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Balancing Form + Function In Garden Design, With Peachy Green’s Frances Hale

Design Eye

Frances Hale’s landscape design studio, Peachy Green, is responsible for some of Melbourne’s most amazing gardens. Her thoughtful and creative approach to landscaping turns everything from inner-city backyards to coastal blocks into growing works of art – with plants as her medium!

As part of our Design Eye series, Frances shares her expert tips on how to achieve both form and function in a garden – with a closer look at the Peachy Green-designed garden of an incredible Fitzroy North home, designed by Studio Bright.

In this stunning garden, different outdoor zones have been carefully designed for various uses, and elevated with outdoor furniture from DOMO.

8th December, 2022

The KUN Design Flamingo Extendable Dining Table and KUN Design Loop Dining Chairs from DOMO help turn this green space into an open-air dining area. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Landscape designer and Peachy Green founder Frances Hale inside the beautiful gardens she created for 8 Yard House, designed by Studio Bright. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

KUN Design Flamingo Extendable Dining Table and KUN Design Loop Dining Chairs from DOMO. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

The gardens feature a mix of open spaces for functionality and organic plantings. KUN Design Loop Dining Chairs from DOMO. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

The KUN Design Branch Planter helps bring an additional pop of foliage to any space. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Concrete step stones break up the rich mixture of garden textures. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

The KUN Design Pipe Trolley from DOMO is another perfect piece to enhance your outdoor dining areas, especially in summer! Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

The Fitzroy North home’s gardens are made up of several zones, including a secluded outdoor living area featuring the Point Min Armchair from DOMO. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Doors open to the deck, bringing the outdoors into the home. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Frances selected the Point Min 2 Seat Sofa and Point Min Armchair from DOMO for their luxurious and slimline silhouettes, while a KUN Design Lotus Planter brings additional plants onto the timber deck. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

‘Our intent was to have greenery draping, climbing, rambling, and wild lush gardens that would fill every courtyard, wall, nook, balcony, and view,’ France says. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Doing away with the traditional look and feel of front and backyards also helped create more functional spaces. Photo – Eve Wilson for The Design Files. Editorial styling – Annie Portelli

Christina Karras
Thursday 8th December 2022

‘Well designed and positioned furniture allows you to get out into the garden and use the space’ – Frances Hale

For landscape designer Frances Hale, a good garden is all about balance. It needs to have a mixture of hard elements and soft textures; wild and organic plantings alongside more curated corners; and ultimately, spaces that are equal parts practical and beautiful.

It’s a thoughtful design approach that she’s refined since starting Peachy Green back in 2011. Her landscape design studio expertly balances the aesthetics of how a garden looks and feels with the needs and wants of her clients. And the gardens of Fitzroy North’s award-winning 8 Yard House, designed by Studio Bright, is a spectacular example of Fran’s ethos!

Despite being nestled into Melbourne’s inner-city streets, the landscaping manages to be brilliantly lush and full of greenery, without looking out of place. A key part of the backyard was weaving in multiple useable zones so the homeowners could make the most of their outdoor spaces – such as entertaining in the leafy rear garden, seen here with the KUN Design Flamingo Extendable Dining Table and KUN Design Loop Dining Chairs from DOMO, or retreating to the cosy rooftop deck, with the sleek yet comfy Point Min 2 Seat Sofa.

Hear more from Frances on how it all came together below:

Hey Fran! You’ve designed some truly incredible gardens, how would you describe your general aesthetic as a landscape designer?

We love a layered, naturalistic garden where plants are permitted to be loose and envelope a space. A mixed palette of native and exotic species in unconventional combinations. Lots of different greens and silvers, tonal consistency with interesting contrast of textures and forms. We love flowers that have a wild, soft, frothy meadow look. We hope our gardens are fun, robust, beautiful, and clever, with a little sprinkling of magic and wonder.

This garden in Fitzroy North really illustrates how to design a garden with a number of distinct zones and functions. How did you approach this project? 

Studio Bright set out to design a home that dismissed the traditional idea of a front yard and backyard, and reimagined a floor plan that weaves garden spaces and living spaces together, prioritising green connection at every threshold. Our intent was to have greenery draping, climbing, rambling, and wild lush gardens that would fill every courtyard, wall, nook, balcony, and view. The design was also driven by the different microclimates of each zone, and consideration was given for the right combination and species of plants that would thrive together in the given aspect.

What’s your advice for designing a garden that balances form and function?

Keep it simple and know the priorities. Have nicely proportioned areas in the garden, less is more – try not to cram in everything, but rather do a few things well, so the space feels calm, generous, and well balanced rather than hectic and cluttered.

Garden design is a process and an experiment. It’s great to have a master plan for the layout so areas are considered and flow together, but it’s okay for details and planting to evolve and be layered up as you come to know and understand the conditions of your space over time. Repeat things that work throughout so the garden feels cohesive and let your garden be a creative expression of what you love.

What are some common mistakes people make when planning a garden?

Piecing the garden together but then realising things are in the wrong place and the spaces or levels don’t connect well. Pools and pool fences, in-ground trampolines and sheds that are poorly positioned can dominate or cut the space so the rest of the garden is unusable.

Getting shade designed in early so alfresco spaces are usable in summer and winter helps the success of a garden. Depth of garden beds are nice when they are generous so layers can be created in the garden, and they don’t necessarily need to be just around the perimeter. Choosing the wrong plants is pretty common, so do some research first to understand aspect, conditions, soil types. Gardens are a learning curve so have a go, plants can be changed if they don’t work.

When it comes to furniture for the garden, what are your main considerations? What features are you drawn to in outdoor furniture?

We look for pieces with beautiful forms, that have a light look but are strong, sturdy and durable. It’s also important to find the right size and function for the space, but it’s an opportunity for colour, fun, playfulness, style, ornamentation.

Well designed and positioned furniture allows you to get out into the garden and use the space by having somewhere nice and comfortable to sit.

In addition to traditional dining setting we see in many gardens, this project also has a secluded outdoor lounge area on the upstairs roof deck. How do DOMO’s Point Min 2 Seat Sofa and Point Min Armchair help set the tone in this space?

This is a relaxed, almost ‘secret’ outdoor living space. The Point Sofa and Armchair have an architectural, slimline profile, which is elegant, graceful, and beautiful but they’re still really relaxed and inviting and super comfortable with the soft upholstery.

What’s next for Peachy Green?

We just want to keep doing what we’re doing, getting smarter, better, learning, refining, inventing, creating more and more fun beautiful gardens. Working with great people and teams with the same love and obsession to bring these wonderful homes and gardens and environments to life. It’s a joy to see our gardens grow and we are in constant awe of how lucky we are to have something as enchanting as plants as our medium – we just need to put them in the ground and nature does the rest.

For more than 30 years, DOMO has remained Australia’s exclusive stockist of prestigious design brands from Europe, and across the globe.

With showrooms in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide, DOMO offers a curated collection of classic, contemporary indoor and outdoor furniture ranges that last a lifetime.

For more design inspiration, follow DOMO on Instagram 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.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net