By the Beach

By the Beach


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An architect-designed house and garden by the beach … what more could you ask?
Story: John Hope
Photos: Alan Jones

Absolute beachfront — anyone lucky enough to experience it growing up will know that it’s one of those things that you always fondly remember from childhood. The force of the waves pounding on the sand and the distinctive taste of salt in the water — and the air. The many hours spent in play with brothers and sisters, building sand castles as the tide makes its way out.

Sadly, many of us can only dream of living in an idyllic coastal locale, such as Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, and of having the beach as our backyard. Well, for one family, that dream became a reality in the form of a stunning award-winning architect-designed home and garden, both from the drawing board of Wilson Architects from Brisbane. The garden, which my company had the privilege of constructing, plays a major part of this home. The goal was to create a seamless interaction between nature and interior living areas of the home, all without spoiling the greatest vista one can have — that of pearly white sand and rolling waves.

Selecting the specified Pandanus trees took many days of consideration as they had to be just right if we were to achieve the desired result. One of the feature Pandanus trees was 8m x 4m, weighed five tonne and had to be lifted into position by crane over the house. This tree looks like the house was built around it and the effect is something the owner, architect and myself were all over the moon about it.

One of the most amazing features of this garden is the sandstone entry steps. Large sandstone slabs were selected and positioned with a crane, each slab weighing just under a tonne. The largest slab was 2m x 2m and 100mm thick. These slabs have been laid so that they appear to be floating, an effect achieved by placing concealed risers under each and every one. I can honestly say I didn’t sleep at all well the night before we installed these slabs but, as before, the outcome was just what we hoped for.

 The central courtyard, with its random sandstone paving, was designed from childhood memories of playing on the beach and watching the waves create different shapes in the sand. The bush hammered edges of the stone create unusual shapes and produce ledges the same as you would find on a washout on the beach.

Minimal plantings were created using selected plant species that would give the garden a textured look (such as the no-mow grass entry courtyard) and provide a sense of balance for the contemporary beach home. Other plantings such as Dianella ‘Little Jess’ represent masses of seagrass beds and coastal rosemary (Westringia fruticose) was used as contrasting foliage up against the white off-form concrete walls.

Selected river pebbles were used around the Pandanus trees and in all of the water features — and if you ever walk the Noosa National Park trail up to Granite Bay you will see where the inspiration for that came from.

Due to the well considered use of plant material and thoughtful design, this beachfront garden is able to withstand any punishment meted out by Mother Nature. When choosing the correct vegetation, there is a simple rule that you can follow if you don’t have the benefit of an experienced designer or contractor to guide you — simply look at neighbouring gardens, see what is flourishing in the environment and follow suit.

About the author: John Hope of John Hope Designs is an award-winning landscape designer based on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.