Get inspired with this completely new landscape design and installation featuring floating stairs, retaining, lighting, artificial turf, planting and a lightbox sculpture

WORDS Mina Phillips

With their home renovation recently completed, homeowners Marie and Charles were able to turn their attention to their home’s outdoor areas. Other than a small deck, their backyard was essentially a “blank canvas”. They decided that Zones Landscaping Specialist Kate Ryan was the right person to help them bring their outdoor vision to life.

“The backyard was waiting for the right inspiring design to warrant finishing this area well”, explains Kate. “The clients wanted a low-maintenance but striking design.”

“We had quite strong ideas of what we wanted and (Kate) made some great suggestions to improve on these ideas”, tells homeowner Marie.

Zones Auckland Central Landscape Architect Vaughan MacKenzie-Brown worked with Kate, Marie and Charles to develop a creative and innovative design. 

“Vaughan came up with a really interesting series of deck areas with floating steps and sections with the decking boards running in different directions”, says Kate. 

After working with Kate and Vaughan to further personalise their project, Marie and Charles readily approved the design, and the landscaping work began.

Firstly, an old curved retaining wall was hidden using squared-off timber retaining - which led up to the home’s rear deck. 

Next, a dark coloured shed was built by the garage wall (supplied and installed by the Shed Shop Guys); a location specifically chosen for its subtlety so that the shed would not distract from the new design. Floating steps were then built around the shed, adding interest. These steps were carried on along the outline of the property, leading to the main deck area.

“The sections of timber decking running in different directions required quite a lot of labour and time, with joists running different ways”, explains Kate. “The floating steps took some nutting-out to get a cut-out look that was still stable and practical to build. It took some time and skill to map out the height difference of the step depths needed in order to work with the existing finish height of the garage to the back boundary. It was very challenging for the building team and they rose to the occasion, doing a brilliant job.”

To create contrasting outdoor spaces, artificial turf was installed near the decking and under the trees; a central aspect to making the backyard low-maintenance. 

“The clients loved the turf and low-maintenance aspect so we added this to the front garden as well”, tells Kate. “With large trees and dropping leaves, these can now have a quick leaf blower to get them up.”

To finalise the space and give it some extra “wow” factor, Kate’s team underlit the floating steps with LED strip lighting. Bright coleus plants were planted along the back wall and a custom-made sculpture was sourced from Pacific Outdoor Solutions

“The clients wanted a sculpture or special feature and I had the idea to add a "lightbox" to enclose the dining area and be a special feature in the garden”, explains Kate. “Marie designed the pattern herself and we had it laser cut in aluminium and positioned with spotlights inside. Along with uplighting the trees and plants, the whole area is magical at night. The unveiling of the lightbox was exciting and allowed us all to see the designed feature come to life.”

Following an eight-week transformation, both Kate and her clients are extremely happy with the result. 

“The clients loved that we took their ideas and created a unique design and a striking outcome with different areas in a relatively small space”, says Kate. “The project managed service and good build team made the project seamless and enjoyable for them.” 

“Kate did a great job of transforming our backyard”, confirms Marie. “An excellent project manager where nothing was a problem and always followed up on matters. Alastair and his great team of guys worked solidly and we are very happy with the finish. They always arrived on time, were friendly and kept the site tidy.”

Would you like to discuss your landscaping ideas with a specialist?

Get in touch for a free consultation