Urban retreat An outdoor area that has everything this family needs
THE DESIGN OF THIS IMPRESSIVE ALFRESCO AREA DELIVERS EVERYTHING AN OUTDOOR-LOVING FAMILY OF SIX COULD WISH FOR
FIVE YEARS AGO, when Melbourne couple Sarah and Steve bought their Edwardian home in a leafy suburb 10 kilometres east of the city, one of the big attractions was the vast 2500 square metre block. “It had a huge backyard with a tennis court and hotchpotch of sheds and a granny flat, so we saw the potential to transform it into a really functional outdoor space,” says Steve, who works in finance. “Rather than trying to replicate the period features of the original home, we wanted an entirely different look at the back, which made the most of natural light and had a connection with the outdoors.”
The couple enlisted the expertise of designer Matt Herbert from Herbert & Howes to turn their ideas into reality. He devised a striking contemporary extension, encompassing a spacious outdoor living and entertaining area finished in a textural sand cement render. Sarah’s dad, Rex Hirst of Let’s Talk Kitchens, was responsible for fitting-out the open-air kitchen, discreetly housed in a minimalist box, and a new landscaping scheme was also key to transforming the space for Sarah and Steve's four sport-loving kids Estella, Mattea, Archer and Rupert.
“It’s amazing what can happen when all parties come together with one view and all work together to achieve it” ~ Ian Barker, Ian Barker Gardens
The outdoor plan included a large 12.5m pool and a level lawn area so there was plenty of space for the kids to kick around a football and play cricket. The landscaping brief given to Ian Barker of Ian Barker Gardens was to create a natural, low-maintenance and cohesive planting scheme that complemented the original period facade and worked equally well with the contemporary extension. As a result, an array of grasses and perennials were used to define the garden edges and provide colour and texture, with great care taken during the build to protect the established shade trees, which offer abundant greenery.
One tree that needed to be moved to make room for the pool was a 40-year-old crepe myrtle. Keen to preserve it, the couple put their trust in Ian and his team, who excavated the tree, wrapped the root structure in hessian and stored it off-site for a year during the build, before it was relocated to a prime position sitting alongside the new fireplace (see page 183). “Transplanting the crepe myrtle was a real highlight of the project,” enthuses Ian, who advised Steve and Sarah the process had a 70 per cent success rate. “I’m so glad they took the chance, because to me the tree, with its gnarled trunk and beautiful pink summer flowers, really makes the space.”
To coordinate the vast scope of works, which included demolishing and removing several existing structures and levelling sections of the block, the project was staged over 18 months. Steve says the wait was well worth it. “By taking our time, we got exactly what we wanted – functional spaces we can use all the time,” he says. “It’s got everything we need and once we’re outside – we stay out there.”