At first glance, it’s hard to believe that this 14x5.8-metre garden belongs to a ground-floor apartment in the bustling Australian city of Perth – but it does. The streamlined space was created by Janine Mendel, from CultivArt Landscape Design and author of the garden design book, Urban Sanctuary. The owners, David and Narumol, live in Thailand, but travel back and forth to Perth for business.
“This is their Australian home, and they wanted to create a tranquil, urban oasis with abundant, fragrant, colourful planting that is easy to maintain,” says Janine. “The design of the courtyard was quite challenging, as the apartment block is multi-storey, and no structures within the courtyard were allowed to be visible from the outside, as they could compromise the architectural style of the building.
The site also slopes 80 centimetres from the entry gate to the apartment’s front door, so this was another challenge to be overcome,” she says. Undeterred by the building restrictions, Janine looked for ways to work around them.
“Fortunately, the courtyard had the advantage of the borrowed landscape of the botanic gardens beyond, and this helped to create the sanctuary-like environment I was trying to achieve,” says Janine. “The garden layers up to the front door using a combination of granite paving and timber platforms. The water feature wall and the cladding on the alfresco shade structure are made from Kimberley sandstone, which matches the facade of the apartment block, creating a visual connection between the building and the garden.
The top decking platform houses an L-shaped pond, with large, angled tablets of charcoal granite cantilevered over the water and lit from underneath – these create dynamic shapes on the surrounding walls at night. This gorgeous pond, tiled with high-gloss, turquoise-coloured tiles, is the garden’s strongest design element.”
Janine says that integrating the indoor-outdoor areas and choosing the right furniture was particularly important, as it made entertaining spaces in both areas seem larger, and more connected. The existing door and fixed windows are being replaced with bi-fold glass doors that fold back completely, making the integration seamless. “David and Narumol recognise and appreciate good design,” Janine says. “They selected the beautiful, organic-shaped Italian furniture, which brings an inviting softness to the sitting area. The bold purple colour picks up similarly coloured foliage within the garden.”
The two sculptures are by Belgian artist Jean-Michel Folon. The first, at the entry gate, is fittingly titled Angelo Custode or Guardian Angel, and the second, in the water feature, is called Grand Oiseau or Great Bird. While the garden has a subtle Thai influence, Janine says this was not intentional. “The brief was not to be a copy of a Thai-style garden, but the space was to have its own individual style – this little garden is truly unique.”
As for the greenery, Janine has used a sub-tropical plant selection. “Perth has extremely hot, dry summers with little humidity, as well as water restrictions, meaning plants can only be watered twice a week. On the other hand, winters are cold and wet. Keeping this in mind, I chose an eclectic collection of plants that included frangipanis, cycads, citrus trees, bird of paradise flowers and philodendrons, as well as a variety of fresh herbs that the owners enjoy using in their cooking.”
When asked to point out her favourite element in the garden, Janine says, “This garden is truly illustrative of my philosophy that living spaces should look like they have been ‘planted’. There are so many elements that I find really appealing, but I think the simplicity of the ‘off-form’ white concrete cantilevered bench seat, when it is lit from underneath at night, is almost ethereal. This little courtyard is indeed an urban sanctuary of the loveliest kind.”