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The dreamy Brisbane mid-century home of photographer Kara Rosenlund

The renovation features wood ceilings and crazy pave floors in a nod to the home's original era.
Kara Rosenlund Brisbane mid century home kitchenPhotography: Clare Lancaster

When photographer Kara Rosenlund and her husband, Timothy O, moved into their Brisbane home in 2020, she was pregnant with their first baby. The mid-century house was left almost untouched since it was built in 1968. “The originality and style of the house completely drew me in and I became obsessed with the home,” Kara explains. 

While many would be daunted by the thought of a renovation with a baby on the way and both with businesses to run, the idea excited Kara. It helped that they had some renovating experience under their belts. Before this house, the couple created an enchanting Brisbane worker’s cottage.

This glorious home was sold in October 2023 for $1.5 million.

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Kara Rosenlund Brisbane Mid Century Home entrance
The entrance, featuring an extra large ‘Edith’ framed print by Kara Rosenlund. (Photography: Kara Rosenlund)

Over the next three years, they steadily breathed new life into the four-bedroom, two-bathroom abode which unfurls across three levels. “We really listened to the home and what was already there – the wood, the finishes, the tones. This helped preserve the spirit of the home,” says Kara. 

Kara Rosenlund Brisbane Mid Century Home Kitchen
Kara in their renovated kitchen and dining space. (Photography: Clare Lancaster)

Original features such as a spiral stairwell, sunken plunge bath and besser block walls were preserved while other changes were made to help them shine. Kara’s friend, designer Vicki DuBois of Flokk Interiors, helped remove the 1980s kitchen and instate a new one.

They went with spotted gum cabinetry, hiding the “distracting” white fridge and dishwasher underneath. Benchtops were completed by Kara’s tiler father in a nod to the late 1960s to early 1970s.

Kara Rosenlund Brisbane Mid Century Home Kitchen tiled benchtop
The new kitchen with tiled benchtop aligns with the home’s original era. (Photography: Kara Rosenlund)

The entire home is so inviting, achieved with warm additions such as the New Guinea rosewood ceiling that replaced the old ceilings across the two top levels. “It was a labour of love and is a work of art in itself,” says Kara.

The wood ties in beautifully with Kara’s photographic works, framed in natural timber and featured throughout the home. 

Kara Rosenlund Brisbane Mid Century Home fireplace
Kara, sitting on a platform that runs the length of the living room, beside her ‘Afternoon Sun’ photographic print. (Photography: Clare Lancaster)

After pulling up the living room carpet, they considered polishing the concrete beneath but went with travertine crazy pave instead. This completely “transformed the home” while feeling like it’s always been there. 

Now with two children and the renovation complete, the family has decided it’s time to leave this “beautiful sanctuary” to move closer to Kara’s family. Before they move on, we asked the talented creative for her tips on how to update a mid-century home without losing its charm.

Kara Rosenlund Brisbane Mid Century Home bookcase
The living room mixes vintage pieces and natural textures for a comfortable feeling. (Photography: Kara Rosenlund)

Who lives here? Photographer Kara Rosenlund and her husband Timothy O, with their two young children Edie, 2 and Alby, 1.

What first drew you towards this home? It’s rare to find architecture like this in Brisbane, so I knew we had found something really special when we discovered the untouched 1968 home.

Kara Rosenlund Brisbane Mid Century Home crazy pave tiles
A pair of original Borge Mogensen ‘The Spanish Chairs’ sit in the living room near Kara’s ‘Australian Summer’ print. (Photography: Kara Rosenlund)

How did you modernise it without losing its charm? The home isn’t a glossy shiny home, it’s matt and subdued. All the finishes are raw and natural and that’s what we continued throughout. I was convinced that all the answers to my interior questions would be solved by observing what already existed and it really did inform all of our decisions.

Kara Rosenlund Brisbane Mid Century Home light
A corner at the entrance gets beautiful morning light from the skylights. (Photography: Kara Rosenlund)

What is your favourite room in this house and why? The large open-space living room. It has huge glass sliding doors on each side and natural light pours in. It has the most wonderful energy in this room and looks out to a green lush garden we planted.

