Making it her own

From Habitat magazine - issue 27, spring/summer 2017 /18

A landscape designer flexes her creative muscles on her own suburban garden.

Most people who buy a house with a well established garden would be tempted to let it be. Not so with Louise Dunning. After all, she is a landscape designer.

Louise and Blake Noble bought the Auckland house four years ago. The garden had been developed in the mid-1990s in a traditional planting style. The house had been more recently rented however, and the garden was past its best.

So out came all the plants and in came lots of creativity and hard work. With a large puriri tree in the front garden and pohutukawa on a neighbouring property, Louise decided on a low-maintenance garden with subtropical and native plants.

The garden refurbishment was part of a wider renovation, in which the house was reconfigured and a new bedroom added on to the back. New, wide sliding doors were added to access the back garden, and the exterior repainted in Resene Revolution with Resene Half Alabaster trims. Says Louise: “I wanted the house to be darker, but didn't want a flat grey. Resene Revolution has a lovely blue edge, which looks great with the subtropical foliage colours. It’s come up better than I anticipated. I had six colours pinned up against the back of the house for ages.”

Left: Louise designed a new deck, planters and steps to lead from the raised back door to the garden. The deck is finished with Resene Furniture and Decking Oil, and the furniture is stained with Resene Pitch Black wood stain.
Alternative solution:two for one

Right: The exterior of the house is painted in Resene Revolution, chosen to be offset by the subtropical plants. The trims are Resene Half Alabaster and the roof is Resene Foundry. Resene Revolution is from an older collection; try Resene Neutral Bay as another option.

A challenge for Louise was to create good flow from the raised house to the garden below. A combination of layered decks, steps and handsome concrete planters provided the solution, with one of the decks being large enough for outdoor furniture and a barbecue. That deck was also carefully positioned and raised enough to take advantage of a view over the fence, down into nearby Shoal Bay.

The lawn level was also raised by half a metre, and the large concrete planter was designed to not only separate the deck and the steps but provide an edge that is wide enough for extra seating.

The deck is now Louise’s favourite spot… along with the existing garden shed which was converted into a fun garden bar! The shed has been painted in Resene Escape, while Louise spruced up the old timber table and chairs with Resene Pitch Black wood stain.

New deck and shed bar
The old garden shed has been converted into a garden bar, and is painted in Resene Escape with a door in Resene Cello.

Signposts and boardwalks
Left: The back lawn is fringed in new subtropical planting beds, with a fun signpost and fences finished in Resene Waterborne Woodsman Pitch Black wood stain. Right: A series of boardwalks lead from the new pedestrian gate to the front door. Both it and the cedar fence are finished in Resene Furniture and Decking Oil.

The front garden faces west, so to take advantage of the wide front bungalow porch – perfect for an evening drink in the sun – a low picket fence has been replaced with a privacy-creating wall.

There is also a new pedestrian gate to separate foot traffic from the vehicle entry, and a boardwalk-style path that meanders beneath the puriri tree to the new front door.

Louise chose a sea of bromeliads for the challenging area beneath the tree, where few plants would thrive. In a happy coincidence, her cousin lives across the road and was in the middle of taking out a subtropical garden and replacing it with a cottage style version. Louise spent an afternoon wheelbarrowing reject bromeliads across the road and planting them under the tree.

Since refurbishing the house and garden, Louise has moved herself and her business to Blenheim... and on to a new challenge.

Cape cod chairs and plantings detail
Left: Cape Cod chairs, painted veranda, weatherboard look. Top right: Canna lily. Bottom right: Cat's paw

The cute Cape Cod chairs are painted in Resene Black while the veranda boards are in Resene Walk-on tinted to Resene White Pointer.

Get the painted veranda look with boards painted with Resene Walk-on tinted to Resene White Pointer.

Get the weatherboard look with Resene Lumbersider tinted to Resene Revolution. This colour is from an older range; try Resene Neutral Bay instead and use with a Resene CoolColour paint to protect your cladding from UV damage.

Alternative solution – two for one

Go both cosy and open in the same outdoor space

Landscape designer Lynn Cairney suggests this alternative scheme:

I have created two spaces with quite distinctive feelings – one is cosy and intimate while the other is more open. Both are also multi-functional. Separated by a wall, the lower level has a sitting area and good access to the lawn, while the upper level is the outdoor kitchen and dining space. The furniture, and therefore the uses, could be easily swapped if required. The upper level has a sense of intimacy and softness helped by the existing mature palms along the boundary, and new palms in front. To draw the garden in, a glass balustrade has been used on two sides. A window opens into the kitchen inside for functional indoor-outdoor flow. The neutral colour palette of Resene Breathless weatherboards, Resene Half Sea Fog trims and the Resene Woodsman Tiri deck stain will stand the test of time and fashions, while bright fabrics and flowers add impact and interest and can be easily updated.

Phone: 09 534 1823. Web

Two distinctive outdoor areas are separated by a wall in Resene Breathless and anchored by a deck stained in Resene Woodsman Decking Oil Stain Tiri. The trims are in Resene Half Sea Fog. Products featured include a white wicker lounge suite from Rattan House, a Montego outdoor table from Soren Liv and Orbit chairs from Cuchi Interior Concepts.


Did you know... that there are a range of stain colours available in the Resene Woodsman range to add colour to timber weatherboards, decks, furniture and more, while letting the grain show through? See the Resene Exterior timber stains colour chart for colour options, available from your Resene ColorShop or reseller, or order online at

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