The Luxury Travel Bible - Q&A Lisa & Izzie White

 Q&A  Lisa & Izzie White,

Founders, Miss Midgley's Guesthouse, Brisbane


Mother-daughter team - Lisa and Izzie, both graduated from the University of Queensland with their Master's of Architecture, albeit 30 years apart.

They are the founders of Miss Midgley's, a luxury guesthouse in Brisbane. Located in the heart of New Farm, Miss Midgley's is a 160-year-old boutique heritage guesthouse. Just over 12-months old, the property boasts five elegant, self-contained apartments, and is a charming renovation of one of Brisbane’s most iconic heritage properties that offers personalised comfort and style.

Lisa has specialised in bespoke small scale development for the last decade of her career. Her experience spans from residential beach front homes to managing caravan parks and commercial properties in NSW's northern rivers. This breadth of experience has landed her with a skillset in project management, construction management and architectural design. Her design ethos focuses on context first, always responding to the site with an attitude that less is more when it comes to celebrating how architecture interacts with the outdoors.

Izzie was the beneficiary of growing up in a design focused household - understanding intimately the value of context and environment from Lisa's work. After graduating from her masters, Isabella worked in architecture while developing skills in social media, branding, marketing and visual arts. She now works in architecture at the cross roads of where architecture meets the digital world -  developing architectural concepts and translating them into website design, developing branding material and social media feeds.

Together, they form a team that manages the entire process of project development, from inception through construction, to managing the social media feeds. The breadth of their combined experience creates a uniquely personal and seamless guest experience at Miss Midgley's.  

What inspired you to start working on the Miss Midgley’s Guesthouse?
Lisa: We always knew we wanted to work on a project together, having both completed our Masters of Architecture at the University of Queensland albeit 30 years apart! When Miss Midgley's came up for sale it was the most incredible building, in the most incredible location, we just went for it! It was never our intention to end up doing a heritage restoration project together but it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. 
Izzie: At the time, I had been living in New Farm for years and knew the building well. It was seriously derelict and hadn't been looked after at all over the last century. I still can't believe we got the opportunity to restore her for this next stage of her life.

What is the single best/defining thing about Miss Midgley's? What are you most proud of?
Lisa: Having guests that appreciate the building as much as you do is a huge moment of pride. As our apartments are two bedrooms, we often get groups of friends travelling, or families with children - both young and adult children for family catch ups! It's a joy hearing about their stays and how much they look forward to returning. 
Izzie: I agree with Mum. Of course, there is also immense pride in restoring such an unbelievable building. Brisbane has few stone heritage buildings left. To be able to restore something that so many people know and recognise really has connected us to the community in ways we hadn't imagined.

Why is a holiday at Miss Midgley's is such a special experience?
It's the antidote to the big, anonymous hotel experience. With only 5 apartments, everything feels personal. When guests arrive, each apartment has its own carpark. Guests park out the front of their new home and walk into their rooms - there are no elevators or big empty corridors, and the lobby is naturally ventilated. It’s living like a local in New Farm, nestled on a suburban street but only minutes away from the bustling James St, Brisbane's (Arguably Queensland's premier retail and dining precinct). The rooms are carefully designed, beautiful and highly functional with full kitchens. The shared amenities includes a lush and stunning pool for Brisbane's sweltering summers.
You describe Miss Midgley's as ‘Heritage Accommodation, reimagined’. How did you achieve this?
Lisa & Izzie:
A lot of heritage accommodation tries to transport you back in time with design features and storytelling. We didn't want to do that, we wanted this to be contemporary, functional and modern while paying its respects to the story of the building. Introducing a super contemporary pool layout and being dog friendly was pretty radical at the time for a heritage restoration project.  From a design perspective, we chose materials that age with time but are very contemporary (brass table tops, rust fences), we didn't mimic old light fittings or old door handles, we knew this was going to be a new chapter in the building's life. Nonetheless, you always want to be sensitive to the context, which is why our colour scheme reflects the colours in the heritage stonework so that there is a relationship between old and new.

What were some of the challenges you faced when renovating Miss Midgley's? 
We couldn't ever really lock in a design vision due to the nature of heritage building work. We had to keep it loose because, as layers of the building got peeled away, we knew there would be things we uncovered that would change our plans. Which certainly happened (uncovering hand painted wallpaper, revealing false floors and ceilings, finding old doorways). So it was about keeping it loose...
Lisa: ...But not too loose! Otherwise we would have blown out budget and timeframes. It was very, very hands on. Decisions were made on site almost immediately as things were uncovered.

