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From Habitat magazine - issue 30

The garden came first with this Hawke's Bay building project, and with good reason.

When Flint and Celia Ainsworth built their home in Hawke's Bay, they approached the project with a unique point of view, working their design from back to front. With plans for a family wedding underway, getting the garden and outdoor living area party-perfect was top priority.

Now with a lush, well-established subtropical garden on the same level as the interior, their outdoor area has very much become part of the couple’s living space. An array of raised beds and structural elements carry the same materials and colour scheme as the interior to further enhance the link.

The Ainsworths kept their palette neutral to allow the garden to stand out. The pergola is painted Resene Double Black White and the furniture is stained with Resene Woodsman Whitewash. View alternative design: Tropical paradise

The couple moved in after Flint’s company, Ainsworth + Collinson, finished the home, but the garden had been completed earlier, which is why it already looks so well-established.

“Our son was getting married and he wanted everyone to come back to the house for a barbecue. We were really lucky to get landscape designer Blair Robb [of Dig Landscape Design] because he had worked with our architect Nick Bevin several times before; and like Nick and Flint, they had a good rapport.

“Blair was totally in charge of the garden but I wanted a water feature - for good feng shui - as well as goldfish. I also asked for a bridge across to the entry and a red door, of course. I was thrilled when he said yes to everything.”

Exterior of house and backyard garden
Left: The view from the street shows off the unique topography of the lot. The cedar cladding and fence have been stained and protected with Wood-X Traverse, available from Resene ColorShops, the plaster walls have been painted Resene Double Black White and the soffits and fascia are coated in Resene Sonyx 101 waterborne semi-gloss in Resene Double Black White and Resene Thunder Road.

A selection of subtropical plants cosied up to the timber decking, which has been stained with Resene Woodsman Decking Oil Stain in Resene Heartwood. In the background, you can see the original deck furniture colour. A similar look could be achieved with Resene Cedar wood stain.

The home sits on the former driveway of Sacred Heart School at the top of Napier’s Bluff Hill. Nick says that the only flat part of the property is where the garden sits. The rest is a large slope cascading down into an untamed woodland area. Nick’s design cut into the top of the slope to allow two levels of generous living space with expansive views to the west and easy access to the sheltered private garden enclosed at the east. “We tried to preserve as much flat outdoor area as possible, so we had to put the house as far over as we could.”

While the property offers magnificent northern views of the ocean, it is also exposed to strong winds, so creating structure to provide shelter around the planting was crucial. Blair drew the elevation plans and worked together with Flint to determine the heights of the walls, which translated into Flint’s final design.

The proportions were important, says Blair, “because everything had to withstand the swirling wind. Raised plaster garden areas, finished in Resene Double Black White to match the house soffits, highlight the plants at a level where you see them. It makes them shine a bit more. It’s nice to have those level changes rather than a flat platform. The solid structure in white gives interest and balance. Then, we softened it with landscaping.”

Flint and Celia Ainsworth
Left: Homeowners Flint and Celia’s backyard was the top priority during their renovation so that it could be picture perfect in time for their son’s wedding.

Flint and Celia went with Resene Double Black White for the pergola, which, in a few years’ time, will support a canopy of greenery. They recently finished their outdoor furniture, which was originally rimu-toned wood, with Resene Woodsman Whitewash to brighten it up.

Some of the plants were specifically chosen to withstand the wind, such as the agaves, bonsai, giant bird of paradise and the unusual South African cabbage tree. Flint and Celia brought their own cycads from a previous garden and a number of other special plants were sourced from Auckland, including the monkey-no-climb tree (Ceiba speciosa).

“There is an emphasis on subtropicals – bromeliads and echeveria around the pond with a few low natives, like the tractor seat plant. Most of the colour is in the foliage rather than relying on flowers and the only structural colours are white and natural.”

However, a Scarlet O’Hara bougainvillea will eventually provide a dazzling display of crimson flowers along with star jasmine weaving through the Resene Double Black White slats of the pergola, designed to deflect the wind. To provide a warm natural contrast to the cool whites of the structural elements and the darker, more intense Resene Thunder Road of the house’s joinery, Flint stained the timber decking with Resene Woodsman Decking Oil Stain in Resene Heartwood. On the western side of the house, a deck in the same stain extends from the living area and takes in the views. It’s protected by light sliding louvres in Resene Double Black White. Celia and Flint also decided to soften the solid concrete boundary with portions of slatted vertical cedar fence finished in Wood-X Traverse to marry into the texture of the cedar weatherboards that wrap around the south-eastern side of the house. To complement the solid block walls, natural stone pavers form a practical hard wearing surface throughout the garden, as pathways and under the pergola.

