Over the Moon

A chance interaction on Instagram led to Mud Office joining a BKK Architects project and delivering a highly-considered family garden.

With relaxed clients and architectural elements to bring to life, Mira Martinazzo and Aimee Howard of Mud Office have created a perfect working garden on this small suburban site. A few specific requests have been met with simple solutions that tie the zones together, giving the garden a coherent flow that will become more marked over time.

The addition to the house was designed by Melbourne-based BKK Architects and holds their signature love of bold shapes and solid masonry. A fine example of collaboration between like-minded local firms, Mud Office got the job after commenting on an Instagram post.

“We commented on a BKK Instagram post during construction … ” recalls Mira. “… Not long after, we got a call from them. The post showed an excavator digging up bluestone floaters from the site. The comment we made was: ‘Something for the garden perhaps?’ ” They were asked to design the garden.

Working alongside BKK and Josh Norman Landscapes during the landscaping construction phase, Mud Office was able to tweak its plans to ensure all elements were considered to squeeze the maximum from the site.

“It was a very collaborative process with BKK Architects, the clients and ourselves,” says Mira. Mud Office helped BKK decide which existing trees to keep and the orientation and placement of the built structures.

The site was once a quarry; after it was closed, it became a bit of a dumping ground – so one of the first considerations was to make sure the ground was safe and to prevent ground subsidence. Everything was OK to go, with nothing more sinister than the buried basalt, which they kept and incorporated into the garden design.

Their clients for the project were loose about the brief, with only a few specific requests. No lawn. That was easy. A serene outlook from the bathroom – in particular the bathtub (which made perfect sense to the team at Mud). The third request was to embody clear zones, including a kitchen garden, somewhere to eat outside and a seating area to enjoy the sunny northern aspect. Having no particular plants they wanted, the clients simply trusted Mud to curate a group of plantings that were informal and eclectic with a preference for natives, succulents and plants they could use to eat.

BKK Architects considered the use of the garden in their design for the back of the house. Large doors open to the outside from all the rooms at the back of the house and the landscaping continues these separate zones through to the garden. Main doors open from the kitchen and living areas onto a space reserved for eating, allowing the family to spill out into the garden. Mud Office decided to pave this area with large slabs of permeable quartz to reduce stormwater runoff. The large slabs of paving stones are left to float on the surface of the outdoor area with undefined edges. Breakaway stones form steps to the side of the house.

Adjacent is a low, curved wall (designed by BKK and echoing the masonry used in the house), acting as seating for an almost formal, defined space. Mud Office has placed a fire pit here so the garden will be used when the weather is cooler. At this point, seating needs are met by the scooped wall from the house, a threshold into the “relaxation zone”, which can also be accessed from the bedroom. Existing trees have plantings of graceful grasses underneath; the plan is to hang a hammock between the trees. Round corten steel planters have been placed at the end of the Dromana toppings path that runs through this zone and are used for a vegetable and herb garden.

Our favourite element of this considered little garden is the sneaky “garden nook” which tucks in between the house and the bedroom wing. A curved inner wall holds a single tree with under-plantings of soft ferns, evergreen shrubs and groundcovers. This nook is the view from the bathtub, sure to be a favourite spot for this family over the years.

“The clients were over the moon with the finished garden,” says Mira. “I was so lucky to see one of the owners lead the other owner/client blindfolded down into the garden for a big reveal on the day of planting. They were both thrilled.”




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