A bedroom by Bibby and Brady. Photo: Florence Charvin

It is new year. Time to hit the refresh button in our lives. And take a long hard look at the way we live. The house – so much more than bricks and mortar. The garden – so much more than soil. The interior – so much more than walls and floors. So, we asked the experts – the architects, the landscapers, the interior designers – who have made their mark on Hawke’s Bay, what they would do to refresh and renew the way we live. Their answers will recharge you. 

ARCHITECTURE – advice from Andy Coltart and Justin Matthews

Andy Coltart and Justin Matthews have put their stamp on our city. If you’ve been watching the development of the precinct which sits in the Opera square or taken a drive up Matangi Road in the Tukituki valley, you’ll know why. Their love of the old, their knowledge of design and the talent they possess to transform bricks and mortar into something more than magical, is obvious. 

So, it was natural to seek out their thoughts on our theme for this issue – refresh and renew. Leading us straight into the overall question: ‘How would they go about refreshing a home that has seen better days?’ 

When an owner enquires about ‘adding-on’ to a villa, how do you manage that? What comes first? 

Architect Andy Coltart Photo Florence Charvin

Andy: I absolutely love the challenge of a renovation and it is probably one of the aspects of what I do that I love most. If you go to Europe for instance and look at the renovations in Portugal and Spain and see the additions they have done – mind blowing. That combination of crumbling brick with the contrast of steel and glossy zinc. The ancient with the new is a great mix and it is happening a lot in the old cities where stretching space is a challenge. Generally they are a bit tight side to side, so the options are front and back and streetscape is not so user-friendly. 

In many parts of Auckland for instance, like Ponsonby (where additions to villas are the bread and butter of architects, there are many amazing examples), the front façades are protected, so depending on the sun lines, it really works well to create a modern pavilion room on the back. This could encompass a largish kitchen and living space opening onto lawn. Ideally the hallway would be widened, and some walls pulled out to make nicer bedrooms or another bathroom. I just love the pavilion as an addition because you can use heating, lighting, glass – all right for the modern lifestyle and a perfect contrast. 

Justin: This often depends on the owner’s preference and the location of the house. Where the addition is adjacent to a significant character façade, the general approach would be to design the exterior to be in character with the existing villa, and this would likely flow through to the interior. This too may also be a requirement under town planning rules where the home is in a special character zone. 

Justin Matthews Photo Florence Charvin

Often new additions are made to the rear or sides of a villa where character or heritage requirements do not apply, and a choice can be made in terms of the style. Whether or not traditional or contemporary, we look to design additions that reflect the scale, form, and proportions of the original villa. This approach tends to ensure that any new addition will relate to the form and spatial qualities of the existing villa. 

When designing interiors that are to be in keeping with the villa’s character, we would think about creating spaces that have a dedicated purpose, feel, or intimacy which is generally more character appropriate than designing expansive open plan spaces. In this instance, spaces would also be designed to have matching features to the original villa, such as windows and doors, joinery fixtures, and decorative mouldings such as skirtings, architraves, cornices, ceiling roses, and wall panelling. 

Often, owners want new additional spaces to feel contemporary. In this instance we would aim to differentiate the new from the original. Offsetting decorative with pared-back contemporary can be a highly successful way of highlighting the home’s original character. Continuity between both styles can then be enhanced through finishes, for example, consistent colour pallets, materials, and furnishings throughout. Often, cues from the original building can be reinterpreted in new areas, for instance in tiling patterns, or by incorporating decorative motifs into new fixtures and furnishings. 

Might there be aspects a Villa offers that might be just tossed away when in fact they should be treasured and re-treated instead? 

Andy: It is easy to pull a house down. Anyone can do it. But the prospect of renovating an old house is far more satisfying and really stretches creativity to very new places. Not to forget the carbon print aspect – so much better to renovate. Pulling a house down hits the carbon print measure to heftily elevated levels – a reno is ground level. 

Most early villas have Matai floors. They tarnish off with age but if sanded they get a bright orange hue which is almost impossible to stain out. Advice on Matai … do not clean up too much; maybe wire wool by hand and seal with gloss or Osmo oil which is more semi-gloss. And it is best to get a slight gloss, or the floor does not look clean. 

