An off-centre focal point adds an unexpected element to an otherwise symmetrical design
Story: Scott Brown, MAILDM MAIH
Photos: Patrick Redmond
Starting with a blank canvas is a joy for a designer, but in this case that wasn’t feasible as several pre-existing elements within the backyard had to be integrated into the new design, posing something of a challenge.
To be retained was a mature Canary Island date palm, which had the potential to be a great focal point even though its existing position meant that it was almost a metre ‘off-centre’ from the hallway that runs from the front door of the house to the bay windows in the rear meals area. Then there was the pool, tucked into one corner and completely alienated from the home.
To go was a 50-foot Camphor laurel tree that had been dominating the yard along with the isolated, angled deck that had sat beside the pool.
The new design has created an outdoor ‘precinct’ to the home. A precinct where all the required elements, such as the swimming pool, the outdoor dining area, the sun baking area, the children’s grassed recreation area and the off-centre focal point all relate to each other and the house in a harmonious way.
The various ‘sub-rooms’ of the outdoor environment — all of which can be seen or glimpsed while sitting beside the pool or dining in the barbecue area — fit together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and help to extend the interior spaces out of doors and vice versa. By dividing the yard into these ‘sub-rooms’, more interest and drama is created. Equally, each ‘sub-room’ gives a feeling of intimacy.
To satisfy the need for structure, a Grecian urn water feature is central to the bay windows. The bubbling fountain lines up with the hallway creating a symmetrical focal point to draw attention.
The paving surrounding the pool continues towards the house and forms the entertaining area. The pergola extends across the house and forms an ‘L’ shape when it turns and extends out to the pool. This visually links the house, entertaining area and the pool. It also partially masks the second storey of the house and the rather imposing brick wall that would otherwise be in stark view from the dining area.
The brick of the house has been blended into the paving with a border around the pool and a header course around the pebble base of the urn. The same bricks, sourced from Daniel Robertson Australia, have also been used to create a raised L-shaped planter box upon the pool edge and an island planter box separating the pool paving from the lawn.
These raised planter boxes perform several important functions. They provide vertical texture and interest, are a source of extra seating and made it possible to plant a screening hedge along the pool to hide the side fence. Without the raised brick wall to protect the planting, salt water splashed from the pool would have decimated any hedging.
A mixture of plants has been used throughout the yard’s design: some Australian natives, some from New Zealand and others hailing from more exotic climes. Overall, the goal was to create a formal, structured garden that is both lush and very drought-tolerant.
The design of the outdoor lighting was another critical factor in the project’s success. With Melbourne’s unpredictable weather, the benefit of being able to enjoy a view of the garden from the comfort of a warm room on a cold winter’s night is immeasurable. On the other side of the coin, the lighting makes spending time out of doors on those warm and balmy late summer evenings a very intimate experience, indeed. In fact, the homeowner describes the experience as like spending time in a little piece of heaven.
About the author: Scott Brown is a Melbourne-based landscape designer and principal of Scott Brown Landscape Design.