Bespoke garden design began from humble story

To create a fantastic outdoor space you need to work in a great team. Damien, builder / client along with many others and myself have created this gorgeous outdoor garden. I’m truly speechless with the outcome.

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Damien, engaged my service as a landscape architect to prepare some landscape plans. Damien had previously seen some of my hand drawn design concepts which I had prepared for another person. He was keen to see what I could come up, to challenge his already approved plans and put some fresh new ideas forward.

When I first went Damien’s house, I wanted to get an understanding of the site and what made Damien tick. What interested him, what did he show me during the tour and what did he speak about. What was his personal story. How could I translate it into the garden design.

Firstly, Damien invited me inside his house to check out the recently upgraded master bedroom that was completed. Inside I could see the gorgeous high ceilings, large detailing plasterwork and beautiful ornate white ceiling rose centered over the master bed. This ceiling rose was so detailed and attractive that I need to take a photo of it. The ceiling rose provided me massive inspiration for backyard feature and also the garden planting.


The second think that inspired me onsite was that recently upgraded ensuite. Damien, mentioned the plastering contractor didn’t finish the sliding door properly. This meant a small gap was ever so present. This attention to detail frustrated Damien. I learnt from that moment that every detail needed to be done exceptional well. This was an important clue to how I finished the backyard custom shelter with the damask patterning.

When we went into the backyard. Damien retold me a memory about how he used to play cricket in the backyard with his brother. They used to use the garbage bin as the stumps, hit the ball onto the road and invite the neighbours around to play cricket. This discussion provided me a real inspiration for a linear turf area in his backyard. Hopefully, this memory and experience could soon be recreated in the garden.

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From this cricket discussions the first suggestion of ‘ladies stand’ arose. We thought the ladies stand was seen as a place where you could watch over the cricket game. I explored this concept further through precedent imagery in a story board. The beautiful patterning emerged through multiple revisions. A soft delicate shadow now projects on to the timber work and decking.


All these significant moments and many others flowed into landscape design during design and documentation stages. The design became richer from the story.

I went back to his house the other day to check out the progress. I was complete blown away at what he had achieved. Damien and done an amazing job to finish off the garden works.

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In the remainder of the blog I will be talking about the importance of a ‘story’ when designing and how fundamentally it is to hold the design together. The story can become a delightfully intoxicating dance releasing its own rhythm of systematic beauty. Only once the story has been mastered that design can truly be celebrated. The story will teach and shape the design towards a certain creative aspiration. Also the story will continue to influence and provide direction towards the design intent when the designer is not present. The story makes an unbreakable emotional connection for the client to the context. Unknowingly, we are craving this emotional connection, yet seemingly not asking for it in the brief.

The story is what we should all aspire towards. The story enables all the components to move towards a delightful memory. Without it the story the components just become components, they simple can’t be retold. The story above has been made using one my recent private jobs.

When I’m at site with the clients. I then ask them what they want in their garden design. Typically, the wish list includes a shelter, a BBQ, a new fence or screen, a wood fire oven, native planting, large trees and it has to be low maintenance, with a theme! There is nothing wrong with the pieces as each one is needed to meet and achieve compliance for them.

I haven’t heard a client ever say I desire a story! A beautiful story which captures me for who I am right now. A story that reflects how I live and how I want to live. Once you have given me the story that resonates with me, and only then will I accept your design. I know now you understand me and my values.

Some people miss the story all together at all key stages. They instead give the client a collection of pieces. These pieces meets the brief but doesn’t necessarily align with them. So if you ask them, why did you put those pieces into the design? What is your story behind it? They can’t answer because they don’t know.

I recently read a company outlining all the benefits they can offer with bespoke shelter designs. It mentioned things like get item into your space etc. We can work it up for you and wouldn’t it be great to have this item. The collection of pieces was like a giant sales conference where everyone was on commission. I’m like, that is great collection of pieces, expect for one thing. You haven’t told the story. And in this case, it was my story and my client’s story to be told.

So in summary for me with this story. There was a series of moments that unfolded. They inspired and provided learning. We just have to be in tuned to receive it. When we get the story it so fantastic. The design will simple melt and spreads over the entire site into every corner. If we don’t have the story, the design becomes component with no glue.



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