Steep slopes are always a hard workaround when it comes to landscaping and this was certainly the case for a property in the North Shore suburb of Beach Haven.

WORDS Joanna Mathers PHOTOGRAPHY Scott Espie

The owners of the property had undertaken the first stage of their landscaping project which include lush planting and retaining on their steep back section themselves, and then called in Zones Landscaping Specialists Matt and Boyd Gillespie for some expert help in finishing the project.

Beach Haven has some beautiful coastline, and the property overlooks the sea out front, with the garden space out back. The small flat piece of land that runs off from the living area of the home and underneath the steep bank was the ideal space for outdoor entertaining – it had an existing deck, but this needed replacing.

Outdoor multi-level space landscaped to function effectively as an entertainment space

In order for the space to function effectively, it needed some expertise and careful planning to ensure that it was fit for purpose.

Developing a new landscape design

The first thing to tackle for the Zones team was creating safe, easy access from the driveway down a slope at the bottom of the house to the outdoor living area. Matt Gillespie explains that there were some steps up the side of the house from the driveway, but these weren’t in the best state and needed to be replaced.

“The steps went from the driveway up the side of the house, joining into the new decking,” he explains. “We installed timber-framed steps curving down the slope that were infilled with stabilising mats and then river pebbles to replace the existing slippery sloping concrete steps.”

Updating the decking

The existing decking was sitting hard on the clay underneath it (“the timber was rotting so needed replacing,” says Matt) and needed to go. To facilitate this change, the Zones team excavated 300mm down into the soil so that they could install framing correctly. This space also ensured that there was adequate ventilation to protect the timber from rot that had claimed the last deck.

Outdoor room with new timber deck and concrete patio with outdoor dining

The new deck is made from kwila and opens up the rear living space to the garden; the pebble steps from the drive up the side of the house connect the lower section to the entertainment space located above.

Hardscaping and softscaping

There was more to the makeover than steps and a new deck, however. A concrete patio was added to the space adjacent to the deck, extending the living space and creating the perfect place for outdoor dining (this area now boasts an outdoor table and chairs that will come into their own once the summer arrives).

Besides this, a square of lawn provides the perfect soft surface for people walking to and from the Jacuzzi situated on the right-hand side of the slope.

Jacuzzi with grass patch designed for high traffic

The owners chose subtropicals and other textural plants for their back slope – ligularias, palms and strappy grasses create a low-maintenance, high impact garden space. The slope has two levels that are retained by wooden walls, and the back section is fenced with attractive horizontal slatted wood in lights and dark shades.

While the Zones team didn’t touch this area of the property, other than to lay sheets of ready lawn, the garden space now functions as a seamless whole and represents how a successful collaboration can work.

Dark, horizontal slatted wooden fence

The final result

The overall budget for the job was under the $30,000 mark and the owner have been very impresses with how the Zones team have improved the usability of their outdoor space.

“The project took a month all up and we are all really happy with the results,” says Matt.

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