MEET SERENA who has transformed her urban backyard into a space that both adults and children love to spend time in.

Creating a family-friendly backyard was a top priority when my husband Tony and I bought this home in 2013. Back then the rear courtyard was very small and we knew it wouldn’t work for our future family. We wanted to create enough space for children to play and an outdoor room for entertaining. The result has been a huge hit. I love being able to watch the children from the kitchen bench and they love being able to run inside to grab something before heading back out to play.

Front of House

The villa is one of a row built more than a century ago. It has a commanding presence overlooking the city and has great street appeal. In fact Tony and I first fell in love with it when we were living around the corner. We were out walking one day and saw that it was up for sale. We made an offer and were thrilled when it was accepted. One of the first things we did was get to work on the garden out the front. We got rid of the vine that was growing along the front of the house and put in some English box hedging in raised brick gardens near the front steps and along the edge of the driveway. We planted a rose in the large concrete pot by the steps. The neighbour’s vine-covered wall of ficus pumila on the left adds some borrowed greenery to our front garden.

Indoor/Outdoor Flow

Tony designed a new layout for the backyard that retained the existing mature palms and trees. This was important for privacy and shade, and dictated where the decking went. It’s a tight site so initial earthwork was done by hand before a small digger took over. Part of the back fence had to be taken down temporarily to provide access for the digger. Even though the site is small we’ve managed to squeeze in a vege garden and potted herbs near the back door so we can just pop outside to get fresh ingredients when we’re cooking. We grow tomatoes, silverbeet, lettuce, rocket and and strawberries. As well as giving us fresh produce for our meals, this garden also looks good.

Family Friendly

In summer it’s great being able to prepare meals while keeping an eye on Ivory and Boston playing outside. The deck is just big enough for scooter and bike riding – while they are little anyway! Tony bought the upcycled outdoor table and chairs 15 years ago. It’s made from timber telephone poles. Ivory’s playhouse is from The Foxes Den and we chose it because it was looked so similar to the style of our house. Both children love it. We got the swing for Ivory when she was six months old. Basically our backyard is an outdoor living and dining room connected to our kitchen.

Creating Zones

Tony enjoyed designing the courtyard. The site required some terracing to be functional and the depth of the stairs had to be planned around the Nikau palm tree that’s nearby. The new layout retained the rear garden’s other mature Nikau, plus a well-established Akmena tree. In the garden behind the retaining wall on the right-hand side we’ve planted a hibiscus and some ferns. Lighting was a key feature of Tony’s design, including the back-lit perforated steel retaining wall. We painted all the timber black to help unify the different materials and textures.

Gathering Places

Tony found the fireplace on TradeMe and designed the surround himself. We’ve planted apple trees on either side of the outdoor fireplace and the creeper will eventually spread to cover the fence. The sofas are well used during the day as sun-loungers and we often have a drink out there at night.

Finishing Touches

We decorated the outdoor space with the same attention to detail as we have done inside our home. The furniture was chosen because it’s both practical and it looks good. We bought the leaf art from Coatesville market and added it to a garden planted with grasses. The plant in the large pot is another apple tree to help fertilise the other apple trees. The climber that’s starting to cover the steel retaining wall is Fuchsia procumbens ‘Variegata’.

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