Drink or swim

what to do with a pool You don’t want?

The Weekend Australian - Magazine - - Life | Gardens -

Not ev­ery­one wants a yard with an ex­ist­ing swimming pool, es­pe­cially if it takes up most of the gar­den space. But does per­ma­nently re­mov­ing a pool make good eco­nomic sense? This was the co­nun­drum faced by the new own­ers of this ter­race house in Sydney’s in­ner-city Padding­ton, and they chose Steve Warner to come up with a cre­ative so­lu­tion.

Warner, whose land­scape de­sign firm Out­house has won mul­ti­ple awards for res­i­den­tial and com­mer­cial projects of all sizes, had de­signed the cou­ple’s pre­vi­ous gar­den on a large sub­ur­ban block. At their new home, the rear gar­den mea­sured just 6m x 12m, tucked be­tween the house and the end wall of a two-storey garage/stu­dio off the rear lane.

“The clients didn’t see a need for the pool for them­selves, but they re­alised it could be a ben­e­fit to make al­lowance for the pool to be recom­mis­sioned in the fu­ture,” says Warner. So rather than fill­ing it in, he thought out­side the box and used the ex­ca­vated space to ad­van­tage, de­sign­ing a sunken lounge area. Be­sides sav­ing on costs, this so­lu­tion has a cou­ple of great ben­e­fits: it cre­ates a change in level that adds in­ter­est and in­ti­macy, and it al­lows un­in­ter­rupted views from the house to the main gar­den sculp­ture. The piece by Sanné Me­strom was com­mis­sioned for the gar­den, and Warner de­signed the gar­den beds around it. Two east­ern red­bud trees (Cer­cis canaden­sis) frame the sculp­ture and pro­vide sea­sonal change.

The home’s own­ers have an ex­ten­sive art col­lec­tion and en­joy sup­port­ing up-and-com­ing artists.

They chose the house for its multi-level lay­out, which pro­vides an un­usual amount of wall hang­ing space. “It’s a res­i­den­tial home but it’s like an art gallery,” says Warner.

The gar­den needed to act as a back­drop to ex­hibit a num­ber of sculp­tural pieces; the own­ers also wanted some­thing that would be easy to main­tain. “We kept the plant­ing sim­ple – it ba­si­cally pro­vides fram­ing and di­rec­tional lines,” Warner ex­plains. “And be­cause there is a lot of colour through­out the house, we in­ten­tion­ally limited colour in the gar­den.”

He cre­ated two dif­fer­ent spaces within the gar­den – the sunken lounge, ac­cessed by wide fea­ture steps, and a din­ing area linked to the back of the house that in­cludes built-in bar­be­cue, bar fridge and au­to­mated per­gola. The cafe-style kitchen win­dow opens to al­low great con­nec­tiv­ity; nearby planter boxes con­tain herbs and leafy greens. The two spaces are uni­fied by a bound­ary hedge plant­ing of lil­lyp­illy (Syzy­gium aus­trale) that pro­vides pri­vacy, and over­sized lime­stone pavers that vis­ually stretch the gar­den. Light­ing is a key el­e­ment through­out.

In a change of mood, a colour­ful ver­ti­cal gar­den fills a dead wall space to one side of the kitchen. Warner and the land­scape con­trac­tor, Si­mon Munn of Ur­ban Gar­den En­rich­ment, cre­ated a light box to put around an ab­stract art piece by Sydney Ball, which was then sur­rounded by massed bromeli­ads and an­thuri­ums.

The gar­den, com­pleted in 2016, won gold and “best in cat­e­gory” at the 2017 awards of the Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Land­scape De­sign­ers and Man­agers. “The de­sign has brought new life to the space,” says Warner. “I’d call it a ren­di­tion of min­i­mal­ist glam­our and func­tion­al­ity.”


Pho­tog­ra­phy Peter Bren­nan

he­len Young

Clever: and it can be turned back into a pool in the fu­ture

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