As award-winning Perth studio Newforms Landscape Architecture
found, a collaborative creative process can yield a project that exceeds all expectations. In fact, when they partnered with their client on this Peppermint Grove garden, the Newforms team changed up their approach all together.
“The project was a little different to our usual process as the client is from the design profession, so we worked very closely in collaboration,” says Matt Huxtable, director at Newforms. “It was great to work alongside someone with a strong background in design, and who has very clear ideas of the outcome, but was also keen to have us provide input into the final built form.”
With the client having just put the final touches on a substantial contemporary extension to the rear of their heritage home, the revamp of the remainder of their generously sized block came into focus.
“It had a number of established trees, which everyone was keen to preserve and integrate into the design,” says Matt. “The design also had to balance the aesthetics of the heritage home and the modern extension simultaneously, while not constraining any future redevelopment or sub division of the block.”
The clients, a family, briefed for a pool zone, grassed area, outdoor entertaining and dining options, a basketball court, vegetable patch, a shed and storage provision and a variety of quiet nooks for relaxation.
While the overarching impression of the garden is abundant greenery, much attention was paid to embedding the hardscape so that the two facets were harmoniously intertwined.
“The material selection is made up of whites and neutrals to give a coastal/beachside feel and to compliment the house” says Matt. “These include white concrete, a white limestone stone paver and Pacific Teak deck, which will silver off in time.” Juxtaposing this clean, modern palette is the rustic recycled red brick, which was sourced from the site to create garden walls.
Like a grand promenade, the backbone of the garden spills from the rear of the home with a large, floating staircase of pre-cast concrete, and extends down through the garden, aligning all the stairs and pathways through the yard. It terminates at a vertical deck panel, which serves to screen the basketball court, vegetable patch and shed area at the bottom of the garden.
“Although running along a clear axis, this pathway is broken up to blur and soften its form,” explains Matt. “This was achieved by having the concrete steps run into the turf bank, allowing the turf to break up the path into stepping stones, and by mixing up the paving materials, including the red recycled brick and the white limestone pavers.”
Adjacent to the staircase, a large transplanted White Frangipani Plumeria rubra balances the mass of the staircase. Layered planting surrounds the Sir Walter buffalo lawn, including Satin bush Podalyria sericea, Dianella tasmanica ‘Tasred’ and Vibernum odoratissium ‘ Emerald Lustre’.
A retained heritage Cabbage Tree Palm by the pool provides a strong vertical balance to the mass of the new extension to the home, while dense plantings soften the hard edges of the pool zone’s perimeter, including Giant Strelitzia Strelitzia nicolai, Vibernum odoratissium ‘ Emerald Lustre’, the Cast Iron Plant Aspidistra elatior, and giant Liriope (Liriope muscari).
The 6x5m pool is tucked close by the home, fully tiled in mosaics and edged by a timber sun deck. “We drew inspiration from the classic mid twentieth century pools, using pure white plaster for the pool surface in order to provide a brilliant and crisp sky blue colour,” Matt says. “We also added feature vintage-style ‘Sputnik’ Style pots, which contains a specimen of Aloe hybrid species.”
“One of the key challenges was designing the access path off the rear alfresco and down to the pool level, which had to be suspended in order to allow movement underneath to access rooms on the level below,” says Matt.
The entertaining and living zone is oriented around a pre-existing, shady deciduous Alder tree. “Elkhorn ferns Platycerium bifurcatum were attached around the trunk to had more greenery, while a large deck wraps around and under this tree to provide space for a large table and chair setting,” Matt says. “The deck sits aside a rocky watercourse, which is cut into the existing levels to create topography and give the deck a floating feel.”
A covered outdoor barbecue provides for a casual dining option, while a touch of frivolity was included in the old claw-footed bath from the original home, which has been upcycled to play “esky” for drinks and ice. A blade wall of breeze blocks forms a divide between the alfresco cooking zone and a small bocce court behind.
An existing London Plane Tree Platanus x acerifolia provides plenty of shade and greenery in this space, paired with the Sago Palm Cycas revoluta , The Madagascar Cycad Cycas thouarsii, Tree Philodendron Philodenron selloum, Agave attenuata, giant Liriope Liriope muscari and variegated Dianella tasmanica ‘Wyenna’.
“The garden has plenty of depth and provides many functional spaces for the family to enjoy – from big, open sunny spaces to cool and intimate places of shade and respite,” Matt says. “It really is a pleasure to explore all the spaces and to be surrounded by the lush greenery, which was achieved by pairing the existing established trees on the site with hardy species that are fairly tolerant to dry and hot conditions.”
The collaborative approach to this project was one the Newforms team found rewarding, and by all accounts the clients enjoyed, too. “The whole family are busy learning how they like to use their new garden space best – with casual time as a family, experimenting with different sized social gatherings and entertaining friends for breakfasts, lunches or dinners outdoors,” says Matt. “They said they are yet to fill the outdoor clawfoot bathtub with ice and drinks, however they assure me they will thoroughly test this out over summer!”