This design by Cultivart emphasises the height of the garden to offset  the small area.

Design Directions

Last Updated: 16 Oct 2015
Lily Yeang

Whether you are designing a new garden, renovating, or just looking to refresh your backyard space, take your cues from traditional to contemporary designs by Western Australian landscapers.

Open attachment

Alfrescos are just as much a part of the home as the bedroom or dining room, with the extra benefit of being secluded from the rest of the house. Although semi-detached, this alfresco is just close enough to the action – the outdoor kitchen and entertaining set mere steps away –yet far enough away from the home to enjoy peace and quiet. Its proximity to the pool also makes it a perfect nook to dry off and chill out during summer.
Rosmond Custom Homes (08) 9440 6644,

Drought busting

With the mercury ever rising in our sunburned state, it's time to say goodbye to grass and hello to waterwise succulents. You can save water and create more of a visual appeal by planting in rows, and using elements such as stone as a contrast. The rocks act as barriers from the sun, allowing the soil beneath to retain moisture. Choose a stone that matches or complements the overall colour palette found within your garden or home.
Empire Lane (08) 6262 7252,

Setting stone

When sourcing materials for a garden design, look no further than the garden itself. A lot of the land we live on contains limestone or other natural materials that can be utilised in the final design. Limestone was taken from this Cottesloe site and reassembled like a jigsaw into its new organic form – surrounding a pre-existing pond filled with goldfish and native blue marron. All levels of the terraced garden can be accessed via the natural limestone, which not only encloses the pond, but also forms a staircase, bridge, and several sitting areas on the way to the top of the yard.
Sustainable Garden Design Perth 0405 303 824,

Nature reserve

Embrace Australia's rich and diverse bushland by incorporating its native flora into your garden design. Including these plants and trees in your backyard not only promotes their continued growth in the future, but will also attract local fauna to the area and, because of their hardy nature, will reduce your overall household water use. This garden by eScape Landscape Architecture features grass trees and other waterwise plants, teamed with paving and a small steel-edged pond that also invites winged guests into the space.
eScape Landscape Architecture (08) 9201 2772,

Fired up

Due to the intense heat they produce, pizza ovens tend to be more at home outdoors than in. This one, from Alfresco Wood Fired Pizza Ovens, was installed in an undercover area, not only providing warmth to the space in winter, but also saving mum's kitchen from the kids' or dad's messy pizza-making skills. Then there's the fuel. Firewood is the predominant choice for traditional pizza ovens, but can be a hassle to clean indoors. Here, the wood is stored right below the oven, the decking easily swept of all debris – both wood chips and spilt tomato paste.
Alfresco Wood Fired Pizza Ovens (08) 9404 8817,

Pools as resources

Pools are as synonymous with Australian summer as barbecues and surfboards, but lately they've become prominent year-round features, too. With design and build constantly developing, now you can have a pool of any size or shape created for almost any space or location. Lap pools like this one can be built alongside the home itself, or hard against the boundary perimeter to cover vast amounts of space, and can be a visual attraction in any home.
Craig Steere Architects (08) 9380 4662,

Material value

Add drama and decadence to your garden with COR-ten steel sculptures. The material is perfect for withstanding a multitude of weather conditions, and can be laser-cut into almost any shape imaginable. To create a lush feel in any garden, pair detailed steel sculptures – like these leaves – with stone or granite, and highlight with downlights or spotlights. For a more rustic look, opt for a bioethanol fireplace, and surround it with wooden furnishings.
Mondo Landscapes 0417 171 198,

Get on deck

Space isn't the only issue affecting the design of a garden – as our lives get busier and our time more limited, backyard upkeep can often be sacrificed. Low-maintenance gardens are increasingly popular for those who have limited amounts of time and money, but still want to enjoy the benefits of the outdoors. Decking makes the perfect floor for any outdoor area, and can be enhanced by furniture, pot plants and sun umbrellas. It's less work than grass and, with the right care, can withstand time and the harshest of elements.
Tim Davies Landscaping (08) 9441 0200,

