A shore thing

Last Updated: 24 Sep 2014
Jessica Rule

An impossibly steep site on the harbour front in Sydney’s Sans Souci saw Rolling Stone Landscapes get crafty with world-class luxury landscaping.

Curvilinear terraces tumble down a steep slope in jewel-hues of emerald and Ceylon sapphire, where the water's edge in well-heeled south Sydney suburb Sans Souci comes up to greet them. This tiered landscaping on the luxurious property was designed to make the most of the slope, and saw a total landscape redesign to create spaces for the owners – a young family of four – and their friends to kick back and enjoy the view.

"The owners wanted to provide a safer space for their children to play, as well as providing for better areas for entertaining," says Dean Herald, principal designer and managing director of Rolling Stone Landscapes.

The homeowners called for the new design to connect an outdoor living area to the house, which first involved cleaning up the overall site and providing better access down to the water's edge. "Originally there was an existing pool, however it was all the way down at the lower level, adjacent to the bay," explains Dean. "So building a new pool higher and closer to the home was very important in achieving this connection to the home and entertaining areas."

Instead of filling in the old pool down near the water's edge, a concrete lid was installed and overlaid with grass, which transformed it into a resourceful tank to collect rainwater for tending to the lawns and gardens.

The extremely steep site was a challenge, with all machinery and materials brought in and out via a barge or craned in over the house. However, the logistical issues were overcome and the immaculate new design and construction of a main pavilion at the top of the landscape was all achieved, as were the pool area with adjacent lounge, and additional pavilion to the mid-section and grassed areas with breakout seating.

The main pavilion includes a sleek and fully equipped kitchen with a sink, barbecue, fridge and woodfired pizza oven. Purpose-built for entertaining, the large dining area has a wall-mounted television and adjacent spa, which was sunk into the timber decking of a cantilevered balcony.

"On the same level as the pavilion is a sunken firepit area nestled underneath a large existing frangipani," says Dean. "Travel down a set of steel stairs and you come to an inviting blue pool with wet-edge spill-over out to the bay."

The cantilevered section of the upper pavilion, clad in feature timber panelling, ensures that there is shade by the generous poolside lounge, which is paired with another mature frangipani. This floating element is Dean's favourite feature.

"It enables the area to be used twice, once for the spa at pavilion level, and then as a shade area to the poolside paving. As land is tight in Sydney, being able to utilise an area multiple times is a great way of claiming more usable space."

The curves of the vibrant blue pool mimic the shapes in the lower lawn area, and aid a spectacular view. "Because the property is steep, the shapes of the landscapes were very important as they would be often viewed from above," Dean says.

The pool has an internal finish in Ezarri tiles, with Ecolight porcelain pavers from Di Lorenzo surrounding. Elevation changes enabled two levels of water plus, on the higher paved seating area, a water feature which spills down into the pool below. The natural curve of the pool creates a unique wet edge, which flows over into a holding tank.

Extensive outdoor lighting was used throughout the landscaping to extend the hours of use well into the Sydney night. Plants were chosen to emphasise the shapes of the design and to provide contrasting colour. A mature Dracaena draco (Dragon Blood Tree) was craned over the home and works well in combination with the two existing frangipani trees as a feature planting. Other plants include Buxus microphylla (Japanese Box), Senecio serpens (Blue Chalk Sticks) and Alternanthera dentate 'Little Ruby'.

"These were planted in mass to emphasise the minimal design of the project and to also enhance the shapes of the hard surfaces," says Dean.

The overall style of the garden is clean and fresh, with white walls, white floors and blue pool tiles creating a sleek and sophisticated, Mediterranean vibe. This cool palette is warmed by the addition of the timber decking and feature panelling.

Dean says the owners have been delighted with their newly functional space and stunning design. "They love their new backyard and have already used it for entertaining friends and family," he says. "Meanwhile the pool has been a huge hit with their children.

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