Julia and Dan’s ground floor apartment had virtually everything they wanted, including the small backyard – perfect for Frankie, their staffy – accessed by sliding doors from both the living area and main bedroom. However, a mixture of uneven pavers and lacklustre synthetic turf, meant the garden was an eyesore the couple were happy to close the doors on.
“It wasn’t a very nice place to be,” recalls Julia. “We never spent time out there.”
The creative couple are both graphic designers, and Julia – who, as Home Beautiful’s deputy art director, is inspired by pictures of striking homes and gardens all day long – had a vision for what the space could be. “We really liked the idea of having a deck coming straight off the living room so you could continue that space outside.”
Inspiration wasn’t a problem, but realising their vision was. The L-shaped yard wraps around the corner of the apartment, creating two distinct areas invisible from each other. “It always felt a bit disjointed and we struggled to work out how to connect the two spaces,” says Julia. Help came via Sydney-based garden designer Adam Robinson, suggesting two feature decks with a path of stepping stones. “There’s now an intimacy and definition to each area,” says Adam, “and the oversized steppers allow for easy access and become a clever transition point joining the two decks together.”
Paved path Native violet makes a hardy groundcover between and around the bluestone stepping stones, and has long-lasting pretty purple flowers that bloom right through the warmer months. An online wander through Gumtree uncovered a budget-saving bargain in the shape of the oversized bluestone pavers that wind their way around the corner of the L-shaped garden, neatly connecting the lounge and alfresco zones.
“We went for a mixed palette of plants that provides texture and interest to the small space. This allows the eye to take more in, instead of just the hedges” ~ Adam, landscape designer
Working to a very strict budget, Julia and Dan did most of the demolition work themselves, with friends and family also volunteering to help. They took a well-earned break though when the professionals moved in to build the twin Hardiedeck zones. The couple then painted the new decks and the boundary fence, fitted the bluestone pavers, and planted Adam’s lengthy list of pretty greenery. The efforts, says Julia, was well worth it. “I love the final outcome,” she says. “It now feels like a tropical retreat.”
“Adam has done an amazing job of selecting plants with a silver tone to them, so I feel the deck, pavers and the plants all work well together” ~ Julia
The new Hardiedeck, given two coats of Berger ‘Jet Dry Non Slip Flat’ in Colorbond Basalt, has transformed the entertaining area. The Marquee powder-coated steel ‘Baha’ cafe chairs from Bunnings have a light feel that’s perfect for a small space, and are a cool foil to the simple ‘Falster’ outdoor dining table, found at Ikea. Strategically based concrete pots from Adam Robinson Design, planted with drought-tolerant Sansevieria ‘Silver Sword’, Crassula ovata ‘Hobbit’ maintain the connection to the garden beds, as well as the existing potted Strelizia reginae and murraya hedging.
Julia learned the hard way that sample pots should be an essential part of the decorators’ kit. “I painted the whole deck with 10 litres of paint, and the more I looked at it the more blue it seemed,” she admits. “I was quite adamant it had to be a true grey, so we had to repaint both decks! I’m much happier with the new colour – I feel it makes the greenery really pop, whereas before it all blended together.”
James Hardie Hardiedeck decking $5000*
Outdoor paint & supplies $540*
Pots & planters $263*
*excludes delivery, labour and building costs. Prices are approximate and will vary. illustration kenziedesign.com
Landscape designer: Adam Robinson, Adam Robinson Design, (02) 8542 0317
Builder: Brett Fuller, Pure Construction Management