, courtyard, or a backyard that lights you up or calms you down.

After: The Jewel Of The Site - Bowen Hills Apartment

Before: The Jewel Of The Site at Bowen Hills (Photo courtesy of Showhomes)

The jewel of the site is also a feeling. Your home becomes the frame that transports you beyond the built environment. It offers peace in the chaos, as your home frames the jewel of the site and connects you to something larger.

In these before and after photos of an inner city apartment at Bowen Hills, the jewel of the site revealed itself after a cosmetic renovation, where the office area became a reading nook. One owner noted that he now loved this location the most in the Bowen Hills apartment. The position of the chair allowed the morning sun to pour over his shoulder and light up the pages of whatever he was reading. This allowed him to enjoy reading in peace. 

After: The Jewel Of The Site - Bowen Hills Apartment

After: The Jewel Of The Site in Bowen Hills (Photo courtesy of Showhomes)

Pre-1946 Queenslanders 

In older homes, such as pre-1946 Queenslanders, the jewel of the site can be hidden from the homeowners. How is that possible? It’s due to the simplicity of design and low-budget approach to building these iconic character homes. The street-facing front verandah was at the front of the home and the back steps were at the rear, regardless of the orientation of the site. Plus, the rooms were small boxes separated by a central corridor with plumbing concentrated at the rear of the home. In such a circumstance, the jewel may be hidden behind an existing toilet wall or another blocker – a tree, a house, poor orientation, and more.

BEFORE: Front of house in Rosalie


Orientation and the jewel of the site

When renovating your pre-1946 Queenslander, finding the jewel of the site is possible even on a busy road. Your home’s orientation refers to the position of your home in relation to the path of the sun and prevailing winds. In Australia, a north-facing aspect is often preferred. But this doesn’t mean the front of the house faces north, by the way. It refers to the orientation of the main living areas and garden in relation to the sun. (Plus if you have children, finding north on your home site using the location of the sun, may be a fun activity.)

After: Renovated front of house in Rosalie and adding pod at rear.


During winter, north-facing rooms receive the sun’s natural light for longer. During summer,  overhanging eaves offer these rooms shade from the harsh summer climate. But even the northern aspect of your Brisbane home may face a busy road, commercial area, school, or other disturbance. However, a northern aspect, even on a busy road, can still reveal the jewel of the site. This is because of a Chinese concept in landscape design, called borrowed scenery.  

Borrowed Landscape Park Across Road PlaceMate Architects

After: Borrowed Scenery Offering Skyline Views Of The Park Across Road


Borrowed Scenery (or Landscape) in garden design

The principle of “incorporating background landscape into the composition of a garden” is found in traditional East Asian garden design

Borrowed scenery‘ describes the view of the garden from your building. It incorporates art, nature, and architecture. In garden design borrowed landscape has four essential elements: 

  1. 1. It should be visible from within the premises.
  2. 2. It captures an object such as a tree, a mountain, or an open sky.
  3. 3. The building’s design reveals only the featured scene.
  4. 4. The borrowed scenery connects the foreground of the garden with the home.
Borrowed Scenery: Incorporating nearby views into your garden's outlook.

Borrowed Scenery: Your outlook becomes the frame connecting you to a larger world.


In Yuanye, the 17th-century Chinese garden manual, there are four ways to include the concept of borrowed landscape in your garden design:

  • Distant borrowing includes the view of mountains, lakes, and large-scale views.
  • Adjacent borrowing captures neighbouring buildings and features in the garden view.
  • Upward borrowing takes in the sky, trees, clouds, and stars.
  • Downward borrowing seeks out hidden treasures like rocks and ponds.
  • (Source: Wikipedia)


Finding A Jewel Just Out Of Site 

Borrowed scenery can also add value to your property. This is true even when the art, nature, or architectural view lies one level above where your home sits. The living areas may currently face away from what is most precious about your site. So it can take an architectural eye to recognise the jewel in your site. 

Floor Plan: Existing ground floor and new first floor imagined.

Reimagined Floor Plan: Modified ground floor with lift to new first floor.


A long-term client of PlaceMate Architects, living in another city, asked for help when preparing an unrenovated inner-city Queenslander home for sale. Located on a hillside, the Paddington home had been tenanted for over 20 years. Even though it was in good condition, it needed to reveal the jewel of the site to find its true potential market value.  

Street level: Four car parking onsite in Paddington.

Street level reimagined with four car parking onsite parking in inner urban Paddington.


One of the first things Jan Hogarth, principal architect at PlaceMate Architects’ recognised, was that the jewel of the site lay one-storey above the home’s existing view. The potential for an amazing 180-degree view of the city’s skyline lay just out of reach of the existing home’s floorplan. A relatively inexpensive set of drawings of the new floorplan was drafted to convey this message to potential buyers.

After: The renovated house block with a city views.

After: The renovated house block was drawn to capture city views.


Adding a floorplan, shows buyers how to future-proof the property’s value. In addition, the architectural drawing of a tri-level home significantly boosted the sale price. By including a photo of the potential city views, Andrew Degn, Director and Lead Agent at Place Paddington, completed the picture. Once the jewel of the site was revealed in the minds of potential buyers, bidding was fierce.



City View -180 degrees

After: Potential 180 Degree City Views (Source: realestate.com.au)


Get in touch

Revealing the jewel of your site may be just outside your imagination. Once you decide to stay in your inner-city character home and explore whether to renovate, build under or extend, it’s important to get design advice from a suitably qualified architect. Simply complete your details to request a site visit by PlaceMate’s principal architect Jan Hogarth and find the jewel of your site today.