Justin: There are many original materials and features that can be salvaged and restored. Original native timber tongue and groove flooring can be stripped of existing coverings, machine sanded and recoated with clear or translucent coatings to restore them to their natural beauty. Any areas which are decayed or damaged and require patching due to layout changes can be replaced by sourcing recycled timber, such as Matai, Kauri, or Rimu. Timber can be salvaged from areas being removed like lean-to structures built at the rear of an existing villa. 

How about cleaning-up original features that would be wonderful if highlighted and not hidden – such as a fireplace, staircase, wrap-around porch? 

Andy: Cleaning up the odd feature is the best result. Top rail of a staircase in natural and stair battens painted off-white is a good look.

Justin: It is common for original heritage features to have been covered over, enclosed, or altered at some stage in the building’s life. Often original decorative ceilings, wall panelling, fireplaces, verandas, stairs, windows, and doors may have been closed in or covered up. In this instance any non-original linings or coatings can be removed to reveal beautiful features which can then be restored to original condition. Damaged or missing decoration made of timber or plaster can be re-fabricated to match. For example, existing plaster cornices and ceiling roses can be recast using moulds taken from existing ones. Replacement timber, plaster, and pressed metal decorative mouldings can also be sourced from various suppliers. When fully restored, decorative features such as ornate timber and cast-iron fireplace surrounds, become centrepieces of the home and provide a unique sense of history. 

What about the alternative aspect of updating features that are outdated and beyond restoring – how to update them with modern replacements and blend the old with the new?

Andy: The kitchen is the room in the house which is redone or renovated more than any other room. Go to a cocktail party and the talk will inevitably turn to kitchens and renos someone has done or is about to. And the conversation of those who have renovated is about things they wish they had done. It is the most talked about room in the house – getting everything right is a bit like hitting bullseye on the dartboard. If at a loss for chat – most debate is about kitchens!

Justin: Outdated original spaces, for example kitchen and bathrooms, commonly require replacement. Whether modern or traditional in style, they need to function in a contemporary way. A contemporary kitchen or bathroom fitout can be appropriate in a modern extension when distinguished and separate from the original villa. On the other hand, modern fixtures and appliances can also be incorporated into traditional designs. In the design of modern replacements, we would look to achieve a balance by referencing traditional materials, details, and motifs. 

If your house leaves your design instinct feeling cramped how to breathe new life into the floor plan? Knocking down walls, widening doorways, changing window framing?

Andy: Load bearing or not, it is best to take the walls out. Very strong timber flitch beams are available. Certainly, widen doorways or no door or a pair of doors. Do not try and hide the original shapes as this can be expensive and confusing.

Justin: It is often possible to connect adjacent spaces by forming new openings between them. This will create improved open plan living layouts and be achieved by minor changes without major alteration or extension; however, to ensure it is achievable and to avoid running into structural or construction issues, it is important to consult with design and building professionals. 

There may be a patchwork of renovations in the original villa which can create a real hodge podge of styles – how do you blend them together again to bring cohesion? 

Andy: The secret with this is don’t make one room too flash, as the rest will not measure up. If budget is tight just do minor reno and paint throughout. 

Justin: As far as possible it is best to remove any non-original elements that compromise the original character, and then restore any original features. Doing this throughout the house will remove any inconsistencies in style. 

A common example is where modern doors and windows have been installed. Replacing these with new or salvaged ones to match traditional styles goes a long way towards returning a villa to its original character. 

What about replacing minor fixtures to bring in a modernity – e.g., door handles, indoor and outdoor light fixtures, covers and vents?

Andy: The big issue with door handles is that colonial villas mostly had extremely high door handles. Maybe to lock the kids in? Classic French doors may have a handle as low as 700 to 800 mm. The ultimate in my humble opinion is light switches and handles at 900mm from floor. 

