On A Roll

A steep site chal­lenge leads to the per­fect in­door-out­door con­nec­tion for a NSW fam­ily.

Australian House & Garden - - Content - STORY & STYLING Natalie Wal­ton PHO­TOG­RA­PHY Chris Warnes

Land­scape de­signer Matt Leacy wanted a fam­ily home with a firm con­nec­tion to the gar­den. “I feel strongly about pro­vid­ing an en­vi­ron­ment where our kids – Si­enna, 11, Amal­ija, nine, and Thomas, seven – can be kids, and where we all feel con­nected to the out­doors, even when we’re in­side,” he says. It was a sen­ti­ment shared by his wife, Marie, when they bought their fourbed­room home on Syd­ney’s north­ern beaches in 2012.

Built in the 1980s, a time when orange brick ve­neer was pop­u­lar and gar­dens were of­ten an af­ter­thought, the house had a small, tiled front pa­tio with brown tiles and col­umns, no drive­way and no de­cent lawn due to its steep slope. Matt, whose land­scape de­sign busi­ness is based on the lower north shore, had spot­ted the home while view­ing other prop­er­ties in the area. “It looked bad, with no real street ap­peal, but there was some­thing about the place,” he says. “At the time, I told Marie I would move this far out for it.” Three weeks later, they bought it.

Much of the home’s po­ten­tial was in its as­pect. There are also unique benefits to be­ing on a steep site. “We can have all the doors open most of the year be­cause we’re com­pletely pro­tected from coastal winds, and there’s al­ways plenty of sun­light, even in win­ter,” says Matt. “Be­ing up high, our home feels more iso­lated than it re­ally is – we love that, and the fan­tas­tic views, of course.”

One of the first changes he and Marie made was to tone down the orange brick­work with a coat of Re­sene Bokara Grey. Next, Matt got stuck into the gar­den. He put in a new drive­way, built re­tain­ing walls and brought in about 80 tonnes of soil to cre­ate a gen­tly rolling lawn for the chil­dren to play on. While it took a lot of work to make the gar­den user-friendly, Matt says it was well worth do­ing so early on.

Turn­ing their at­ten­tion in­doors, the cou­ple then knocked through some in­ter­nal walls to cre­ate a gen­er­ous open-plan kitchen/din­ing

and liv­ing area. The kitchen was up­dated and the old cy­press floor­boards fresh­ened with white paint. A bank of bi­folds now con­nects the liv­ing zone to the ex­tended front deck, gar­den and leafy out­look be­yond.

In 2015, the cou­ple de­cided to un­der­take a more ex­ten­sive makeover of the back­yard. With the help of Matt’s Lan­dart Land­scapes team, he in­stalled a ter­raced en­ter­tain­ing area and retiled around the ex­ist­ing pool, built a deck and bar­be­cue fa­cil­i­ties, and im­proved the drainage. Today, the pool­side en­ter­tain­ing zone is used through­out the sum­mer; in win­ter, the fam­ily mostly hangs out at the front.

Given the sched­ule-driven na­ture of his work, Matt says he re­ally en­joyed the free­dom of ren­o­vat­ing his own home slowly. “It’s nice to have the lux­ury of mak­ing things up as I go along,” he ex­plains.

Plans to tackle the bath­rooms are be­ing made, but the cou­ple are tak­ing a break from ren­o­vat­ing for the moment. “I think it’s good for chil­dren to see the work that goes into build­ing some­thing,” says Matt. “That said, there’s a point when you need to pull back and en­joy what you’ve cre­ated.

“This home is ev­ery­thing to us,” he adds. “Marie and I sit out and watch the sun­set by the fire while the kids play footy and dance on the grass. It’s be­come our sanc­tu­ary.” # Lan­dart Land­scapes, Wil­loughby, NSW; (02) 9958 0462 or lan­dart.com.au.

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