Clevedon homeowners’ rundown property needed a makeover. The family contacted Zones Landscape Architect Nichola Vague who helped them to bring their property back to life by converting it into a resort-style yard with a tropical twist.
WORDS Jason Burgess PHOTOGRAPHY Scott Espie
Say Bula Vinaka to this resort-like transformation of a once shabby rural property.
When Nicky and Aaron Toreson moved to their Clevedon property it was very much a rundown farm; the fields were full of weeds and broken fences and the cedar home was gasping for a makeover. “That was exciting, says Aaron, “Rather than buying somebody else's dream home, we had the opportunity to create our own.” A pool was number one priority for their “two little mermaids.” But not just a pool, their dream was to create a sub-tropical themed, blue-space oasis.
“We always loved going to resorts,” says Nicky. “We wanted the functionality of a swimming pool where we can swim and dive and the kids can play but we also wanted something that looked beautiful.” With a deadline in mind, they needed an expert team who could deliver that dream, before summer rolled around again.
Nichola immediately understood our vision for a lush subtropical, vibrant-but-relaxed environment
First off, they contacted natural-pool designer, Nigel Donaldson. “We wanted a natural looking pool,” says Aaron,” With a pebble bottom, big rock surrounds and lush planting to blend in with the country environment.” Unlike prefabricated rectangular pools, a natural pool offers bespoke solutions that can be adapted to all kinds of terrains and difficult sites.
They next engaged Zones Landscape Architect Nichola Vague who helped clarify their concept and direction for the whole project. Nichola has designed and overseen everything from residential backyard revamps to major urban planning projects, and has extensive landscape design and project managing experience on international resort developments.
Through an ongoing open dialogue, Nichola was able to define the style and vision for the Toreson’s long-term goals. “I often suggest to clients that they develop image boards,” says Nichola, “then I can establish a clear idea about style and what they are trying to achieve. This one started with a photo of a tropical cabana.”
Nichola and the family visited some of Nigel’s previous projects to get a sense of how a natural pool could work. “Often people do not know how they are going to use a pool,” says Nichola, “They need to ask themselves is the pool for play, fitness, relaxation or all three? And how will it fit into the location.” Once defined, a master plan was drawn, situating and linking all the elements with an overarching aesthetic. She says, “It is important to have an overall concept and plan. It gives all the parties a clear idea of the project goals and a place to come back to, particularly as the project evolves.”
“Nichola immediately understood our vision for a lush subtropical, vibrant-but-relaxed environment.” Says Nicki, “Her expertise in working in resorts around the world, meant she came up with some fantastic design elements. She introduced ideas we hadn't thought of, like the big jumping rock, and made sure it worked.”
Construction took place throughout the winter of 2017. A wet season can make for slow progress for any building project, sometimes there were up to 10 earth moving contractors on site dealing with the mud in the rain. The discovery of natural springs below ground meant that tonnes of additional clay had to be removed and around 250 truckloads of metal brought in, not to mention the creation of extra retaining walls. That said, the Toreson’s recognised that although this was a sizeable undertaking, they were future proofing the property as they went. Beyond the earthworks, the site also required substantial drainage and two new 20,000-litre water collection tanks incorporated into the landscape to compensate for evaporation.
There are many clever dimensions to this pool and its environs. Not only does it bring family and friends together it also offers a potential income stream as a venue for special events. It conjures a sense of journey through private ‘rooms’ with an outdoor shower, a fire pit and intimate places for quiet and contemplation. A clear vision and careful planning meant this family fun-zone and entertaining hub stayed on time and true to the original brief. Its plantings will continue to flourish and the pool itself will look stunning year-round - even when the togs and towels are folded up and put away.
“We wanted to create a pool that was a destination” says Nicky, “once you get here you want to stay here.”
What they most love:
Nicky: “How the spa pool connects to the pool, the functionality means kids can jump in and out of the pool and warm up in the spa.”
Aaron: “We had eight families here with 20 kids in the pool all at once. There is heaps of room for them and still lots of space for the adults to relax around the pool.”
Heidi: “The rocks and scenery, I like imagining I’m in the middle of the jungle.”
Suzy: “I love everything, especially the jumping rocks.”