Hardware in a house – old or new – can be the most beautiful objects in the house – I just love it. If you look at the ancient handles which are huge and gorgeous – they are very thought provoking. And where the handles are placed is very important – if you look at the difference between the houses of the nobility and the workers, going back to my quote about Kings – it’s all about lifting the arms – it needs to be a seamless movement with the royals – so they will be high. But in homes of those who couldn’t afford much, the workers, they are sure to be low. Even these days, ‘Where to put the handle’ becomes a real “Oh my goodness, where to put the handle?” 

Justin: There are many options when it comes to modernising services. Period fixtures such as light fixtures and switches, power outlets, and plumbing fixtures can all be sourced. Lighting is specialised, and solutions will vary depending on different requirements. It is best to work closely with an experienced lighting designer or supplier. Similarly, quality period style hardware for doors and windows and the like can be sourced from specialist suppliers. 

How do you repaint with colours that tie your home together? What can colours do for a room? 

Andy: If the rooms to be refurbished are square stopped with no scotia, it sometimes works best to use one colour on walls and ceiling. If a colour change is desired, just add a simple scotia and change the colour at the bottom of it.

Justin: We find that neutral colours are often a good basis. It allows accents and pops of colour to be overlaid and creates a base for owners to showcase and evolve their own style. 

Often the orientation of a villa, together with soaring ceilings and the position and size of windows, can make the interiors quite dark. Introducing light colours, such as clean and subtle warm whites will enliven any space. The play of natural light reflecting off light surfaces can brighten the spirit of a home, making it more inviting and liveable. Natural timbers offset against light colours will also highlight the timber and provide a sense of warmth. 

Other colours, through careful selection, can be incorporated to create specific moods and atmospheres. For example, deep heavier colours can be used to create intimate or cosy spaces. Decorative and ornate wall papers can also be used to create a sense of decadence or formality reminiscent of the Victorian era. We also investigate original colours that have been used in buildings to inform a colour scheme, often these can be soft natural colours and pastels.

And at the end, what about furnishings, and mixing different periods?

Andy: It’s really nice to have different furniture styles … gold or silver leafed mirrors or furniture mixes very well with more traditional styles. Chuck in a bit of Louis XV!

Justin: The selection of furniture, soft furnishings, and artwork will make or break the success of a space. Creating consistent themes through materials and colours is important when using furnishings from different periods. Furnishing should relate to one another in some aspect. 

Similarly, it helps if modern furnishings relate to original material. Employing an interior designer or architect with an eye for good design can make all the difference, and consulting suppliers who have experience and a passion for furnishing period style homes.

IN THE HOME – advice from Asha Payton (Little & Fox), Vic and Dael (Bibby and Brady)

Should one start by simply rearranging?

Asha Payton owner of Little Fox Photo Florence Charvin

Asha: This is one of my favourite ‘hobbies’. How on earth do I manage to move a whole room around on my own before the family gets home, I never quite understand, but as the saying goes, “No one is more determined than a woman rearranging furniture by herself.” It has to be done and, oh it feels good! Your room will help dictate the space. Don’t over think. It’s about the feel and flow. Moving a rug, moving some art, and decluttering. Pieces that are just not adding value to the space this time could maybe be used in another part of the house. Rearrange your bookshelf and change out the collection of pieces you have on your coffee table. It could be as simple as that! 

Vic and Dael of Bibby and Brady Photo Florence Charvin

Vic and Dael: We always recommend starting your design process with a really good edit. Take everything out of the room except for the large furniture pieces and look at it with fresh eyes. Are you happy with the arrangement, does it have good flow? If not, try moving furniture around. If possible, move furniture away from the walls. It always surprises us how many people push all their furniture to the edge of the room and have their coffee table floating in the middle out of reach and disconnected, or the seating disconnected from each other. 

Pull your furniture in to create cosy, social settings.

And what about the ‘great purge’ that accompanies a rearrange?

Asha: Doesn’t it feel so good to give away! One person’s ‘rubbish’ is another man’s treasure. We have so many outlets to trade in this way. Auction houses, marketplaces, road fronts and Trade Me. Making space allows new designs and creations to take shape. And creates the opportunity for new treasures to be found! 

