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city sanctuary

From habitat magazine - issue 39, feature garden

For landscape designer Zöe Carafice, developing a garden on a small plot in Auckland’s Grey Lynn was a passion project.

Working closely with the owners and architect John Irving, Zöe set about creating this inner-city sanctuary to surround the home with levels of terraced garden.

A garden sanctuary in the city

This home’s living room flows seamlessly into the garden, with terrace walls in Resene X-200 CoolColour tinted to Resene Half Delta. Resene Furniture and Decking Oil helps keep wooden walkways looking their natural best while providing protection against the ravages of water, fungi and ultraviolet light.

“This garden needed to completely ground the architecture in green so I used a mix of groundcovers and climbers to create lush carpets and green walls providing a stage to show off the stars of the show, like the tree ferns and Japanese maples.”

Zöe’s vision was realised by the Create + Construct building team who produced the terraced levels and flat lawn area that crowns the top of the garden.

The graceful interior living room opens out almost entirely to the tiered garden. The exterior walls of the home are painted in Resene Double Black White to accentuate the rich green of the foliage, while the terrace walls are finished in Resene X-200 CoolColour tinted to Resene Half Delta, the soft grey providing a visual connection between the house and garden.

Zöe designed the garden to accentuate the architecture of the home. “The planting design I created for the garden was inspired by the Japanese concept of ‘komorebi’ which, loosely translated, means ‘sunlight filtered through trees’.” Large picture windows create frames to enjoy the rich greens of the garden from the living room, with trees and plants selected to play with shadows and cast light onto the concrete flooring of the room’s interior.

A modern home exterior and garden

These terrace walls and low wall painted in Resene X-200 CoolColour tinted to Resene Half Delta contrast with the rich dark tone of the Rockcote Cerano fireplace in Resene Black.

A classic white bungalow exterior

The classic front of this bungalow stays true to its heritage using Resene Lumbersider Low Sheen in the soft shade of Resene Double Black White. Reflecting a similar shade as the back terraced garden, this palette creates a wraparound harmony to the home. Fence in Resene Alabaster.

While this is a relatively small inner-city garden, Zöe has packed in 45 species of plants with a mix of natives (some rare), flowering perennials, shrubs, edibles, climbers and trees. For Zöe, creating a garden is not just about the natural beauty it offers, but also about improving the health of the surrounding ecology. The garden then aids in providing bird corridors and food for pollinators as well as increasing permeable surfaces to help absorb stormwater. In short, this garden not only offers beauty, but also sustainability for its lively neighbourhood.

The colour palette for the garden was based on the timeless elegance of green and white, acknowledging the character of the original home which faces the street, while feeling fresh and contemporary. The planting adds layers of green texture with white flowering Rain Lilies providing little moments of brightness amongst the greens.

The relaxed, naturalistic style of planting makes this garden easy to care for. A regular gardening schedule of weeding and gentle pruning is all that’s required to keep it looking its best.

The terraced style of the garden also allowed enough space to create a small flat lawn that can be enjoyed on the upper level. From the pool level a timber boardwalk almost moves through the site like a waterfall, connecting to the relaxed dining area on the lower patio. Landing on the lower patio, the space is framed by a magnificent outdoor fireplace finished with Rockcote Cerano coloured to Resene Black. It mirrors an internal fireplace in the open plan living area, treated with Rockcote Otsumigaki also in Resene Black.

Indoor and outdoor living areas

Afternoon sun creates shadow play against the fireplace finished with Rockcote Cerano in Resene Black on the outdoor patio. It is mirrored in the indoor living room fireplace with Rockcote Otsumigaki in Resene Black. To create an interior ceiling like this, apply Resene Natural wood stain, allowing the wood to reveal its native wood grain.

With 17 years of extraordinary garden creations to her name, Zöe has, for the last two years, been embracing the opportunity to create her own practice.

“In my previous role, I had the privilege of working on some very special projects such as the Chelsea Flower Show and a Garden for Peace to commemorate the First World War in Le Quesnoy, France.

“I started my own practice and have loved being able to develop my own process. I love to work closely with my clients in a collaborative way to create beautiful bespoke gardens that respond to their individual needs.”

Gardening tips

Zöe recommends plant diversity wherever possible. “No matter how small your space is, my advice is don’t be afraid to squeeze in as many different plants as you can. Even a pot on a balcony can be overflowing with fruit, flowers and native plants.”

She also recommends taking into consideration the nearby ecosystem and look for ways to support it with plants and flowers. “Most importantly, get into the garden, however small your spot is. Even a small balcony can benefit from a beautiful and cared-for plant. Green is a wonderfully healing colour and bringing it to life in plant form, no matter the size, will enhance any space.”

Paint it right

Choose the right Resene colours and paints for the job.

