Drink or swim
what to do with a pool You don’t want?
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.”
THE CHANGE IN LEVEL ADDS INTEREST AND INTIMACY
Clever: and it can be turned back into a pool in the future