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Case Study 1

A transformation

This property was not exactly a blank canvas when we got involved, but little had been done to it since it was originally built in the 1980s.  A sturdy, well appointed house, for sure, but the property as a whole was looking tired and somewhat 'functional'.


The Home

The main issue was the sloping block, built on a sandy coastal soil.  The house itself was actually quite good.  It offered commanding views from the raised balcony and long deck and the internal layout was good. The all beige colour scheme would need to be looked at, as well as adding updates like ducted heating and a wiring overhaul, which we were able to arrange.

A major concern was the balcony railings.  Since it was built, Safety Standards have moved on quite considerably, so our first task was to make that upgrade.  In keeping with the semi-rustic appearance of the property, we chose to design a traditional balustrade railing.  This complied with regulations and by using a combination of grey and stained wood, we kept the appearance in line with the external and internal features of the home.


The Driveway

The most obvious and imptactical feature of the property was the entrance from the street.

Nothing had been done to the outside of the property, so access from the street was straight on to the sloping block. The block only had grass on it, so offered no traction for vehicles.  In many ways, that gave us more scope than trying to fix up something that was already there.

So we got our pencils out and started sketching up our ideas!  Whilst we could let our creativity flow, we also had to consider several important factors when planning the new driveway.

The sloping block meant that we had to terrace the land to accommodate a level driveway and ensure our contractors incorporated retaining walls to support he ground - .  We also realised that terracing a sloping block, meant that we would have to design a system that managed the water flow and that had to be incorporated too.


Aesthetically we continued with the rustic approach to keep in line with our ideas for the balcony and chose to use stained and treated timber sleepers as the main materials.  Rather than construct with tarmac or concrete, we chose a more natural look using crushed rock with gravel top coating.

Planting along the driveway edge behind the retaining wall helped to stabilise the soil as well as adding some character and colour to the front of the house.

During the construction we had slotted irrigation pipes connected to the main roof downpipe and laid around the entire perimeter of the driveway to take rainwater runoff away from the surface to the street guttering.

Furthermore, the slope made walking up to the property a little challenging!  To mitigate this, we designed steps leading up to the lower deck from both ends of the driveway.  In order to avoid the property looking like a forest walk, we broke up the pathway with large Mud Rock stepping stones set in the same material as the driveway.

This gave whole the construction an integrated feel, so visually everything was 'in tune'.


The Al Fresco Dining Area

The Eastern side of the block was totally characterless.  This really was a blank canvas!

The slope eased as it came down, so in our initial sketches we aimed to use the levels that already existed to create some interest in the flatter area.  However, the upper part of the incline was impossible to manage.  Even if left as it was, it would prove to be a feat of remarkable athleticism even to mow the grass!

Terracing was the only solution.  We then brain-stormed the possibilities.  Although initially we favoured several planted terraces, we thought it may be quite challenging to maintain as terraced gardens.  Instead we chose to incorporate a barbecue area, which the property lacked.  Indeed the outside of the property was virtually unusable.

We knew it would be a challenge for our contractors to stabilise an area big enough to accommodate a sitting area, but they rose to the challenge and our platform was constructed.  We chose to use a volcanic rock edging to provide a perimeter and to surface the whole terrace with the same materials we had be using elsewhere to maintain continuity.

The terrace front was going to be a tricky challenge.  Were we to create a 'wall' of rocks, sleepers or other material, or could we design it in such a way as to add some character to the garden.   The construction, out of necessity, was made from heavy duty infill and concrete supports - not the prettiest of materials - so we had the contractors to grade the wall, enabling us to infill with soil and natural cut timer to create a garden bed.  Choosing plants that thrive in the extremely sandy soil had always been a challenge, but a combination of Yucca and succulents provided a dense foliage and helped stabilise the soil.


More Mud Rock stepping stones were used to build a step up to the barbecue area and the final outcome achieved a practical, attractive and co-ordinated addition to the property.



Other Improvements

Our vision was to make this ordinary property look considerably more welcoming, without adding a huge maintenance liability.

The driveway improvement was critical and very successful and the barbecue terrace added huge value to the look and functionality of the home.

We looked at other areas that we could add our touch.  We had been happy with the planting choices and the natural materials we had used and continued this approach to other areas of the garden.
Below the barbecue area, on the flatter area opf land, we created an 'oasis' rock garden feature.

River Pebbles with volcanic rocl border formed the base of the feature and we had a water feature plumbed in.  Careful selection of plants and a converted wheelbarrow planter added more character to the garden.

The entrance was given a makeover with some high planters and more River Pebbles to make the property more welcoming.   During the course of all of the work, we were able to arrange for the previously cess-tank system waste to be replaced with an eco system mains sewerage system.


The final outcome was a complete transformation of the property, from a featureless, troublesome block, to a property that offered a friendly, beautiful welcome.