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{leafy retreat} outdoors

tropical punch Drawing on global influences, one family created a garden paradise in coastal Sydney words anna mccooe styling adam robinson photography natalie hunfalvay

This inviting pocket is decorated in a palette inspired by the lush surrounds, with a green cushion by Bonnie And Neil and neutral cushions from Soforia. The clean lines of the ‘Huski’ lounger and ‘Nano’ coffee table, both from Tait, lend a slick modern edge. > {DECEMBER 2013} 213

pool party

Karen and Phil’s backyard oasis was designed to complement their contemporary home. Blackbutt decking matches the floor level inside the home to visually merge the spaces, and the timber bridge leads to a sparkling pool clad in ‘Cuban Blend’ ceramic mosaic tiles from The Pool Tile Company. The couple chose the black granite paving after spying similar at a hotel in Singapore.


Great care was taken to the garden into the outdoor room, ramping up its connection with nature

There’s a spot at the end of the blackbutt bridge overhanging the pool where Phil and Karen, owners of this eastern Sydney garden, like to sit and gather their thoughts. Tranquil ponds are either side, koi swimming in one and turtles in the other, and feathery king palms cast intricate reflections on the surface of the water. It’s an ideal subtropical space – until a troop of nine year olds cannonballs into the pool to see who can make the biggest splash. “That’s the great thing about the bridge,” says Phil. “It can be a quiet place to dangle your feet or a pseudo diving board for our son Liam and his friends!” When the couple built their house, they debated over whether to include a pool, and ended up waiting three years and biding their time with a simple garden as they got to know the lie of the land. Once the decision was made, it escalated into a full-blown project. Phil and Karen worked with landscape designer Michele Shennen on a series of interconnected rectangles for the pool, ponds and pathways that would blend with the architecture of their home. Taking inspiration from time spent living and travelling in Asia, the family wanted the garden to feel like a private oasis. The look would be one-part Japanese temple garden, one-part luxury resort, and heavy on colour, texture and scent. Global influences also shaped the pool, built by Premier Pools; the granite paving and mosaic tiles were chosen after trips to Singapore and Bali respectively. “Many years ago we stayed at the Tandjung Sari hotel in Bali and the pool had a natural, relaxed feel we hoped to re-create,” Phil explains. Back home, the couple found just the right multi-hued ceramic mosaic tiles, which create a sense of movement and dimension. >

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Above: Owners Phil and Karen were keen to balance functionality with beauty in the form of verdant greenery, lining the deck with narrow plant beds that deliver high impact. “Subtropical plants thrive in this part of Sydney,” says garden designer Nicola Cameron. The garden is hooked up to a 4000-litre rainwater tank and irrigation system. Even so, Nicola notes that it was designed for easy maintenance and only requires compost, a slow-release seaweed liquid fertiliser and wetting agent twice a year – once in spring and again in autumn. “And mulch is essential,” she adds.

Above: The peaceful pond is the ideal habitat for this short-neck turtle, while the Chinese lantern adds more than just colour: “You can eat the flower [when ripe],” says Nicola.

outdoors {leafy retreat}


“We love the mood. It’s not ostentatious and it’s so private and lush” ~ Phil

Above left: A low row of Japanese box hedging adds a green border between the ponds and pool. Above right: The simple ‘Linear’ spotted-gum table and modern ‘Jak’ chairs, all from Tait, allow the focus to remain on the garden. Left: King palms emerge from a bed of gardenias to provide height and shade over the pool. Their thin trunks make them ideal for narrow spaces. >

< Next on the couple’s agenda was a rich, full garden that would make the house and pool look as though they belonged in the environment. In this spirit, they called in garden designer Nicola Cameron of Pepo Botanic Design to establish a subtropical vibe. Now, narrow plant beds abundant with garden life, in a harmonious palette of grey, black and green foliage, surround the pool; it looks as though they were always meant to be there. Pops of primary colours, via red canna lilies and yellow Chinese lantern flowers, add tropical vibrancy. The secret to such a lush look, says Nicola, is repetition: “It’s about mass planting in groups so the forms and patterns repeat themselves,” she explains. As the garden takes on a life of its own, the family couldn’t be more pleased with the result, and they’re not alone. The turtles and koi are happy in their ponds, while native lizards have made a home in the plant beds. “There’s a place for everyone,” says Phil.

Pepo Botanic Design, (02) 9349 1220, Michele Shennen landscape designer, 0418 227 922. Premier Pools, (02) 9415 8888;

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club tropicana

This relaxed zone wouldn’t be out of place in a five-star resort, thanks to the leafy backdrop and Tait bench seat cushion in Warwick Fabrics ‘Bondi’ outdoor fabric. Bold and red with billowing foliage, a striking canna lily embodies the lush look, complemented by dark Aeonium ‘Schwarzkopf’ on the left and glossy Philodendron ‘Xanadu’ on the right. The sail-cloth cube from Deck Design Store brings a vibrant shot of orange.

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Australian Home Beautiful Magazine  
Australian Home Beautiful Magazine