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A Slice Of Primeval Paradise In Bronte

Gardens

So you’ve already seen the incredible treehouse that accompanies this garden in Bronte – but the key feature of this breezy family home is its connection to nature. Hugh Main of Spirit Level Designs was engaged by the homeowner (renowned architect Madeleine Blanchfield) to create a garden that works in tandem with their dreamy beach-side home.

With a steep site to contend with, and a sometimes blustery coastal climate, the final palette had to be soft as well as tough. A combination of mature trees, robust silvery cacti and green foliage creates a rich and layered oasis.

6th April, 2021

Silvery plantings are complemented by lush green tropicals to create a sense of depth. Landscape Designer – Spirit Level Designs. Architect – Madeleine Blanchfield. Photo – Jason Busch.

The rear garden is bordered by the nature reserve on the other side of the boundary. Large plantings and trees thus fringe the domestic landscape to shield the divide between the public wild and private land. Landscape Designer – Spirit Level Designs. Architect – Madeleine Blanchfield. Photo – Jason Busch.

The garden on the first level sits atop of the street-level garage, and is directly connected to the front bedrooms. Landscape Designer – Spirit Level Designs. Architect – Madeleine Blanchfield. Photo – Jason Busch.

Looking down to the street-level entrance and first level garden from above. Landscape Designer – Spirit Level Designs. Architect – Madeleine Blanchfield. Photo – Jason Busch.

Greenery overgrows the architecture at ever opportunity to allow the house to recede into the landscape. Landscape Designer – Spirit Level Designs. Architect – Madeleine Blanchfield. Photo – Jason Busch.

A reflective pool in the corner fo the rear garden creates a contemplative moment. Landscape Designer – Spirit Level Designs. Architect – Madeleine Blanchfield. Photo – Jason Busch.

The lush and tropical Sydney terrain takes centre stage. Landscape Designer – Spirit Level Designs. Architect – Madeleine Blanchfield. Photo – Jason Busch.

The garden is abundant, and visible from almost every room in the house! Landscape Designer – Spirit Level Designs. Architect – Madeleine Blanchfield. Photo – Jason Busch.

The house consists of three levels, with the garage on ground level with a garden on its roof connected to the main bedroom, and the living quarters on the very top level to make the most of coastal views. Landscape Designer – Spirit Level Designs. Architect – Madeleine Blanchfield. Photo – Jason Busch.

The front door is at street level and opens to a flight of outdoor stairs, which lead up past the front garden on the first level and the towards the residence threshold. Landscape Designer – Spirit Level Designs. Architect – Madeleine Blanchfield. Photo – Jason Busch.

A tropical overhang descends towards the pavement beside the front door. Landscape Designer – Spirit Level Designs. Architect – Madeleine Blanchfield. Photo – Jason Busch.

Sasha Gattermayr
Tuesday 6th April 2021

‘I wanted to create a garden that feels as though it has always been there.’ – Hugh Main

For landscape designer High Main of Spirit Level Designs, the goal of good garden design is for the landscape to feel almost ‘un-designed’.

‘I wanted to create a garden that feels as though it has always been there,’ says Hugh of this layered, lush garden in Bronte. Luckily, nature was already doing a lot of the work for him.

The steep site backs onto the Bronte Reserve, where a massive fig tree, enormous eucalypt and overhanging Blue Spruce co-exist happily. Altogether, this quirky mix of trees creates a surreal suburban landscape, that allows the architectural home to recede into the surrounding environment. Hugh’s brief for the garden was to aid this illusion.

The residence consists of two storeys stacked atop a street-facing garage, accessible via an external flight of stairs. Within it, there are two garden sections: one at the rear, accessible via the top-level lounge room; and one at the front, on top of the garage roof and accessible via the main bedroom.

‘The steepness of the site allows each section of the garden to have its own level, enhancing the unique atmosphere of each area,’ says Hugh. His responsibility was to ensure the garden connected meaningfully to each one. To do this, he devised a rich and layered palette containing a lot of foliage and silvery tones.

The white stucco render, concrete and pale acoya timber used to construct the house is reflected in the soft, silvery planting palette – which is made up of mother-in-law tongue, woolly torch cactus, liquorice plant and blue chalksticks. Lush green plants are then added to the composition for contrast and depth. Several mature trees in the rear garden were retained alongside a mature frangipani and crepe myrtle that Hugh’s team installed at the front.

‘I wanted to soften the crisp lines of the architecture with a very relaxed style of planting,’ says Hugh.‘It just so happens that silver and grey plants use less water. When creating these dreamy landscape with a soft palette, we are also creating environmentally sensitive garden.’

Architect Madeleine Blanchfield designed the house to ensure that the each room is connected to a part of the garden or surrounding landscape. The result is a delightfully verdant envelope that cushions the house in a soft embrace!

Love what you see? View more projects from Spirit Level Designs here.

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The Design Files acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

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