Left: Stone steps bridge the gap between the upper levels of the garden and the lower patio, which served as an extra area for guests to mingle during the Ainsworth’s son’s wedding. The home and pergola are finished in Resene Double Black White.

A bird’s eye view shows the artistic repetition of the rectangular forms that block out different areas of the backyard. The deck has been stained with Resene Woodsman Decking Oil Stain in Resene Heartwood and the pergola structure has been finished with Resene Double Black White.

While there is a lot going on in this relatively small garden, the selection of calming natural colours and materials that blend with the interior and contrast with the greenery of the planting is a cohesive result. The combination reflects the shared passions of the owners, architect and landscape designer. “It was great having keen gardeners as clients who appreciate interesting plants,” says Blair.

“And,” says Nick, “it was refreshing to work with an owner who was also the builder because it informed our discussions during the design process as we explored pricing and options with a commitment to materials and strategies. It was such an enjoyable process.”

Note: Paths and driveways trap dirt and contaminants. Keep them clean by spraying them with Resene Deep Clean. Simply spray it on and leave Resene Deep Clean to work with the weather to clean up these areas.

Top tip: The bright sun tends to make exterior colours look lighter, so make sure your exterior colours have enough contrast so that they don’t all look the same outside. Always test and view your colours outdoors first by painting a full Resene testpot in two coats onto a large piece of cardboard, leaving an unpainted border around the edge.

"Mid to deep grey finishes are popular for garage doors and are easily complemented by other exterior colours. Make sure your garage door is well protected by using Resene Lustacryl semi-gloss waterborne enamel or Resene Enamacryl if you prefer a glossier finish. Remember when you're choosing a dark colour, opt for the CoolColour version to minimise heat build-up. If you're not sure which colour to choose for your garage door, consider using the same colour as your roof."


Paint it right:

Choose the right Resene colours and paints for the job.

Exterior stain and red front door

Get some serious curb appeal

Make a statement with your front door. This is a chance to indulge your favourite colour. Paint it using Resene Enamacryl gloss to really make the colour pop. Enjoy a bold red front door with Resene Jalapeno from the new Resene The Range fashion fandeck.

Lock in protection

Natural wood is a stunning material to use for exterior cladding, but it needs to be properly protected to keep it looking its best. If you prefer to use a wood stain, Resene Waterborne Woodsman wood stain is penetrating and can be easily recoated in future years. See the Resene Exterior woodcare colour chart for options.

Now that the summer heat is waning, it’s the perfect time to use a few coats of Resene Kwila Timber Stain to bring the life back to aged and greying hardwood decks or use Resene Woodsman. For deeper stains, consider opting for the Resene CoolColour formula, which reflects more heat than a standard colour – making it more comfortable to walk in barefoot when the summer sun returns.

For safer paths, especially those on a slope, use Resene Non-Skid Deck & Path. It has a light gritted texture for extra grip and slip resistance.

Resene Woodsman Whitewahs

Resene Thunder Road

Words: Vicki Holder
Images: Tim Whittaker

Alternative solution - bejewelled blue

A tropical paradise sparkles with sapphire accents

Designer Michael Mansvelt suggests this alternative scheme:

Before photo

A different shape and colour for the pergola changes the look and feel of this garden dramatically. The alternative orientation of the pavers mirrors the diamond shape of the structure and draws the eye in to make the sitting area into a strong focal point. For added visual interest, bringing Resene Bewitched down on to the lower planters breaks up the colour of the concrete, while the candle lamps provide a little mood lighting for when you want to take advantage of good weather and entertain guests late into the evening.

Exterior garden alternative
A striking Resene Bewitched hand-built pergola and lush subtropical planting creates an oasis with a house exterior in Resene Alabaster. The Florida Sofas from Soren Liv have been customised with Kravet Kapari Woven Outdoor Fabric in Marine from Warwick and paired with a Cabo Drum Coffee Table from Soren Liv and five Clear Candle Lamps from Exotic Imports. Planting includes a bamboo palm hedge, bird of paradise, cycads, philodendron Xanadu, heliotrope, yellow clivia, an espaliered lemon, palms and coral trees.

Did you know... that there is a range of Resene Concrete Stain colours to enliven your outdoor space? See the Resene Decks, paths, driveways and recreational areas chart for colour options, available from your Resene ColorShop, reseller or online at

Designer: Michael Mansvelt. Phone: 06 769 5189. Web:
Illustration: Malcolm White

Candle lamp
Clear Candle Lamp, Exotic Imports, 07 347 8546
Cycad revoluta
Outdoor fabric
Kravet Kapari Woven Outdoor Fabric in Marine, Warwick, 09 477 3080
Lemon tree
Espaliered Lemon
Concrete coffee table
Florida Sofas and Cabo Drum Coffee Table, Soren Liv, 0800 001 690

Resene Bewitched

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