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Changing Spaces – Design Case Study

Homestyle Magazine Featured Article

When the owners of this Auckland property approached landscape designer Mark Read from Natural Habitats about transforming their garden, they were busy planning renovations to their home. The house was being altered to include large sliding glass doors facing out to the courtyard, and they wanted to create a connection between the indoor and outdoor spaces.

A new outdoor dining space was created, flowing out from the house and surrounded by the now mature garden.

This meant the view was vital to the success of the home’s new look. “The outdoor space could be considered as much an extra room of the house as it is a garden,” says Mark

But Mark wasn’t given an entirely free rein on the design, with the homeowners describing a specific style brief to work within. “We loved the subtropical/lush green landscaping we had seen in Bali and Queensland, with sculptures, night lighting and artistic detail,” says the homewner. Mark took this brief and embraced it. “It was desirable to modernise the garden to suit the clients ideas, while balancing the design to suit the era of the home.”
Strong and elegant shapes were introduced to the landscape, with design contrasts executed by both vertical and horizontal lines being incorporated. “We also selected colours and plant material to evoke the warmth and atmosphere of the tropics,” says Mark. Because the garden was so dated, most of the existing plants and trees had to give way for the new design to be installed. “The original garden was resplendent with pergolas, remnants of a spa pool, weather-beaten timber decking and planting long past its best,” explain the homeowners. A mature puka and a Queensland umbrella tree were salvaged because they suited the new style, and a number of new species were introduced. The garden now boasts luxurious foliage and plant textures, including Cycas revolute, Rhopalostylis baurii and Howea fosteriana, to name a few.

The design of this garden has been completed for a few years now, and Helen explains that it has taken time to mature correctly. “Mark’s approach meant that it was not an ‘instant television garden’, but one that developed over about six months from wellspaced and layered planting, to a pristine, mature and very natural look. The foresight meant that the plants have not outgrown the original vision. Additionally, the style of the fireplace and feature wall are in keeping with the era of our home, and that compatibility was a key element of the NZ Landscape Design Awards Gold Medal the garden received for hardscape.” While it is hard to pick favourite parts of the landscape design, Helen does admit to a few key elements that she particularly likes. “The large round sculptural pots, in which we can change plantings to suit the season, add great balance to the linear structure and a fresh colour. I also like the mondo path which is like a carpet, thanks to Mark’s very patient staff who split every plant into threads before planting to give a surface that can be swept and raked! And we love toasting marshmallows over the open fire after summer dinners in the courtyard.” Overall, there is nothing the homeowners don’t love about their new outdoor space, and they credit Mark with creating a terrific design, and his team for installing the design to perfection.

The design brief was for a Baliinspired, sub-tropical look with plenty of lush green plantings.

Q&A with Landscape Designer Mark Read

What was your design brief? To create a dramatic subtropical garden that was lush and evoked a Queensland or Bali style. I had to balance the design to suit the era of the home and create a space that was equally appealing whether being enjoyed day or night. How did you balance the ideas of the client with practical design considerations? Lots of talking through ideas and lots of discussions. It was important that the interior and exterior harmonise, so that was a key focus. Favourite part of the garden? The way the lounge and patio merge, creating the feel of a much larger living space, with assistance from the feature wall and attention to colour co-ordination between inside and out. What advice do you have for others? Be clear before you start about what you are prepared to change, and understand the cost implications. Renovations can get out of hand, fast. Understand which elements are key to getting the maximum result. Does the renovation simply restore the heritage of the original landscape or does it create a new landscape altogether? If so, the architecture may need to change also. Renovations can be more challenging than new gardens, so get help from a professional.

Visit Natural Habitats

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