My favourite space: Dramatic red outdoor room

Loena Wilson McCormack bought the Domo furniture soon after the dramatic red glass wall had been installed.
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Loena Wilson McCormack bought the Domo furniture soon after the dramatic red glass wall had been installed.

A dramatic downstairs deck is the latest chapter in the almost 20-year renovation of Loena Wilson McCormack's 1970s townhouse in Mission Bay, Auckland.

Landscape designer Trish Bartleet relished the challenge of intensively developing the small space to make it appear spacious. She took her cue from Loena's many tribal rugs, continuing the blue and red tones outdoors with a bank of succulents and a rich red Corten-steel fence to give privacy from the street.

Despite being in a high density area where neighbours' windows overlook backyards, Loena's renovated garden is almost completely private, thanks to the striking red glass water feature at its centre and a crisp white motorised awning overhead.

A low polished concrete bench around the water feature provides informal seating.
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A low polished concrete bench around the water feature provides informal seating.

A row of tall Chamaedorea costaricana palms across the back and a smaller variety along the side creates a soft vertical wall. "Weeping foliage creates a sense of loose space," says Trish. "If this were a trimmed hedge you would feel more walled in."

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Leona Wilson McCormack.
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Leona Wilson McCormack.

Loena, who has a busy working week as a secondary school English teacher, says the peace and privacy of her new deck are welcome at the end of the day.

"The first thing I do when I come home is throw open the doors and turn on all the outdoor lights. It's so warm and ambient out here and the water trickling over the glass makes a lovely sound."

What was your vision for this space? My vision was to create an outdoor living space that gave the illusion of being an extension of the indoor living space. I hoped that it would offer privacy from the overlooking neighbouring homes ( in a somewhat overcrowded city environment). Additionally my plan was for it to exude a somewhat exotic tropical ambience to make it a haven from the rigours of a busy life!

What are the key features of your garden? The striking glass red wall and water feature provide privacy and shelter, but its transparent quality allows a glimpse of the planting beyond, and means the area doesn't feel closed in. It's lit at night and the palms behind cast magical shadows. A low, polished concrete bench around the water feature provides informal seating. It holds the heat at the end of the day - everyone loves it, children fall asleep on it.

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How have you decorated this space? I rescued a friend's discarded wrought-iron outdoor table and chairs, which I had painted in red - I worried about which shade of red for weeks but when the painter came to pick them up for the repaint, he only had two shades to choose from. The outdoor patio set from Domo is the only new furniture I've ever bought - I usually prefer antiques and secondhand pieces. The hand-built ceramic birdbath is by Philip Luxton.

Where does your love of colour come from? My mother. I once came home to discover her painting a wall of the family sitting room a colour she described as chartreuse. It triggered a love of the exotic; both the colour and the word have a sense of mystery.

A ceramic piece by Barry Brickell.
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A ceramic piece by Barry Brickell.

What do you like best about this space? Perhaps the restful sounds provided by the water gently trickling down the red glass wall finally splashing into the pool along with the soft rustle of the breeze blowing through the palms. Of course the rich red which contrasts beautifully with the greenery is also a delight. With the awning extended there is no better place to be.

 

Loena rescued a friend's discarded wrought-iron outdoor furniture, painting it her signature colour.
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Loena rescued a friend's discarded wrought-iron outdoor furniture, painting it her signature colour.

 - NZ House & Garden

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