Vic and Dael: Put all your accessories in another space, perhaps on the dining table or kitchen bench, and ‘shop’ from your collection. Look at each piece and consider whether you would buy that if you saw it in a shop today. Only put back those pieces you love, and don’t feel you have to put them back in the same place. You may want to move some pieces to other rooms in the house. We regularly move pieces around our rooms to refresh each space.

What about the gaps? Unwanted spaces, floors that need a refresh. Time to shop?

Asha: It’s always good to start from the ground up. Consider an interesting area rug, large, not small. You want the rug to ground your furniture, not confuse things. 

Lighting is always super important in a room. I’m a huge fan and always will be of a good table or floor lamp. Far more ambiance and mood can be created plus you get to add your own personality here. If you’re doing a more extensive renovation don’t forget about wall sconces! Down the hallway, bathroom, or a reading nook. 

Vic and Dael: If there are any gaps after the purge you now have specific pieces to look for when you’re shopping. We love that final layer in a home; it’s the one that adds your personality. Keep scale in mind. Large-scale pieces like a large lamp, balanced with a large vase add drama and interest and create a less cluttered look than a lot of tiny pieces would. Place smaller pieces on top of books to ground and group them. We try not to have any decor pieces smaller than an orange.

Easiest to start with re-painting?

Asha: I love paint! Especially Aalto paints with their incredible depth of colour. This truly is a very inexpensive way to liven things up and create change. Don’t be afraid of the dark and moody, some rooms and homes really need and want this depth of colour and with good lighting it can really create an amazing and truly unique space. Think about adding in some wall panelling or ceiling panelling to create even more interest. And contact a designer if you need help! This is the fun part! And let’s not overlook the amazing DIY Annie Sloane Chalk Paint for renovating both walls and furniture – the colour palette is outstanding. It’s also unbelievably easy to use – no prepping or priming just paint; it’s so quick, and wonderful for stencilling or rubbing off. It changes the look of an old piece of furniture like a dresser or chest or doorways, instantly. Try painting out an old lampshade for a ‘pop’ of colour.

Vic and Dael: Without a doubt painting a room is the least expensive way to create impact. Look at existing pieces in your room like furniture, art, curtains and flooring, and choose a colour that will be harmonious; you could even pull the paint colour out from one used in your art or rug. We’re not fans of feature walls, if you love colour we encourage you to go for it and paint your entire room. Don’t forget the trims and ceiling, we’ll often paint the trims and ceiling a fresh white, but on occasion we’ll paint the trims, and even the ceiling, the same colour as the walls. If done right it looks incredible and is especially effective in media rooms and powder rooms to create a cocooning feel.

What about the walls?

Asha: We have recently renovated and found the house really did dictate the direction of our renovation. Working effectively to enhance what you have is so important and in keeping with your surroundings. Our Te Awanga bach was built around the 1950s with wonky walls and mixed levels from continuous add-ons from years gone by.

One of the first things we did was repaint and paper. In the office we used a gorgeous Mulberry tartan wallpaper on the ceiling with white trims and shutters, walls we painted dark green. We used interesting moody colours in the kids’ bedrooms (these are on the southern colder side of the house so I decided to keep them warm and dark). We needed to create a sense of openness and space in the living room so went for a really appealing warm white by Aalto and introduced a bit of interest with a feature panelled wall by Laminex and a huge built-in bookshelf to create space and height. I love built-in furniture. It creates depth and interest to a home. 

Vic and Dael: We love to use wall panelling to elevate a room and add architectural detail in an otherwise plain room. There are lots of different styles to choose from – v-groove, box moulding, board & batten, wainscoting. The style of your home will dictate which style of panelling you choose. If you’re handy you could apply the panelling yourself, otherwise talk to your local builder or handyman.

What about the ‘little things’?

Asha: Changing the cushions twice a year is a great way to lighten a room for summer or warm up a room for winter, pack the old cushions away in the shed and bring them back out the next season. Too easy. A nice throw over the back of a chair, or a fresh picked bunch of foliage. Lighting a candle – that really sets the mood. 