Texture trends

Textured finishes have become increasingly popular over the last couple of years, according to Resene Colour Expert Angela Fell. “Resene Resitex or Resene FX Faux Rust Effect added to a garden statue can be a smart, affordable way to create your own garden feature.”

Landscape designer Zöe Carafice

A stained boardwalk in a lush city garden

Landscape designer Zöe Carafice has recently branched out building her own company. This city garden, one of her first solo ventures, reflects her unique and bold landscape design style. The exterior fence is painted in Resene Zeus. This terraced garden retreat, while being lush and luxurious, is still a low maintenance option for the owners, requiring only periodic upkeep and care. As the garden space was not extensive, Zöe opted for this terrace style to provide the residents more space on the flat upper level to enjoy the swimming pool. This also afforded the option of enjoying each level of the garden from the extensive deck area on the ground level. The exterior terraced walls coated in Resene X-200 CoolColour in Resene Half Delta offer a lovely cool tone allowing the lush greenery of the plants and lawn to take centre stage. The large fireplace warms the outdoor lounge with the contrasting dark shade of Rockcote Cerano in Resene Black.

Garden sparkle

When painting pots and planters create a little sparkle with the Resene FX Metallic paint range. Ideal for planters and pots, timber, wallboards and window frames, paint on the recommended basecoat first to get the best effect from your metallic topcoat. Let your inner sparkle come to life.

Superior exterior

Spruce up your exterior by choosing Resene Lumbersider, a waterborne paint available in low sheen and matt finishes. It’s designed for maximum durability in exposed conditions while being an Eco Choice approved product. Resene Lumbersider also comes in heat-reflective CoolColour to help reflect more heat in darker colours.

Boardwalk beauty

Regularly refresh timber decks and walkways to keep them looking good and reduce the risk of slipping. Keep moss and mould at bay with Resene Moss & Mould Killer, the first step to making sure your timber walkways are protected and slip free. Then wash with Resene Timber and Deck Wash to remove all the gunk that has accumulated. Allow to dry, then apply your favourite Resene Woodsman stain colour or for a lightly oiled look, use Resene Furniture and Decking Oil.


Design: Zöe Carafice, Studio John Irving
Build: Create + Construct
Images: Carme Aguayo

Alternative solution – terraced oasis

engage with nature

Landscape designer Ben Hoyle suggests this alternative scheme:

Ben Hoyle - landscape designer
Ben Hoyle

When it comes to terraced landscapes you don’t need to start from scratch. Rather look at how you can thoughtfully tweak and layer in colour and texture with new materials and planting and make use of all those level changes. A cascading water feature treated with Resene FX Faux Rust Effect has been keyed into the existing terrace where it cantilevers water around the swimming pool and down to the courtyard below. Granite setts provide natural texture against the pool and upper terrace wall and are well complemented by the soft green tones of Resene Field Day. Modscene planters with citrus topiary underplanted with herbs provide another layer in which to plant and provide kai. The eye is naturally drawn along the boardwalk stained in Resene Woodsman wood oil stain tinted to Resene Uluru with a custom outdoor mural, providing animation and focus to the top terrace. Planters treated with Resene FX Faux Rust Effect float from the boundary wall painted in Resene Field Day adding to the calm greening cloak of this oasis.


Ben Hoyle - alternative solution

The steps and walkway stained in Resene Woodsman wood oil stain tinted to Resene Uluru lead your eye up to a mural painted by artist Joe McMenamin, which is the focal point of this garden. The cantilever water features finished in Resene FX Faux Rust Effect are framed by walls reflecting split granite setts available from Mitre 10. The terrace garden and walkway create a flow from the top level of the garden down to the lower level and into this home. If you prefer your exterior to stand out from the crowd, choose a shade like Resene Lemon Ginger to enhance your rear wall and use the grounding shade of Resene Foundry on the lower walls. This will allow your greenery to be the hero in your garden.  Illustration: Malcolm White.

Before alternative design

Top tip  Keep bare concrete surfaces looking their best for longer with Resene Concrete Clear on vertical areas and Resene Walk-on Concrete Clear on walking areas. These clear finishes will help prevent dirt and contaminants getting engrained into the surface, making it easier to clean. Elevate the look of concrete with Resene In The Wash concrete wash colours – choose from five colours to add a wash of colour to your concrete, inside or out.

Mint and Rosemary, Palmers Garden Centre
Mint and Rosemary, Palmers Garden Centre
Bird of Paradise, Mitre 10
Bird of Paradise, Mitre 10
Custom painted mural, Joe McMenamin
Custom painted mural, Joe McMenamin
Cylindrus planter, Modscene
Cylindrus planter, Modscene

Resene Field Day

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Printed copies of habitat highlights are available from late March 2024 at Resene ColorShops and resellers, while stocks last. You can view back issues of habitat magazine online.

If you have an idea, project or story that you think would suit habitat, we’d love to hear from you. Please drop us an email with your details and include photos if submitting a project.

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