Complemented by a garden that contrasts two distinct styles and inspired by the architecture of the ’60s, this bold contemporary home is a work of art.

Its simple clean lines are reminiscent of the best Danish design yet satisfy all the modern needs of a growing family. The home, designed by MCK Architects, replicated the layout of the original dwelling on the site and became known as the ‘Flipped House’ during remodelling as an existing rear bedroom wing was literally flipped and re-shaped to make way for a new swimming pool and a luscious garden replaced the traditional yard.

A core requirement of the brief was for a dense garden to engage with the internal living area. The home then evolved to become a collection of secret, interconnecting landscaped ‘rooms’. The monolithic structure, with its skin of warm tallowwood, sandstone cladding and crisp white render, is the perfect backdrop to the collection of plants that wrap around the house.

Landscape architect Peter Nixon, of Paradisus, created two contrasting gardens: a front garden filled with abstract succulents and a layout mimicking the former garden layout; and a rear garden, dense with an array of tropical plants. Both the front and rear gardens, although completely different in style, are a rich tapestry of colour, texture and form. It’s a true collector’s garden seemingly born out of chaos, with no use of formal hedges or lines and group plantings used instead below towering feature plants which do justice to the bold frontage of the property.

In keeping with the original plantings on the site, the front garden is a celebration of cacti, succulents and other hardy plants tolerant of the coastal position of the block. The slope, although a challenge in construction, proved to showcase the amazing array of advanced plant specimens in a series of tiers viewed at their best while climbing the sandstone-clad steps.

The garden beds are retained by cast concrete walls in their natural form, which adds an element of industrial chic to the space whilst small viewing platforms, paved in basalt, extend into the garden beds for accessibility. I absolutely love the plant selection in this garden, which utilizes some of the rarer forms of cacti and succulents alongside colour-popping bromeliads and whispy grasses.

Grey, red and burgundy foliage and flowers make up the colour palette with towering feature Pachypodium Madagascar palms forming the backdrop against the house and large clumps of Echium Pride of Madiera with lilac spires dotted throughout. Architectural Aloe barberaes or tree aloes, one of the largest forms grown for the domestic market, feature throughout and impressive swathes of bromeliads in every colour of the rainbow make up foreground plantings. One of the largest, the regal imperial bromeliad Alcanterea imperalis, can reach a massive two metres in height with a flower spike reaching above three metres.

An impressive collection of Aloes provide architectural form with some of my favourites being Aloe ‘Blue Glow’ with its glaucous foliage and luminescent rust leaf margins and the prolific flowering Aloe ‘Big Red’.

Some of the other plants included in the design are Echeveria sp, Aeonium ‘Schwarzkopf’, Mexican Lilies Beschorneria yuccoides, Red Fountain Grass Pennesetum ‘Rubrum’, and feature Song of India Dracaena reflexa.

The fluidity of the rear garden contrasts with the uber modern design of the home inside and out. Styled as a tropical oasis, a curving concrete wall contains the dense rear garden and defines the secret garden rooms beyond. While the front appears more as a xeriscape of sorts (designed for minimal irrigation), the rear is more like a Garden of Eden with ‘Land That Time Forgot’ foliage and free-flowering shrubs. The plantings spill over the concrete that snakes its way throughout the space, forming little nooks and entertaining areas, creating a decorative feature surrounding the swimming pool.

Another rather industrial touch, yet very reminiscent of the ’60s, is the use of hollow blocks for the feature wall that runs the length of the pool, allowing light in but still giving a sense of privacy. Cast concrete also forms a continuous cantilevered bench seat providing ample seating for guests whilst sawn sandstone underfoot gives the area warmth.

The transition from inside to out is made cleanly with the use of oversized sliding doors that open the full width of the kitchen area, bringing plenty of natural light inside.

The sloping rear block contains a few mature specimen trees, providing a great backdrop, and additional advanced trees such as bananas and large frangipanis of various colours give the garden ‘instant’ age. Some older-style plants are reborn and actually work quite well. The stately apricot form of Angel’s Trumpet Brugmansia sp is glorious when the large pendulous blooms cover the small tree and the red gingers Alpinia purpurata form exclamation marks in the landscape.

Clumps of bamboo run along the left-hand perimeter and more bromeliads, Elephant Ears and sprawling plants like Plectranthus fill the foreground.


Jody Rigby is director of Jody Rigby Horticultural Services.