Vic and Dael: It’s amazing what a difference an updated handle can make in your kitchen, wardrobe, dresser etc. Knobs are easy to replace as there is only one hole, but if you have a D handle measure the distance between the two centre holes and look for new handles with the same centre handle distance. This will save you having to fill holes if the new handles are a different size.

And the unexpected?

Asha: Asha’s philosophy is to find “one piece that sparks” – in other words a statement piece. Making a true statement in a room gives it character. For instance a beautiful headboard in a strong print or colour transforms a bedroom. The same with reupholstering a tired piece of furniture – what was something you kept in the upstairs room can be an item of joy when upholstered with an unusual colour or printed fabric. And these pieces are generally the lifetime pieces that you want to hold onto.

Vic and Dael: Replacing old pendants and lamp shades can change the look of a room quite dramatically. If possible, add dimmers to your lights so you can create different ambience for different situations. Make sure to hang your pendants at the right height. This will be dependent on factors such as the scale of your light and the height of your ceilings. Kitchen pendants will often be hung 70-80cm above the bench, and over a dining table we’ll start with 75cm higher than your tabletop. Each space will be slightly different, we use our eye to get it just right, but these are good measurements to start from. 

Invest in a rug? 

Asha: Rugs have become more accessible in recent years, especially the overdyed and patchworks of unwanted ends – they are inexpensive in comparison to new carpet and make a lovely statement. Once again, it’s starting from the ground up! Floor rugs I absolutely adore and it’s one of the first things I do to change the mood of a room. As a self-confessed hunter and seeker I am often trading with people from all over the world hunting down that perfect rug. 

Vic and Dael: The right rug can totally transform a room, but the key is to get the right size. Don’t get a tiny rug that your coffee table fits on but nothing else. This is the quickest way to make your room look too small and cheap. The golden rule is that the front feet of all your chairs and sofas sit on the rug. If all the legs fit on, even better, this will make your room look really spacious. 

Under your dining table the rug needs to be large enough to pull the chairs back without them falling off the rug. Yes, the larger the rug, the larger the price tag, but it’s something we would recommend getting right. If a hand knotted wool rug is outside of your budget, start with a large jute rug.

IN THE GARDEN – advice from Frayne Dyke-Walker and Charlotte Pedersen

Hawke’s Bay is known for its soil. So rich, the region has become recognised as the ‘fruitbowl of the country’. But it’s a lot more than that, as Frayne Dyke-Walker and Charlotte Pedersen, two gifted local gardeners and landscapers, have discovered. We talk to them about their lives and their thoughts on refreshing your garden plus a little more – we are sure it will give you immense joy! 

Frayne Dyke-Walker: Landscape designer/horticulturist 

Landscaper Frayne Dyke Walker Photo Florence Charvin

Frayne comes honestly to her love of landscaping and gardening – her grandparents were Gardners by name and passionate gardeners, with a quarter acre full of veggies and flowers. No lawn. Ground for a passion to grow. 

Yet after leaving school she embarked on a broadcasting path, ultimately working in Sydney as a film editor, but also gaining Landscape Design and Horticultural qualifications from Ryde College of Horticulture. 

After 40 years of television, she and her husband returned to Hawke’s Bay, where she continues to combine film making and landscaping. Of which she says, “When we returned to Hawke’s Bay initially, I imagined it would be a bit more difficult to indulge a simultaneous film and landscape career. Through friends I was offered a dream landscape gardening job that resulted in an unexpected film opportunity and hence connected with people from both worlds and have been having fun ever since. 

“Hawke’s Bay in all its seasons is amazing, but that surge into Spring is a tangible energy force that you can feel deeply in both gardens and growing in the adjacent fields. We are extremely blessed to have our home here amongst this amazingly fertile community. 

“I hope that this explains a mad passion for both film making and growing and the many similarities between them that make it possible to do what I love. It’s all about putting the right pieces of the jigsaw together with a generous dollop of thoughtful TLC.” 

