I was contacted by some new clients who were frustrated that they could not sell their lovely home in Sydney’s leafy upper North Shore, an area known for its majestic trees, large block sizes and high-value houses. Their house stood among iconic trees for this elevated coastal district, such as dawn redwood (Metasequoia), Sydney blue gums (Eucalyptus saligna), large Deodar cedar trees (Cedrus deodara), and flowering crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia).
Although the park-like front garden was well-maintained, the garden and the house as it presented to the street got lost and had no sense of place, or sense of arrival.
When I first pulled up outside for our design consultation, I saw a crepe myrtle tree, a Gordonia, several Camellia trees, a large front lawn area with some patchy grass, and a white house set high above street level. I immediately realised that there was a good design solution – to make an arrival statement with a beautiful garden arbour.
But an arbour has to have the right proportions – for the people who will walk through it, for the garden you enter, and also the house that it will address. So the next step was to walk around the garden and house to get a good feel of just how all the spaces worked together, such as the size of the open areas, the pools of light and shade, and the height of the house relative to the street.
I love to draw some quick perspective sketches of how my design solutions will look, as I find it’s the best way to communicate design ideas to clients who are often not experienced in reading plans. These hand drawn sketches gave my client a good feel for the size and impact of the new painted timber arbour and how some extra planting would add some colour, as well as separate the garden better from the surrounding streetscape. A drawn plan then provides more information about ground plane scale.
The result has transformed the entire house, garden and surrounding big picture landscaping. We even had the neighbours come out and say how wonderful it looks! The secret is how the arbour frames the view of what was already a pretty garden. The lovely white-painted timber garden pergola is a simple structure that creates an arrival vista that leads the viewer through to this lovely home and front entrance area.
To add a bit of style to the final run of steps to the front door I added a beautiful bronze coloured pot and other suitable garden accessories, while keeping the visual message simple.
The garden arbour is enhanced with such plants as a climbing rose, David Austin standard white roses, Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender’, Dichondra ‘Silver Falls’, Arthropodium cirratum (New Zealand rock lily) and ribbons of colour from purple, blue and white petunias.
Sandstone stepping stones from the nature strip area slow the arrival journey down as one enters under the pergola. Beyond that, we added a new paved circular arrival area, using sandstone as it is the vernacular material for this area and matches in with existing garden retaining walls and the first run of steps up to the house. Adding a more regular ground plane shape here gives what is otherwise a very loose and informal front garden just a little bit more definition, as well as a place in which to stop and view the lovely large-scale garden and house vista once inside this beautiful garden space.