Soul patch

Last Updated: 08 Dec 2014
Jessica Rule

A raw and natural aesthetic in this inner-Melbourne backyard offers a soulful retreat.

Plenty of creative and hands-on work went into constructing this stunning and contemporary backyard in northern Melbourne. The clients, Emma and Andre, wanted a backyard that would take the edge off urban life and provide an oasis of relaxation in the city. In response, the sharp-looking backyard design was created for them and their three young children to enjoy either as a social space
or a private outdoor zone.

"It has a warm, relaxed, funky vibe to it and the garden seems to have real soul, which is a perfect match for the clients," says Steve Taylor, managing director at COS Design, who designed and constructed the project. "The brief from the client was for 'an inner-city Melbourne, industrial, rustic-yet-sharp cafe-style rear space'."

Their mid-1930s Californian bungalow was undergoing a renovation itself, which prompted a backyard makeover too. Emma wished to repeat the home's period timber and clinker-brick features using recycled red/blue clinker bricks as a feature in the adjoining studio, where she teaches yoga, and she and Andre practise for their jazz-funk band.

"Steve grabbed onto that idea and drew the bricks into a feature wall in the pool," she says. "In fact, all the elements relate, which I think helps give it that sense of soul. The studio space connects with the exterior, so if we decide to really kick up our heels we could have the studio fully open to the deck and have impromptu gigs!"

A pool was the first on the family's list of requirements, however space was tight and they wanted to retain an existing ash tree. As the terrain in the area was not conducive to digging, with large rock 'floaters' and tree roots underground, the decision was made to bring the pool out of the ground.

"The only space left was along the side of the home, providing the perfect opportunity for a lap lane and wet edge," explains Steve. "Emma and Andre love timber and also wanted a built-in barbecue and pizza oven for their contemporary, relaxed style of entertaining."

This provision for family and friends to gather, eat and feel relaxed was integral in the planning. "As the kids approach teenage years, we wanted a space that was inviting, so that they would have more excuses to hang out at home with their friends," Emma says. "The ritual of a spa and pizza post-footy or basketball is already part of our family culture."

To the rear area of the pool, a fire-pit area utilises the deck as a natural seat.
The steel and recycled hardwood ash arbours that stretch over the pool lend
it a sense of enclosure while offering structural intent and interest. "The timber inserts and water spouts soften the mass of hard surfaces, and bamboo (Gracilis textilis) creates the perfect backdrop to the pool with its wispy, green, softening nature," says Steve.

The spa is in glass mosaic tiles to match the wet edge, while a large and chunky polished concrete plinth doubles as a bar for guests outside the spa and a seat for those in it. Emma says the family adores the spa, but it was a feature Aaron wasn't wasn't sold on originally. "I think he would concede that it's one of the elements that helps gel the whole design together now," she says. "In the cooler seasons, we are using it almost like a Japanese onsen – after relaxing in the hot spa, we take a freezing plunge into the pool!"

LED strip lighting brings the space to life at night, ensuring the large yellow stringy bark deck can be used for entertaining well into the night. A circle cut into the deck allows the existing ash tree to thrive as a focal point.

"The bamboo continues around the perimeter with under-plantings of clivias, arthropodiums, creeping thyme and prostrate rosemary around the fire area," says Steve. "Beside the pizza oven, espaliered lemons and limes also enhance the food preparation space."

Steve said it was a unique brief that pushed his team into a new design palette and style. "I am very proud of the result," he says, "and I am grateful to Andre and Emma for trusting me with their intimate rear space and giving me an exciting new brief to play with."


COS Design (03) 9889 3329, (design and landscaping) Signature Landscapes 0419 579 182, (landscaping)
Serenity Pools (03) 9325 1055, (pool)
Frameless Impressions 1300 769 993, (pool fence).

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