Retain a wall

As much as walls are 'functional' components within the home, they don't have to look it, and can add another dimension to your garden design. Here, a gabion basket wall – consisting of limestone spalls in proprietary pre-fabricated HDG steel baskets – separates the alfresco from the garden, which was created from recycled and sustainable materials. Not only is it a stand-alone feature, but the wall also complements the natural feel and atmosphere of this garden. Large feature logs have been placed along the border of the kids' sandpit, while a native garden, vegie patch and chook house have also been included.
Phase 3 Landscape Construction (08) 9337 6985,

On the fence

Thanks to Australian safety regulations, all pools have to be adequately fenced off for the protection of our children. However, the addition of a pool fence doesn't have to be a barrier for design – bespoke fences like this one by Phase 3 can act as sculptural, eye-catching elements that don't take up extra space. The fence is made up of primed and painted steel poles, placed sequentially all the way along the length of the pool. For a clean, uninterrupted line, a special plate was designed to conceal the latching mechanism that opens the gate.
Phase 3 Landscape Construction (08) 9337 6985,

Advanced screening

Don't underestimate the versatility of architectural screens in the garden. Apart from the obvious shielding capabilities, the metal sheets can be adapted for a variety of purposes, serving as fencing, gates or dividing screens, outdoor wall art, shade structures, planter boxes or even weatherproof light boxes. Screens can be made of almost anything, but usually are laser-cut metal, and can be finished in brushed aluminum, COR-ten steel, mild steel and stainless steel.
Outside In (08) 9450 4922,

Minimal effort

Minimalism is a popular design choice for the interiors of many a modern home, and is just as well suited to the great outdoors. The style is timeless and simple to achieve. Stick with a basic colour palette – white, black and grey will do the trick – and go for clean geometric lines and contrasting materials to create texture. Here, Principal Landscapes used a black feature wall and dark paving to contrast white rendered walls. The eye is drawn to the timber day bed, which juxtaposes the smooth walls and floor poolside, while lush planting gives the area a luxury holiday-resort feel, as if in LA.
Principal Landscapes 0402 902 346,

Less is more

If you've got a small backyard, don't be afraid to dress it up with large features. Often, people make the mistake of placing too many undersized items in the one location. This creates clutter, and can come across as crowded or too busy. Instead, replace small pieces with one or two bigger ones. Art and sculptural elements like oversized LED lighting can liven up the area, draw focus away from the size of the space, and create a different dynamic at night. Well-placed sculptures can be used to cover up awkward areas, add depth, and create interest in what would otherwise be a bare area.
Tim Davies Landscaping (08) 9441 0200,

Picture this

Frames shouldn't be reserved for paintings on walls – they can also be used to capture incredible landscapes, views and features, both inside and out. Mark Aronson Architecture created a large, rustic structure that frames the living-room window like a giant picture, presenting a clear view of the newly built swimming pool outside. The window frame, made of fibre-cement sheeting and oxidised metal paint, is also a neat outdoor seating area, connecting the pool with the garden and alfresco. This home was in the running for a 2015 Australian Institute of Architects Award.
Mark Aronson Architecture (08) 6262 8169,;

Well rounded

Think courtyards have to be square? Think again. This courtyard by Luigi Rosselli Architects resembles the nearby Subiaco Oval, putting a new spin on the traditional four-sided garden. It lays hidden from the streetscape, and from prying eyes, while maintaining a certain level of connection with the outdoors. The garden, which features a large tree and some smaller shrubs, is entirely open to the elements, and is surrounded by a series of pavilions that make up the living quarters of the home. From above, the pavilions are joined together under a single roof, which is shaped around the open, mini oval. A verandah circles the space, protecting the rooms from bad weather, while giving the family direct access to the outdoors. This home was in the running for a 2015 Australian Institute of Architects Award.
Luigi Rosselli Architects (02) 9281 1498,;

Photography Edward Birch

Blank canvas

Thanks to organisations such as FORM, more and more public art has started to grace our city walls, so it's no wonder that we are acquiring a fondness for what was once considered graffiti, in our very own homes. An easy way to incorporate street art into the home is by filling blank spaces – like a back fence or plain boundary wall – with colourful wall murals. When teamed with plants and an urban material-and-colour palette, the mural is eye-catching yet not too overpowering. Pops of colour from glowing yellow lights set in a grey wall lie opposite the large art piece, connecting the colourful design with the rest of the garden.
CultivArt Landscape Design 0414 865 747,

