Fo­cus Un­lock­ing the se­crets of smart small space de­sign

Land­sca­pers, ar­chi­tects and dis­play home builders have come to to­gether to in­spire good de­signg in small ar­eas, writes s Cather­ine Nikas-Bou­los

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - Home - - FRONT PAGE - More Out­side De­sign, out­

Good things do come in small pack­ages, but liv­ing in a small house is not top on ev­ery­one’s list. Land is at a pre­mium, and lot sizes are shrinking, but that doesn’t mean you have to sac­ri­fice qual­ity of life.

Smart de­sign so­lu­tions around small homes, stu­dio spaces and court­yards mean we no longer have to put up with cramped liv­ing quar­ters as ar­chi­tects find ways to max­imise ver­ti­cal space and built-in stor­age in the least likely of places.

Out­side chance

If you’re build­ing a fam­ily home on a small block, it stands to rea­son that the back­yard will be squeezed too. While that might be the re­al­ity, a small yard, even one the size of a park­ing spot, can be trans­formed into a us­able and com­fort­able place to en­ter­tain.

Out­house De­sign se­nior land­scape ar­chi­tect Ka­trine Mar­dini has plenty of ex­pe­ri­ence trans­form­ing tight in­ner-city back­yards into al­fresco won­der­lands.

The award-win­ning com­pany re­cently worked on a Le­ich­hardt back­yard that was only 3m by 5m.

“In that sit­u­a­tion, the first thing you do is think about how you can play around with that space to give the il­lu­sion that it’s big­ger than it ac­tu­ally is,” she says.

“We looked at ways of stretch­ing the gar­den vis­ually.”

Ka­trine says that was achieved by lay­ing the pavers on the di­ag­o­nal, in­stead of lines par­al­lel with the edge. Not only does that dis­tract the eye, but it cre­ates pock­ets on ei­ther side for deep gar­dens beds.

“You can now me­an­der through the gar­den, and look­ing out the kitchen win­dow, you can’t see where it ends,” she says.

“Our client works re­ally hard and is al­ways on the go, so she wanted a space to come home to, un­wind or en­ter­tain friends. We wanted to create a space for her that has a sense of calm about it.”

In its orig­i­nal state, the yard was un­invit­ing and over­grown with lawn. It was only used by the owner to walk from the house to the rear laneway. The kitchen and din­ing area over­look this space, so the Out­house De­sign team took care to create a low main­te­nance gar­den that is not only vis­ually ap­peal­ing, but use­ful, with thyme, blue­berry bush and rose­mary. Other easy-to-grow shrubs in­cluded in the re­design were vi­ola banksia, westringia fru­ti­cosa (coastal rose­mary) and hard­en­ber­gia, which has a climb­ing habit.

“Our client doesn’t have a lot of time to spend main­tain­ing the gar­den, so we had to look at plants that are hardy,” says Ka­trine.

“Bi-fold doors look out to the gar­den from the liv­ing ar­eas, and there is now a greater con­nec­tion from the house to the gar­den.

“From a vis­ual per­spec­tive it just works and from a life­style per­spec­tive, it works.”

A be­spoke tim­ber chaise lounge com­pletes the trans­for­ma­tion from drab to fab.

Small sur­prise

While most home­own­ers would sim­ply choose to flat­ten their small par­cel of back­yard and not over-com­pli­cate the space by adding any­thing other than grass, Ka­trine sug­gests do­ing the op­po­site.

Cre­at­ing in­ter­est with fo­liage is the first step in cre­at­ing a more user-friendly back­yard that you want to spend time in.

“A small back­yard can seem so much more dif­fi­cult than a big one,” she says. “You might need that space for off-street park­ing or a space to put en­ter­tain­ment seat­ing or a clothes line, so you have to create some space by us­ing the ver­ti­cal plane,” she says.

“Get some height in there by plant­ing tall hedg­ing on the perime­ter and leave the mid­dle ground plain for other uses.”

Out­door seat­ing will also en­cour­age guests to spend time in the back­yard. Add an ed­i­ble gar­den to give the space a dual pur­pose.

Zigzag pavers and tall hedg­ing along the bor­der give the il­lu­sion of more space in this court­yard cre­ated by Out­house De­sign.

The new Belden dis­play home by McDon­ald Jones Homes is only 7.5m wide.

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