A lush entertainer’s garden in Sydney’s inner west
Article from Australian House and Garden
writer: Elizabeth Wilson
photographer: Anson Smart
A hidden gem set in Sydney’s inner west, this layout offers a special journey through beautifully landscaped levels to tranquil water views.
David Yates and Stan Savellis love to entertain. This was part of the motivation to move from their tightly packed inner-Sydney terrace to a more spacious address further out of the city. They fell in love with a renovated Federation home just a couple of suburbs away, in the inner west.
While the house itself is a gem, it was the generous outdoor space that won their hearts.
The long back garden is 12x32m and backs onto a wide bend of the Cooks River, with sweeping views across the water to a golf course on the other side. “We couldn’t believe the size of the garden,” says David. “And the borrowed landscape was a major attraction.”
The garden was a blank canvas, a vast stretch of lawn with a 1.2m gradient extending down to green space alongside the river. It was exposed to public view and had only a few existing trees, including two jacarandas and a Japanese maple, which the new owners were keen to maintain.
Initially, David and Stan thought they’d install a pool. “But then we realised we already had a spectacular water feature – the river,” says David. Their focus shifted to creating a lush and inviting entertainers’ garden that would relate to its surroundings but also provide a private sanctuary. They turned to the team from Think Outside Gardens.
In response, landscape architect Sophie Greive designed a multi-level layout consisting of distinct but connected zones. Her contemporary scheme manages to complement and soften the home’s modern rear extension while also framing views to the river and screening out neighbours.
Importantly, it creates generous, private outdoor entertaining areas that are suitable for year-round use.
The journey begins at the back door with two large split-level decks built from spotted gum. The top deck is covered by an upstairs balcony and perfect for alfresco dining. Steps lead 30cm down to the lower deck, which is screened by a row of slender weavers bamboo (Bambusa textilis ‘Gracilis’).
From here, wide steps lead down a further 30cm to a level square of lawn. Wrapping around the base of the deck is a path of white river pebbles, merging with large 240x50cm concrete stepping stones leading to the lower lawn. “The back of the house is quite geometrical and modern, so the materials used in the top part are more bold and contemporary,” Sophie says. “As you go down further, it becomes more ‘gardenesque’ and the shapes are more organic.”
Around this lawn sprawls a lush carpet of kidney weed (Dichondra repens), dotted with large bluestone stepping stones leading to a sitting nook and kitchen garden. The plantings in the lower garden continue the mix of grey-green and purple hues, as highlighted by the feature Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’) and an olive tree. Other standout species here include a moptop Indian bean tree (Catalpa bignonioides) and Norway maple (Acer ‘Globosum’), both featuring rounded canopies that echo the clipped shapes below. At the very bottom of the layout are vegetables and herbs, growing in raised beds made from treated-pine sleepers. “The kitchen garden is a lovely destination point in the garden,” says Sophie.
While David and Stan adore their green space, David is the passionate gardener. “There aren’t enough hours in the week,” he says. “It takes a lot of work, but is well worth the effort.”
And yes, the garden has become the perfect backdrop for their regular soirees. “We love having canapé events when people walk around and mingle,” he says. “Everyone loves being in this garden, out among the trees and foliage.”