Japanese minimalism was implemented into every element of this landscape design.

WORDS Mina Phillips

When it comes to property investment, the garden is often the last place to receive a makeover. When house flipper David began renovating his latest project, he asked his friend and landscaping specialist Chau Pong to take a look at the 74m2 backyard. 

“For this project, the main objective was to take a dated home and refresh it and renovate it into a really modern and nice home for a first-time home buyer or investor”, tells David. “Initially, you could only use half of the backyard because there was about a 45-degree gradient slope.” 

The pair decided that something simple and affordable, yet attractive, would be the best solution. This led them to the idea of a Japanese Zen garden with a deck. By keeping the design minimal, they hoped to create a spatial presence which could also easily be adjusted to suit the new homeowner’s lifestyle. 

A few considerations were tied into the design process. Chau consciously chose a colour scheme which would blend in with the house, creating a seascape theme in the front entryway. Including a deck in the backyard’s design allowed them to maximise the space, creating a level outdoor living space over the previously unusable lawn. Japanese minimalism was implemented into every element of the design, the idea being to produce a tranquil backyard canvas which could easily be updated in the future.  

Once they had a design in place, Chau and David carried out most of the work themselves. The first open home was quickly approaching and they needed to complete the landscape before the first viewers arrived.  

A major part of the work was the deck and railing installation, which was pine with kwila staining. The pair also needed to time things carefully -  wheeling about two tonnes of white chip through the house was not something that they wanted to be doing on a newly installed carpet and they managed to complete the transferral just in time. Once the chip was in place, Chau created a pathway of stepping stones using South Island Alpine stones. These connected the living room to the deck.   

When he created the planting scheme, Chau considered how every detail would complement the colours and details of the design. A dwarf Japanese maple tree was selected as a focal point to the garden, while a bonsai tree was chosen because it “reminds you of a mountain range”. The contrasting colours of fairy bamboo, black mondo grass and Lomandra Lime Tuff all work together to add soft pops of colour to the simple space. Even the colour of the mulch was considered.

“I wanted a lighter mulch”, tells Chau. “It adds an element of ruggedness and colour contrast while adding some texture as well.”

With the garden planted, the fences repainted and solar lighting installed for ambience, Chau looked for any final opportunities to complete the backyard to his friend’s liking. As they were working within a limited budget, he decided to add a few DIY features. Chau constructed the base which holds the fairy bamboo, hand-crafted a ladle to go with an outdoor water basin and built a contemplative bench. 

“I can imagine the homeowner enjoying it on a quiet morning or evening. It’s a calm spot where you can enjoy this minimalist garden”, says Chau of the bench. “I’m pleased. Satisfied. Every inch of the backyard is usable now.”

“I’m pleased. Satisfied. Every inch of the backyard is usable now.”

“The indoor-outdoor flow is very good now”, adds David. “I think (the updated landscape) is really serene and has a peaceful feel. I’d love to go out there in the evening and just sit down on the bench to have my coffee and read a book in the weekend. It’s a really nice garden with very little maintenance needed.”  

Following a lot of hard work, the landscape was completed just in time for the property’s first viewing. It was quickly snapped up in auction not long after.  

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If you would like to discuss your landscape design options with Chau, please get in touch to schedule a free consultation.