Charlotte Pedersen: Creative director, landscape designer, Espaso Verde 

Charlotte Pedersen of Espaso Verde Photo Florence Charvin

Charlotte too has gardening in her blood. She grew up in the country and comes from a family of gardeners, so from an early age has been involved in nature, the outdoors and naturally, the plot outside. She had an interest in studying landscape architecture, but following high school chose a different path and instead travelled for several years. 

However, when she did return her aim was to find a career that combined the outdoors, art, nature, and plants. So, she studied at the Hamilton Gardens Campus through WINTEC. And once her studies were complete, she moved from Hamilton to Taupō and worked for herself for several years before moving to Hawke’s Bay where she continued designing gardens and collaborating with local contractors to complete the installations. 

Her husband Jason had started working for Espaso Verde in their constructions team and Charlotte began contracting to them as their Landscape Designer. She also worked in the construction area as well as taking care of gardens. 

After Espaso Verde had been in operation for three years, the owner decided to move abroad, so Jason and Charlotte bought the business. That was the end of 2007. Over the last 15 years the two of them have grown it to a team of nineteen who Charlotte describes as “truly awesome”, as well as raising a young family. As Charlotte puts it, “there have been lots of challenges, but we love creating beautiful landscapes throughout Hawke’s Bay.” 

Here they divulge the secrets of the gardens and landscapes they have created. 

First question for any client is, ‘What is the purpose of the refresh?’ 

Frayne: Refreshing gardens for me starts with divining what the client is hoping to achieve – and often as not, clients are rushing to sell, and they do not want to spend a lot but do want to zoosh their garden. But it also may be a renovation, or a new build. 

Charlotte: Every project is different and so are the reasons to renovate a garden, for some it is a completely new landscape where they start with a clean slate. For some it’s a home they have always lived in, but they renovate the house so decide to also refresh their landscape. Then people buy a new home and renovate it, but they have inherited an existing garden that they want to make their own, so sometimes will retain parts of the garden or structure. Essentially renovating a garden is about making it your own, creating spaces to enjoy and share with friends and family.

The first steps are deciding, have a vision to which you can work. Do not just rush out and start throwing things together – every good garden begins with good design. Identify what you want to change or improve, what are your constraints and opportunities and then you build a plan from there. This ensures an air of cohesion round the property achieving a sense of unity and a garden that feels like it’s meant to be there.

Do you like your clients to offer visual likes and dislikes? Would you suggest to them that they gather a file?

Frayne: If it is a redesign that is required, then the client’s brief is key – it’s great if they can provide a visual reference of their likes and dislikes, their needs, and their budget. And perhaps the works do have to be staged, but getting an overall master plan to work towards helps everyone make decisions when they have the vision stuck on the fridge. 

Charlotte: Forming a mood board or gathering images of what you like is a great start, this provides inspiration for the design and helps you to visualize. All our clients are encouraged to share any images or pictures that may have caught their attention, a lot of people use Pinterest to gather ideas, this provides an insight into their personality and what style they like.

After deciding what they want what comes next? Are there problems to overcome in the way of plants in wrong spots, too wet etc. drainage not as you would want? 

Frayne: Most garden refreshes start with clearing out the weeds! Then figuring out the problems – too dry, too wet, too shady, plants planted in the wrong position, too overgrown, identifying pests and diseases. What needs remedial pruning. Identifying the key areas of use, then drainage – especially stormwater, making sure the entrances and exits are apparent and safely accessible and well lit.

Charlotte: Yes absolutely, all of this is part of the site assessment. Gathering information prior to starting any garden design or refresh is essential. Often people have tried to establish a garden with little knowledge and so require expert advice. This begins by looking at what is existing, what works and what does not, how the spaces relate to one another, is the garden over planted, are there plants that could help the new vision for the property, or do they need to go? What plants work?

What about the watering and irrigation?

Frayne: Sometimes it’s simply just sorting out the watering that makes a garden come to life. 

Charlotte: An irrigation system can assist certainly, however planting the right plants can reduce the need for long term irrigation. One of the biggest problems with irrigation is people tend to overwater, so understanding the requirements of your garden is key. 

And do ground levels make a difference? 

Frayne: Often it is the ground levels that have an impact. Too many level changes are dangerous, but sometimes a couple of various levels give you ‘rooms’ providing, of course, that access between the levels is safe. 

