The Great Outdoors

How to Landscape like a Boss

Garden design is so much more than just ‘doing the garden’ – in your new home, it’s a fundamental aspect of the architecture. Integrating landscaping with the design of the indoor spaces will guarantee you get the best from your site (large or small) and enhance your lifestyle and enjoyment of the property.

Landscaping involves a big-picture overview of the compositional parts: from where the driveway should be in relation to the dwelling, to the paths that make individual areas accessible, to where the water and electricity access is. It necessitates design thinking for essentials you may like to disguise (such as where the bins or washing line will be) and for other features that are set to become the heroes of the piece: for example, vertical structures which can provide privacy but also places for a celebratory creeper, and horizontal elements such as the ever-important deck (a Kiwi institution).

Once you have your landscape plan in place, you’ll be ready for the garden design – adding the plants that soften the hardscape into a living tableau – whenever that might take place. Keen to begin? Here’s our advice to ensure success:

Budget for landscaping

It may be tempting to cut costs by not setting aside a budget for landscaping but, anecdotally, we can tell you that our clients almost always regret this. Add a little on to the mortgage to put in the structure while building; you can always fill in the tapestry with plants and outdoor furniture later. Typically, clients spend between $50K and $80k on this ‘hard stuff’: the decking, steps, pergolas that result in that much-embraced indoor-outdoor flow. Of course, the sky’s the limit. Add in motorised louvres, screens, fancy fireplaces, etc and your outdoor room can easily set you back $150K.

Position it right

The raison d’être of an outdoor space is to embrace alfresco activity but if that puts you directly in the line of fire of Mother Nature’s vagaries, you could end up with too much sun or an annoying wind that takes the enjoyment out of it.

Orienting the building so it shelters you from the worst of these elements is a key part of the mitigation strategy. Classic plans such as a U or L-shaped footprint can ‘cuddle’ a courtyard, protecting it from the worst of the weather.

On the north and west elevations, overhangs (such as deep eaves, or cantilevers or balconies) can be designed to give shelter from the sun with the bonus that this negates the need for an outdoor umbrella or a pergola.

When it comes to acing the outdoor action, options are your BFF: spaces that allow you to move according to the whim of the wind and the passage of the sun. In the perfect world, we’d include an east-facing decks for morning coffee and breakfast and a west-facing one for evening entertaining, but if you’re in a location where Norwesterlies prevail, a south-facing spot, ordinarily not high on the priority list, could be just the ticket.

Fit the form with the function

The first thing a Box™ designer will ask you when you are discussing your landscaping is how you like to use outdoor space. Are you a keen gardener? How much do you entertain? Do the outdoor spaces need to be geared to young children or teenagers? But there are so many other questions to be answered. What about the future – how could your life and ability to get into the garden change? In a holiday house, what is practical?

Remember to not only put thought into the glory spaces but also those little areas that, if well-planned, will make everyday life so much more comfortable. Do you need a dedicated place for a shed? Will a lawn become too high maintenance? Can stairs double as seating?

Now is the time to consider how hard or soft landscaping will give you privacy from neighbours. Now is pertinent to ask whether you really have time for a built-in raised vegetable garden. If a pool is on your wish-list, the considerations become even more intense. It’s not the type of thing that should be installed retrospectively and safety regulations need to be adhered too (finding the right fencing solution often takes some doing).

The time is also now to contemplate your energy needs: the hot water cylinders, compressor unit of the heat pump, batteries for solar power that are positioned somewhere outside the dwelling whether it be in a separate utilities shed, the back of a carport or in a fully fledged garage. Once you start to think about it, you’ll soon realise the landscaping plan needs to incorporate so much more than just a place to enjoy summer beersies with your mates.

Choose your landscape style to meld with the architecture

Okay, we acknowledge you’re probably going to build a deck – and that fits really well with our modernist-inspired designs – but we feel compelled to mention that there are other garden design options. A paved or bricked patio, perhaps interspersed with hardy groundcovers, is highly durable and requires less maintenance (no oiling or staining) and looks great with a contemporary aesthetic in an urban setting. Rural properties, on the other hand, could suit a gravel courtyard. It’s one of the cheaper options, has permeability for better drainage and, depending on the colour of stone you choose, can take on different looks (from formal to rustic). Gravel pathways are easier to install on uneven ground and deliver the ‘crunch, crunch’ factor – an audible warning of unexpected visitors.

Landscape for big ideas and little moments

Well-designed outdoor rooms are plentiful from fully covered spaces that operate as another living room, to balconies that overlook a pool, to holiday-home decks with glass balustrades that project into the backdrop to feel part and parcel of the view. These are the much-photographed ‘wow’ moments of a landscaping plan. But there are other gems. Some recent ones we’ve incorporated in Box™ projects include: landscaping around a gnarly old lemon tree to keep the living history of the site intact; punching a circular skylight into the roof of an outdoor room to maintain connection to the sky; designing an entry courtyard beneath the pavilion-style home that was suspended on steel beams above a stormwater drain that required 24/7 access (well that was a pretty grand-scale idea we admit); and incorporating a firepit with built-in tiered seating into the deck.

So, you see, garden design is not just an add-on to the house; it’s a vital arm of the architecture and an investment that will pay dividends in memories made.

By Box

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