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Kelmarna Courtyard Garden


The brief was to create a space that was very inviting and would encourage socialising and improved flow throughout the garden with options for using different areas in different ways.

Although the garden of this contemporary townhouse was originally built to a high spec, after ten years it was starting to show signs of age. The pool, fireplace and utility area were in good condition, but the existing concrete courtyard area was too small to be functional. The client had never used the fireplace and had not felt able to entertain outside. The raw rendered masonry walls were discoloured and tired and this gave the outdoor space quite a utilitarian feel.

Concrete garden wall

The brief was to create a space that was very inviting and would encourage socialising and improved flow throughout the garden with options for using different areas in different ways. It was important that the area was consistently attractive as all the views from the house look out to (or down to) the garden. The client wanted a mix of materials with built in options for seating. A small area for herbs and vegetables and a lawn with a mowing strip for easy maintenance were also on the wish-list.

The overall feel of the new garden space was to be classic yet contemporary, very symmetrical, with blocks of structural plantings and easy functionality.

Concrete walls
Garden wall detail

Due to the client’s background working in boatbuilding it was important that everything was symmetrical and appeared evenly balanced.

The client also had an ornate iron garden seat which was broken. An Edwardian strap work wrought iron seat, it was quite a special piece. Although he was resigned to parting ways with it, knowing it didn't suit the style of his home, he felt reluctant as it was a family heirloom. He also had an orchid collection he had inherited from his father that he was loath to let go of.

Design response:

The garden layout was altered so that it would fit symmetrically with the architecture of the house. A generous patio was created and paved in ceramic tile.

Garden detail
Garden detail

A new planting area separates the pool from the patio and breaks up the hard surfaces with soft and colourful planting. Within this planting area is a small recess which houses the barbeque and reflects the symmetry of the fireplace. A new rendered masonry wall provides additional seating on either side of the fireplace which are finished with removable Fijian Kauri slat benches. The masonry wall continues the length of the garden to provide an elevated planting area, and steps in and out to create a space for the heirloom garden seat.

A lush new lawn was provided, framed with a concrete mowing strip. Although small, the lawn adds to the impression of space and is a nice, inviting feature. Inset within the lawn are two concrete edged planting beds, lining up with the views from inside the home. One bed provides an area for kitchen herbs and vegetables, the other is planted with squared topiary.

Garden grass area
Concrete fire and seating area

The existing architecture was a mix of black, raw concrete and raw rendered masonry. A colour scheme of warm greys and russet brown/red was introduced to soften the space and add warmth.

The new masonry wall and the existing boundary walls were finished with Resene Concrete Primer then Resene Lumbersider in Resene Tapa. The existing fireplace and the wall bordering the pool were left raw. The iron garden seat was repaired and refinished in Resene Enamacryl in Resene Pioneer Red to add boldness and masculinity to the scheme and to highlight it as the central feature of the new garden. The two paint colours are carried through with the warm grey tiles, the Fijian Kauri Slat benches and the planting design. Foliage colours reflect and contrast the Resene Tapa and Resene Pioneer Red, including Oi Oi, Ake Ake, Boston Ivy and Nandina. A small border of flowering perennials in masculine colours was included along the pool fence. This planting includes festuca, leucodendron and Kangaroo paws (anigozanthus bush fling). Helenium waltraut and Verbascum phoenicium violetta will add a splash of orange, brown and purple summer interest.

Garden tiles and bbq
Raised concrete beds

The client's orchids (which are in the same russet tones) were repotted in sleek black pots to complete the look.

A particular challenge was to meet the brief of a "very symmetrical garden" when the existing outdoor fireplace which dominated the garden (and which was to be incorporated in the new design) was not centred within the space. The much needed balance was created by mirroring the shape of the fireplace with the new barbecue space which recesses into the garden and flanking the fireplace with new built-in benches.

Building contractor: Urbis Landscapes
Colour selection: Dee McQuillan, Ivy & Bloom Ltd
Painting contractor: Auckland Residential and Commercial Painters
Plant supply: Kings Plant Barn, Seaflowers nursery, The Plant Market Ltd
Tiles: Tile Warehouse
Project: Resene Total Colour Awards 2018

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