Infinite wisdom

With hotels and resorts leading the way in spectacular pool design, and an influx of Aussies splurging on overseas holidays, people are looking to recreate that same 'holiday experience' in their own residences. A popular choice for hotels set in idyllic locations like Bali or Koh Samui, the infinity pool is now taking over Australian backyards. For a standout design, this space by Tim Davies Landscaping features an infinity spa and pool, dressed up with mosaic tiles for a modern appearance. Clear glass fencing allows guests sitting in the alfresco to gain unobstructed views of the glistening blue pool and beyond.
Tim Davies Landscaping (08) 9441 0200,

Downpours expected

Apart from the obvious summertime rinse off, owning an outdoor shower has a number of benefits – from preventing a dirt trail into your home, to watering your plants or washing the dog. If installing, use hardy, weatherproof materials, especially for the showerhead and taps, which need to withstand sun, rain and wind. Place near a garden bed or grass to make the most of runoff water, and make sure you've got high walls or some kind of screen, to help block prying eyes.
Empire Lane (08) 6262 7252,

On the level

Having levels built outside of the home presents a variety of spaces in which to relax and enjoy the great outdoors. Here, a raised, triangular concrete entertaining area overlooks the home's streetscape while providing views of the large jacaranda tree and pool behind it. The polished concrete floor of the side alfresco steps down towards the stone pavers of the home's back entrance, with timber stairs taking guests to the pool. The different levels put emphasis on the three distinct areas of the backyard, while at the front of the home, a garden bed made up of a number of planters steps down to the street.
DigWA Landscape Design and Construction 0438 938 411,

The frame game

Arbours are perfect for areas that need a bit of shade, but not necessarily the full coverage of an undercover gazebo. They provide unobstructed views of the flora and fauna around them, and add a sculptural element to the overall garden design. The cedar posts in the corner of this garden allow light to seep through to the seating next to it, and down to the plants below. The wooden beams match the batten fencing on the boundary of the home, and are illuminated at night by sky-facing spotlights – it's an arbour and a sculpture in its own right.
eScape Landscape Architecture (08) 9201 2772,

How green is your garden?

Looking for an easy-on-the-pocket way to renovate your garden? Try recycling and repurposing materials. Sustainable Garden Design did just that, the landscapers using an old scrap bin to create contemporary LED lighting, by laser-cutting a geometric pattern into the metal. The vessels of the vertical garden were sourced from the 'mistakes pile' of a local sheet-metal fabricator, with the ends welded on either side to hold soil, and small holes drilled at the bottom of each for drainage. An ornate industrial reticulation system – made from galvanised pipe and various fittings – waters the Chain of Hearts, String of Beans and Trailing Lotus cascading plants in the plant beds.
Sustainable Garden Design Perth 0405 303 824,

Bowled over

Need a place for those succulents, but you just don't dig (heh) the ground? Raise your plants and your garden design by repurposing old fire pits into modern-day flowerpots. These bowls were once mild-steel fire pits, purchased from a local hardware store. They were coated internally with a bitumen sealer to prevent further rust, and holes were drilled in the base to allow a reticulation feed as well as drainage. The exterior was painted with Penetrol, a natural oil to stop the rust from staining the concrete below. Sustainable Garden Design Perth 0405 303 824,

Boxed in

Plant boxes can do so much more than hold your favourite flowers or trees. They can be extra seating, form a nice border around the garden, or double as a feature. Principal Landscapes employed a long planter box as the focal point of this backyard, using stone to form the outside of the box, and placing a water blade feature in the middle. The rugged texture of the stone stands out against the pool and plain fence behind it, while the added water feature maximises both the box's useful and aesthetic function.
Principal Landscapes 0402 902 346,

Higher love

High walls can be a small garden's best friend, providing prime real estate for a vertical garden. Here, large Corten steel sheets run up the walls of the courtyard, which contains a wooden seating area and tranquil water feature. Offset by a sky-blue wall and grids holding wall climbers, the sheets create much-needed depth in an otherwise tiny space. The addition of frangipanis and other lush greenery emits a forest-like feel, further emphasised by large stones and cool, dark paving.
CultivArt Landscape Design 0414 865 747,

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