Subtropical Oasis: a serene outdoor sanctuary
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Subtropical Oasis: a serene outdoor sanctuary


This serene outdoor sanctuary makes family entertaining a nature-inspired event

Lounging in the backyard with friends and family is commonplace in Australia’s sunshine state, whether by the pool or stretched out on the lawn. So when it came time to update their tired garden and pool area, this busy Queensland family wanted to create an outdoor sanctuary to relax and unwind that also tied in with their newly renovated, contemporary home. They commissioned Aaron Worth from Utopia Landscape Design to create a serene living space that would provide a balanced union between their home and garden while expanding the use of the pool area.

“The outdoor entertaining space needed to extend the functionality of the pool area and provide a physical and visual connection to the house and backyard,” says Aaron. “It needed to complement the style of the house and the existing garden.”

The family’s renovated Queenslander featured a modern interior and a contemporary colour scheme that blended with the traditional exterior. To unite these features with the garden and in-ground pool, Aaron and his team designed and built a stand-alone pavilion and a boardwalk using the same materials and finishes as the family’s home. The new private sanctuary was constructed using painted timber posts and features plasterboard ceiling, Colorbond steel roofing, local sandstone paving and merbau timber decking to create a cohesive architectural look and feel.

“Due to the various levels between the pool, lawn and rear verandah, the pavilion and new boardwalk were designed to become the connection between all of them,” says Aaron. The subtropical pavilion was cleverly constructed in a central location so that it draws the eye from the home’s entryway into the garden, creating the feeling of one large indoor-outdoor entertaining space. To make it comfortable in all weather conditions, the pavilion includes a fan, adjustable louvres for privacy and flexible airflow, and dimmable lighting to create evening ambience.

“The key elements of the landscape are definitely the pavilion and boardwalk as they provided huge lifestyle and functional benefits and a direct link to the materials and finishes of the house,” says Aaron.

An outdoor barbecue area was designed as a separate space to keep cooking smoke and clutter away from the pavilion, and merbau timber benches were built on-site to provide a variety of other places for the family to relax. LED low-voltage outdoor lighting was installed throughout the garden, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere for the homeowners to enjoy both day and night.

“The pavilion, boardwalk and landscape lighting tie the space together so well and have increased the outdoor living capacity for the owners,” says Aaron.

To complement the new pavilion and boardwalk, Aaron and Utopia Landscape Design chose greenery that would not only create privacy for the family, but would also add to the garden’s lush subtropical landscape. The team planted species such as Spathiphyllum ‘Sensation’, Peace lily; Ophiopogon jaburan variegatum, Mondo grass; and Randia fitzelanii, native gardenia to create a tranquil environment. They also supplemented existing Waterhousia floribunda, Weeping lilly pilly; and Murraya paniculata, Orange jasmine where required to create a screen between the home and neighbouring properties. Existing Plumeria acutifolia, frangipani, was also left as a beautiful reminder of the garden’s tropical location. Sir Walter Lawn was chosen for its drought and shade tolerance.

This outdoor design didn’t come without its challenges. The family’s existing garden initially had a substantial draining problem which had led to inundation in heavy rain. To address this issue, Aaron and his team worked to install a network of drainage systems to stop any future flooding and damage to the new landscape.

Another challenge faced was the sandy sub-grade common in this area. This was improved significantly by Aaron and his team using rich imported organic soil which supported the landscape’s introduced plant species.

With expert planning and an eye for detail, Aaron and the team at Utopia Landscape Design were able to create a harmonious connection between the newly renovated home and the new-look outdoor living space. The seamless transition between indoors and out not only achieved the homeowners’ brief, but also provided a relaxing, subtropical outdoor sanctuary for this young Queensland family to enjoy for many years to come.