Kara Rosenlund Brisbane Mid Century Home living room
The New Guinea rosewood ceiling and travertine crazy pave floors fit right in with the mid-century architecture. (Photography: Kara Rosenlund)

What’s your favourite update you made? The two-sided fireplace. It makes the home feel so luxurious and sophisticated, yet sits perfectly within the style of the home. The fireplace surround is tiled with travertine concave tiles and once this was completed it really transformed the home.

When it comes to mid-century homes, what would you keep and what would you ditch? Cabinetry and joinery, if originally done from a place of quality, are such huge assets to keep. Mid-century style joinery is very expensive to replicate now and some windows and sliding door styles can’t be made the way they used to be. I would recommend sitting with your original interior through the seasons and learning how the light moves before making drastic changes. I would always ditch the carpet.

Kara Rosenlund Brisbane Mid Century Home brick walls
Kara sits in the library room beside her ‘Traditional Pandanus’ print which hangs on the coated besser block wall. (Photography: Clare Lancaster)

When do interior brick walls work? They can work in any area of the home, you just need to know how to balance their strength. For instance, our bedroom has coated brick walls, which are harsh and strong, but they create such an atmospheric statement. I balanced them by adding soft furnishings and gentle-themed photographic prints of nature to create a room of comfort.

Kara Rosenlund Brisbane Mid Century Home bedroom
The main bedroom features Kara’s ‘Daphne’ print in medium. (Photography: Clare Lancaster)

What about wooden walls and ceilings – how much is too much? Just like double denim, double wood is all about personal taste. With our home, our ceiling sets such a statement that I didn’t want the floor to be of the same material, taking away from the ceiling. I really wanted the ceiling to shine. However, our island house has wooden ceilings and wooden floors and it feels like a glorious warm cocoon. 

Kara Rosenlund Brisbane Mid Century Home Bedroom
The second bedroom has Kara’s ‘Wild Horses’ print hung above the bed. (Photography: Clare Lancaster)

What are your best tips for renovating and keeping updates in line with the style of your home? Look for what’s already within your home. Notice how door knobs and handles have been finished, look at the skirting board style and your window functions. All these secrets can help you unlock your home’s aesthetic and give you a firm direction to stick to, which will help you not get distracted.

Kara Rosenlund Brisbane Mid Century Home bedroom
Kara hanging her small, framed ‘Sylvia’ print in one of the bedrooms. (Photography: Clare Lancaster)

How did you make the decor work with a mid-century aesthetic? I didn’t want the decor to feel like a retro museum or anything like that, but when you live in a mid-century home you do need to be rather strict with the furnishings if you want your home to shine. I turned to nature to really help blend the style and the era together: seagrass matts, matchstick blinds, mid-century rush chairs. By connecting nature and the era, a beautiful blend started to appear.

Kara Rosenlund Brisbane Mid Century Home bathroom
The mid-century tiling and cabinetry in the renovated bathroom is consistent with the rest of the home. (Photography: Kara Rosenlund)

It looks so warm and inviting – how do you achieve this? I think it comes back to nature and art. Nature has a way of softening hard edges and lines and puts people at ease. Art has a way of creating interest and an eagerness to see more.

Kara Rosenlund Brisbane Mid Century Home bathroom
The original fibreglass screen filters light for a gentle glow in the bathroom. (Photography: Kara Rosenlund)

How do you make the home feel connected to the outdoors? By opening up all the windows and doors each day and seeing where your eye travels. We planted lush green tropical gardens in these areas, so we felt connected to the outdoors at all times.

What will you miss about this home when you move on? The atmosphere of it. I have never experienced a home quite like it. Its energy is unforgettable.

Kara Rosenlund Brisbane Mid Century Home garden
Kara at the front of the home, surrounded by tropical plants. (Photography: Clare Lancaster)

View the real-estate listing for Kara Rosenlund’s mid-century Brisbane home for details on the sale.

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