As a Mother-Daughter team, how did you find working together on the ‘Miss Midgley's’ project?
I love this question, we get asked it all the time. It was honestly delightful. I'm a bit of a mini-me version of Mum, so design decisions were easy. We like all the same things. The real strengths lay in our intergenerational differences - Mum bought decades of project management and construction management experience having worked in boutique development for most of her career. My skills lay in media, branding and marketing and we collaborated on all design decisions. Being able to control the design, construction, social media, website and branding experience gave us an opportunity to create a customer experience that starts with a social media feed and doesn't finish until you get the chance to stay with us. 
You want Miss Midgley’s to be the most sustainable accommodation in Brisbane. What are you doing to reach this goal?
Izzie & Lisa:
We are both personally invested in our effect on the environment. We are constantly learning about new technology, materials and resources that can improve our sustainability rating. Our biggest contribution to sustainability is reusing every inch of this building without building anything additional to it. We recently installed solar panels, we have no gas in our kitchens and use only electric appliances, we make a conscious effort to remove all single use plastic from our rooms (for example, water bottles in the fridge are glass and reused, tea is loose leaf with no bags) and we also partner with sustainable Australian businesses that are putting in huge efforts to reduce their impact on the planter (Leif Cosmetics and Seljak Blankets for example). It’s so rare you get to be the client making these decisions, so it is something we're taking very seriously.

What is your favourite room at Miss Midgley’s? 
I think mine is ‘Principal's Office’. It's pet friendly, with the most delightful back veranda. It has private access to the pool, and it is the only one bedroom apartment - the rest of them are two bedroom. During the restoration process we uncovered a 10m long stone wall that had been rendered over at some point over the last century. It is a very special space. 
Izzie: I think mine is ‘Drawing Room’. It is upstairs and looks over James St as the sun sets. You can sit on your deck, sunset or sunrise, sipping tea or wine, people watching over James St. It is also the room that features the heritage wallpaper we found and went to extraordinary lengths to preserve.

Tell us more about the real Miss Midgley. Do you think she would approve of guesthouse?
Lisa & Izzie:
Miss Midgley was a legend. This building used to be her family home and she converted it into a private school, called Miss Midgley's Educational Establishment about 100 years ago. She wanted to aid the overcrowding of New Farm State School which is still operational and just up the road from us. You can still hear the school bell ring out and watch students pour out at home time - it's like watching old and new collide. She was a very accomplished artist, so yes...we like to think she would approve of it. She was creative and clever. 
Luxury means different things to different people. For us, it means having a real story behind your offering, something you can't get anywhere else.

In terms of architecture and design, what does luxury accommodation need for it to stand out from the crowd?
Lisa & Izzie: Luxury means different things to different people. For us, it means having a real story behind your offering, something you can't get anywhere else. One off, highly personal experiences are much more luxurious to us than a nice bed or gorgeous linen. We have found customers enjoy their stay knowing that they've found a little city secret that brings together history, restoration and supports local businesses.

What is at the top of your 'where to next' wish list? 
Lisa: I'm heading to South Korea for the first time this year and I cannot wait! I want the complete culture shock experience. 
Izzie: Ooh. For me, it's Mexico - food, music, architecture, water - you name it. 

What three things do you never travel without?
Lisa: My phone, my Lorna Murray foldable hat (Brisbane Designer) and my thermometer... I never trust weather predictions!
Izzie: I'm a big photo gal, you will never find me without my phone. But a neck scarf that double as a top is my secret travel hack and my eye mask - I'm a terrible sleeper on a good day!

Who would you most like to sit next to on a long-haul flight? Why?
Beyonce. I’ve gotta work out how she does it, continually reinventing herself. But my sister comes in a close second. She's always got the best onboard entertainment planned out!
Lisa: I'd love to sit next to... no one. Give me a spare seat any day!

What is the most important thing (travel-wise) that money CAN buy?
Lisa: A unique experience that is representative of local community. Everything is so connected and publicised now. When you can afford to have experiences that are still protected from mass crowds, it’s worth every penny.
Izzie: Good quality gear. We come from an adventure sports family. If you're stuck in a rain storm on a hike, if you get an unexpected cold snap - nothing counts more than the quality of gear you buy. 

What is the most important thing it can't?
Lisa &Izzie: We always choose to travel through a new country by exercising - multi day bike rides, or hikes. It lets you experience communities as a local and a much slower pace as opposed to driving through. You always end up in places away from crowds doing something unexpected!

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Posted 17/07/23


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