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Spotlight on landscape

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Paul Leesment of Supreme Green Landscaping says an eye-catching landscape makes all the difference in the external appeal of a new home.

Kate Veteri

Publications officer

A house wouldn’t be a home without the calming effects of the surrounding landscape. Paul Leesment, Director of Supreme Green Landscaping, knows the impact a well-executed landscape design can have on the value of a property and the wellbeing of the homeowner. 

Q: What goes into creating an eye-catching landscape?

PL: The home isn’t considered finished or presentable until all externals are done. It’s important that the street presence match the calibre of the home before it can be photographed, go to market or lived in. 

It’s truly a collaborative process. The layout comes down to the client’s use of the space and their lifestyle, while the design is guided by the architecture, the surrounding environment and existing features of the home. We want to create a symbiotic relationship between the house and garden. For instance, a modern façade is going to have a striking and simplistic landscape, whereas a French provincial design would be matched in the fencing and other hard landscape items. For an eye-catching landscape, these focal points give the impression of balance between the two spaces.

A great way to capture attention with a landscape is with outdoor lighting. Lighting should be as ambient and subtle as possible, we don’t want to build a runway that’s so bright it blinds out everything else. Traditional lighting might have been right in your face but we’re more likely to light the underside to create shadow. This works for a few reasons: one, the feature should be the hero, not the light; and two, safety, using it to illuminate the edges of stairs or walls and improve security. I find even just having that ambient lighting which is low wattage/voltage usage LED efficient lighting, creates a deterrent for humans and animals roaming into the yards. Therefore, lighting can be for a multitude of reasons but it really tops off the job and creates a feeling of luxury – it’s definitely one of our favourite parts.

Q: Why should building professionals pay as much attention to the exterior as the interior?

PL: The exterior makes the home look complete. The street appeal and usability of the site both come down to the landscaping that’s been applied in the design and construction. If it’s been considered early on it really helps add value to the property – it improves the liveability and visual appeal. For not much input cost, clever landscaping design gives you so much more. 

Traditionally, landscaping (landscape gardeners) only meant a garden and lawn but now landscaping goes far beyond that. I think the Victorian Building Authority has helped to acknowledge the fact that it now includes anything built externally. Because of the broad range of external inclusions that help make a home look complete (everything from swimming pools, driveways and front fences, to outdoor kitchens and more), there are now requirements and regulatory bodies that cover landscaping – it has become similar to building a house. Gone are the days of just plonking a few plants in and putting some grass down.

It’s obvious when the surrounds interact harmoniously with the block and maximise usage. It helps to make the house look like a home. When real estate agents take photos of a property they’re selling, they don’t focus on just the homes interior. The exterior provides potential homeowners with a sense of pride in the home’s street presentation and whether it will suit their lifestyle, as well as security systems that have been implemented (such as gates and front fencing). Councils are now getting to the stage where they insist on the landscape design to be done before they approve development – that shows how important the external design is.

Q: How should you budget properly for landscaping?

PL: I think clients’ expectations for their budget are one of the biggest obstacles we face because people often have no idea what to allow for in landscaping when it takes in so many varied build components. That’s why there’s a need to define what landscaping is and what it actually includes. If it’s elements, such as automatic gates and front fencing, it can be a much bigger project. Clients budgets after the house build is complete is probably such a big obstacle because we are one of the last finishing trades to come in – us and the people hanging the blinds – and people often forget to budget enough for landscaping. 

The rule-of-thumb for budget calculation used by most developers to avoid over-capitalising is to allow for around 10 per cent of the fully developed project to be put aside for all landscaping. For example, if you have a $1 million block with a $500,000 house built on it, allow at least $150,000 for all externals, including driveway and front fence.

It’s also important to remember that when you are designing a new home you should also include the landscape design in that initial phase – it can help in reducing construction costs later. If landscapers have to get in there after the build with restricted access or need to undo work that’s completed, it can be costly as well as inconvenient.

Q: What does the design process look like?

PL: First, we carry out a client consultation onsite, usually further on in the project when the home build is in its final stages; this gives us the basis to create a complimentary landscape design. That’s when we do a site assessment (with site plans) and have conversations with the client to gather a detailed brief. We discuss all external aspects to be included, from necessary inclusions such as drainage and retaining walls to wish-list options. Then our in-house design team draw everything we need for a 2D or 3D plan with pin-point accuracy and realism on our latest software so our clients can see the end result before a shovel goes in the ground. 

We are continuously refining our technology-driven systems and processes to ensure great results that can be repeated. We work hard to maintain a great culture within our own teams, as well as with clients, to ensure we deliver on quality outcomes that our clients are proud to show off to others.

Q: With COVID-19 in mind, do you think homeowners will want more from their backyards?

PL: One hundred per cent! Builders are seeing shifting needs in a home’s internal design to accommodate for personal and work life, and we are seeing a similar thing in landscape design. This new way of thinking has become pertinent and put us at the forefront of priority in home design.

It’s become so important that the house deliver much more than it used to during pre-COVID-19 times. A majority of people used to commute to work and the home provided a separate place to eat dinner, watch TV and go to sleep. But now the two have combined and we need to make the most of all available space.

Beyond 2021, we think outdoor living will continue to grow in popularity. If we aren’t going to be travelling overseas – and Australians are big travellers – we have to get out of our home what we will be missing. Outdoor living can be a cheap home extension that personifies Australian living and our love of spending time outside. It has to feel like having a holiday at home with inclusions such as a swimming pool, outdoor living spaces and a kitchen area that subconsciously fill holes and create that sense of luxury for us. We found that creating such a space had benefits for our clients and offered a refreshing sense of optimism for others, showing them the possibilities their surrounding space could offer.

Resort-at-Home

For Supreme Green Landscaping, COVID-19 has created new opportunities to deliver on the home needs of families. At the end of 2020, the company started up a new sub-brand Resort-at-Home that focuses on the ambition to move forward and make clients comfortable during these times. Resort-at-Home has allowed Supreme Green Landscaping to collaborate with pool builders and others in the outdoor living industry to create an all-in-one solution.

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