A major garden redesign has delivered an outdoor living area that can be used year-round
Story: Karen Booth
Photos: Patrick Redmond
There is little point working long, hard hours unless, at some juncture, you get to enjoy the fruits of your labour — which is precisely what the owners of this recently revamped Melbourne garden thought. A busy professional couple, they decided the time was right to work a little less and spend a bit more time relaxing. But to do this, they needed a new outdoor living area.
Describing the design ethos as “contemporary resort-style living”, landscape designer Brendan Rafter from Envirostyle explains that the couple had a very clear idea of what they wanted their new-look backyard to provide. In essence, they yearned for a modern outdoor living space that could be used no matter what the time of year, an outdoor area that would be expertly integrated with the existing swimming pool and interior living spaces, and an entertaining area with sufficient seating to accommodate a large gathering.
“To deliver on the request for year-round usability, several elements were specifically incorporated into the design, such as the rain protection roof and the outdoor gas heating,” says Brendan.
Rain protection for the pergola is provided in the form of a Vergola roof system. Comprised of aluminium louvers, which can be adjusted to keep the rain out (or let the sun in), the simple clean lines of the louvres, combined with the system’s flexibility, makes it the ideal solution.
The overhead wall-mounted gas heaters are just the thing for taking the bite out of a chilly winter’s day and make waiting for the cook of the house to whip up something tasty a pleasure. Cooking is done in the outdoor kitchen tucked into one corner of the covered veranda. Here, you will find a large barbecue, bar fridge, sink and plenty of storage.
To turn the outdoor cooking zone into a design feature, the patterned backing wall behind the barbecue is clad in a mix of porcelain and ceramic tiles.
The garden design needed to create a smooth transition from inside the house to the pool area, which is close to the house but at a lower level. The design also needed to work with the shape and location of the existing swimming pool, says Brendan.
To ensure an uninterrupted view from inside the home to the pool and lawn areas, the pool has a frameless glass safety fence and the pergola was built of steel so that it was possible to place the support beams far apart.
A key element of the makeover was removing the old concrete paver balcony and replacing it with a merbau timber deck. As a decking material, merbau (sometimes referred to as kwila) has taken Australian backyards by storm. An attractive Asian hardwood, part of its appeal is its deep, sometimes gold-flecked, colouring; the other part is its resistance to termites.
The stone paving and walling was selected to add a sophisticated air to the setting and perfectly complements the rich natural tones of the decking and timber bench seating around the pool.
“We used random bluestone paving around the swimming pool and dark grey granite paving around the barbecue area. For the retaining walls in the rear garden we used bluestone strata stone,” explains Brendan.
The special design touches continue down the side of the house where they is a stainless steel water-wall positioned so that it can be viewed from within main living space of house. To connect it to the back garden, bluestone strata stone was used on either side of water feature.
In the main, the planting consists of drought-tolerant species such as the agave (Agave attenuate) and the yucca (Yucca elephantipes). The agave is a very popular plant at present because it combines wonderful sculptural qualities with impressive water wise properties. Yuccas are similarly prized for their architectural form, robust growth and drought-tolerance.