A Melbourne family creates the ultimate high-tech backyard entertaining area
Story: Carrol Baker
This amazing backyard entertaining area in Sanctuary Lakes, a residential development built around a Greg Norman-designed 18-hole golf course just 20 minutes drive from Melbourne, captivates the imagination with a blend of high-tech gadgetry and innovative design features. From the pool to the outdoor kitchen to the trio of televisions, this well-equipped outdoor retreat certainly has it all.
Joe and Anna Kovco bought the house in 2003 but it took a few years before they got around to embarking on a major makeover. In creating this dream entertaining space, however, Joe was at a distinct advantage. As the proprietor of his own building company, he had a trusted team at his disposal to carry out all the registered building works.
The centrepiece of the newly renovated backyard is a low-maintenance, salt-chlorinated pool with all the mod cons, including gas heating and an in-floor jet cleaning system so precious leisure time with the family isn’t spent cleaning the pool. For good looks and safety, the area around the pool is finished in slip- and frost-resistant Cedir Flowing Hi-Tech tiles (colour: Fumo) and frameless glass pool fencing.
The sheer-descent water feature offers a calm, cool ambience — and ingeniously tucked away behind it is a small change room with storage for towels and toys. The exterior surface of the water feature is clad in large-format tiles that have a rusted, metallic-looking finish.
The state-of-the-art barbecue is a stylish Everdure, transforming Joe and Anna’s outdoor entertainment area into a functional kitchen. Features also include a CeasarStone kitchen bench top, hot and cold sink and Samsung glass-door bar fridge, so you can see at a glance when you need to pop a few cold ones in. The splashback tiles are Envita frosted-glass mosaics.
Running out of gas is never a problem because natural gas is piped through. “I could virtually live out there,” says Joe. “There’s nothing better than having friends and family over, kicking back, throwing some lamb cutlets on the barbie and opening up a cold beer.”
Other features include a second stainless-steel bar fridge at the other end of the pool area and an outdoor Rainware hot and cold marine-grade stainless-steel shower pole.
The backyard is practical, modern and a result of Joe’s self-confessed love of high-tech gadgetry. “My wife calls me Mr Gadget Man,” he says.
There are three televisions in the backyard: a 28” LCD television near the barbecue and two HD 42” plasmas, one at either end of the swimming pool. Fitting the in-built televisions took a little ingenuity. Televisions aren’t normally designed for outdoor extremes or to be exposed to the elements, so they had to be fully enclosed and waterproofed. The screens were covered by treated safety glass and a fan was fitted into the boxed enclosures to cool and circulate the air.
A speaker system concealed in the garden beds and at the rear of the house is wired up to the home entertainment system so you can listen to the television through the amplifiers.
Bi-fold doors open out from the rumpus room allowing the interior to free-flow onto the exterior entertainment area. An eight-seater jarrah timber outdoor setting provides plenty of seating room for guests. The owners also elected to raise the fences from 1800mm high to 2800mm, to maximise privacy and reduce noise levels.
The decking is constructed of 140mm merbau timber. The side walls are also constructed of decking but to add a contrasting element, the back wall is of rendered blue board. Green and red lighting was selected to reflect the plantings in the garden beds and blue LED lighting to enhance the warm tones of the timber decking.
In keeping with the structured, crisp lines of the backyard design, Joe has added sparse plantings of various Dracaenas: Dracaena marginata ‘Green’ (with its red-edged, dark green leaves), Dracaena marginata ‘Tricolor’ (with its striped cream, green and pink leaves), and Dracaena draco (with its distinctive swollen branches, long lance-shaped leaves and flat top). These plants have dramatic architectural form and striking foliage. To keep the plants thriving, an in-ground spray irrigation system was installed.
A selection of statues, each strategically placed around the pool area, softens the look of the timber decking and adds an eye-catching element to the design.