Charlotte: All sites are different and so addressing levels is a key part of design. There are building regulations that must be followed for both hard surfacing gardens in relation to finished floor levels. In addition to this, working out how to transition between spaces and around the garden when you are on a sloping site can be tricky for most people, but engaging with an expert can help you get the most out of a site. Change in level adds interest to a garden and can be an asset rather than a problem; this can allow you to step down to a sunken area or enhance a vista by framing a set of steps, there is the ability to introduce terraces – there are lots of opportunities when a site is not flat.

Do you consider view framing from inside the house out to the garden?

Frayne: A key step is the framing of views, sorting out the viewpoints from inside the house to the garden and within the garden to have pleasing and restful compositions to see from the key areas identified with the client. I’ve got a vertical garden at home that I originally had positioned outside a utility room window that had a corrugated iron fence outlook which changed the whole feel of the room – so much so I went and bought another one to expand the view. Once we’ve talked through the preferred plants it’s quite lovely painting the palette onto viewports with the structure in mind. What do you want to see from the lounge, the window above the kitchen sink? And of course, what they do not want to see has equal weight.

Charlotte: Vista or viewpoints in the garden are a nice addition, the inclusion of strategically placed planting or elements that lead the eye or a screen to block or divert a view. Knowing how and what to frame is about recognizing axial relationships within the garden and there can be many opportunities. Once an object and line of sight is identified you must figure out how to frame it. Often, we try to focus on keeping wide open views out to the garden but providing a series of snap shots can be highly effective. There are situations where you would not want anything to interrupt a view – for example, a stunning view of the coast or mountain range, so understanding the difference and where the opportunity lies is a good starting point.

What about the introduction of colour to reflect style of the house and its owners? And is now the time to think about fragrance?

Frayne: Adding colour to reflect the style of the architecture and its owners is important. And often a last-minute thought, but adding year around fragrance gives a lift to the spirits.

Charlotte: Colour is the first thing people notice in a garden, figuring out a colour scheme can be quite daunting, but the most important thing is to choose what you love, incorporate the colours you enjoy being around.

Is it important to consider the workload of the garden – annuals for instance always need replacing?

Frayne: Consideration must be given to the workload of the garden. Yes, it’s fine to plant annuals for a quick refresh, but will the client want to do this three to four times a year to keep things looking good? I also love it when the clients themselves get involved with the works as it gives them more of a stake in the garden. And they’re more likely to remember to check the watering while watching the garden grow or do the glass of wine worth of weeding each evening that will stop weed seed heads from proliferating. Planting small and allowing it to grow is more rewarding than overplanting to fill gaps in the first instance but money is often the other perceived barrier here. And having to remove plants that don’t fare well when they get overcrowded (hedging is often where this problem first becomes apparent) just isn’t wise spending. Much better to invest in the long term.

Charlotte: Gardens can be designed to meet the time and energy available by the owner for maintenance, but certain plants will require much more care than others. Selecting the right species is key when considering maintenance. A refresh can be easy care if that is what you require – mass plantings can help with reducing workload and incorporating plants that don’t require all year round trimming and pruning. Establishing a perennial garden is also easy care; annuals create a lot of work as you constantly need to replace them. Mulching your garden will help to conserve moisture and also reduce weed growth.

What about the veggie patch – growing for the table, herbs – thoughts on these?

Frayne: My other soap box is growing for the table even if it’s only the herbs to make your food taste great. So much can be done in pots or vertically if space is at a premium. Growing your own food is exciting, therapeutic, annoying when the white butterflies and slugs and snails turn up, and sometimes sheer hard work. But it’s about paying attention and being present. And I think spending an hour in the garden a day doing something means you’ve spent one working day a week there and it’s amazing what you can achieve. 

Charlotte: So wonderful, so many creative ideas for veggie gardens. Untreated timber hardwood sleepers are great, Corten steel is an architectural material, concrete tubs and planters, old pipes and industrial products, concrete, or stone masonry … are great for holding warmth in the soil. 


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