Shared urban garden
|Love Thy Neighbour
Two may be company but three is a glorious crowd in the opinion of Auckland architects and friends Jane Aimer and Lindley Naismith. Between them they conjured up a vision of a sort of urban village in miniature – three adjoining houses with outdoor spaces that could be open or closed to each other as the spirit moved. Together they have turned that vision into reality for themselves and their families.
Six years ago, when Lindley and her partner John Balasoglou moved into a Victorian worker’s cottage in Newmarket, her parents began thinking about coming back from Brisbane to live in the neighbouring cottage. Next to these two identical cottages was a double section with an old bungalow on it. At the time, Jane and her husband, Paul Kelly, were living in Remuera with their three teenaged children. They were at a stage where they wanted to pare back and immediately recognised an opportunity – they would join Lindley and John in developing the property into two new homes.
“Now the children come and go; they love living in Newmarket,” says Jane. “They can walk to the movies and go shopping. All their friends congregate here to go out – and it’s a cool house.”
Jane and Lindley are directors of Scarlet Architects, together with Mike Dowsett, and the three of them worked on the project to build twin townhouses and renovate one of the cottages for Lindley’s parents. Careful attention was paid to the impact of the development on the surrounding properties. Despite their larger size and contemporary simplicity, when viewed from the street the two new townhouses reflect the old cottages in their shape and proportions.
“The two townhouses are structurally the same, but they’re different inside to accommodate the different needs of the two households,” says Lindley. “The front is very urban, but the back side is designed to be completely integrated with the gardens.”
When they moved in four years ago, Jane had already completed the hard landscaping and terraced the backyard. For the planting, they brought in landscape designer Jenny Villiger who had worked with Jane previously. Beyond some interlinking plants “each garden is quite individual,” says Jenny, who was keen to avoid a totally contemporary look by evoking the historic Auckland gardens in the wider “borrowed” landscape.
Jane and Paul wanted a lawn for the kids to relax on, lush planting that wouldn’t require too much maintenance and a garden that would look good from all levels of the house.
Jenny’s garden design was shaped by the sliding panels in the walls between the courtyards, which can be opened up to form one large space for socialising. “We respect each other’s privacy though,” Jane points out. “That’s important, especially as we work together all week. In winter we might not see each other all weekend but in summer we are all outdoors. The etiquette is that you open your own sliding door and if the one on the other side is slightly open, then visitors are welcome.”
As the keen gardener of the family, Paul grows vegetable seedlings under plastic in the warm, sunny, internal staircase. The size of his tomato plants caused quite a stir at last November’s Auckland Garden DesignFest, as they neared the top of the wall.
Lindley and John’s garden next door was not completed until at least a year after Jane and Paul’s. “We’d run out of money by then,” says Lindley, “so it was done as inexpensively as possible.”
Her intention was to “fill it up”, in contrast to the “empty” lawns on either side. John wanted water so Lindley used a copper header tank from the original house and structural steel beams to create a zigzagging rill flowing down into a pool.
Next door, Lindley’s mother Lois has planted bright-coloured plants against a soft grey/purple wall at the back, cleverly hiding the working tools and garden implements. The back of the cottage has been enclosed in glass, filling the inside with warmth and light. As Lois says, “We don’t want to live like the Victorians.”
Lindley’s father Arthur wanted a vege garden, which presented a challenge on the tight section. The answer was to cut off the back garden of the original cottage and create a shared potager.
Now the three families live side by side, able to socialise and keep an eye on each other’s welfare without intruding. And when the garden doors are pulled right back in summer, there’s room to spare for the whole glorious crowd.
For more images including web-exclusive images click on the "photo gallery" link above.
Story: Rose Thodey
Photographs: Paul McCredie