Big ideas

Big ideas



A family-friendly garden makeover that is as stylish as it is functional.

By Rebecca Calvert
Photography by Ben Wrigley

Demonstrating that good design can make big ideas work in any sized area, this family garden in the suburbs of Melbourne puts every corner to optimum use. The limited space in the backyard was heavy with clutter and marred by unattractive design elements. Wanting something far more functional and appealing for themselves and their children to enjoy, the young owners knew they needed the help of a professional designer.

Although they may have been happy to leave the design concept to the experts, they did know that they wanted their new-look backyard to incorporate a stylish alfresco deck — somewhere close to the house they could entertain and a vantage point from which to supervise their children when playing in the pool. And they knew that increased privacy and enhanced shade should factor at the top of the ‘must include’ list.

“In preparation for our first concept design, we measured and photographed the client’s garden to determine the scale and detail of the project,” explains Eugene Gilligan of Eugene Gilligan Garden Design.

“A concept design is a schematic drawing, done to scale, that includes broadly outlined garden areas, focal points and paving designs, all of which allow us to show the suggested shape and style of the garden to the client.”

Eugene spent considerable time with the owners, looking at furniture and discussing things like focal points. This enabled him to get a much better feel for their needs, wants and personal sense of style before presenting the initial design concept.

Once the owners had signed off on the concept design it was time to transfer the ideas on paper into a living landscape.

The project commenced with the renovation of the existing swimming pool. “The challenge presented was to create a contemporary look from an ordinary-shaped pool with curved corners and angular entry steps,” says Eugene.

“One of the key things we did was to layer large 1m x 1m tiles and then to have them overhang the pool by 200mm to conceal these outdated edges,” explains Eugene. Eugene also ‘freshened’ the interior surface of the pool by having it clad in Bizzaza glass tiles for a modern look.

As the rear of the garden faces north, a large shade canopy was installed to provide respite from the summer sun and protection from the wind. And, as the site was elevated and overlooked the street, much-needed privacy was provided by large screening trees, Waterhousia floribunda (weeping lilly pilly), which were planted around the boundaries.

Once the pool and paving were complete, the entertaining deck was created next to the back entry door using 140mm merbau planks. This fulfilled the owners’ requirement for an alfresco entertaining area that would be both near to the internal living area and overlook the newly renovated pool. It also features a contemporary stainless steel hooded barbecue set into a stained timber bench with a bluestone counter-top.

A courtyard area, flowing from the internal dining room, is a plant-filled oasis. Plants were selected for their foliage colour and included Liriope muscari (lily turf), Euphorbia (a water-wise succulent), Acer palmatum (Japanese maple), Luculia grandiflora (a lovely, semi-evergreen shrub with large, soft-green leaves and white fragrant flowers during winter), and Prunus lusitanica (Portugal laurel).

Dominant motifs in the final design of the courtyard included a black water bowl and stylish all-weather synthetic weave outdoor furniture from Dedon, all of which complement the relaxed ambience of this cosy garden space.

Eugene believes that the single most vital element of the rear garden and pool area design was the layout of the over-sized pavers, which required careful planning so that they could be placed without the need for any cutting.

“Elsewhere, simple contemporary finishes strengthen the pool definition and that of the paving,” he explains. “It was a challenge to maintain balance between the deck, the pool, the garden and the house as there are so many interesting design elements competing for attention in such a small space, but we managed it.”