An Auckland couple create a resort style garden in the city

Finding enough space to build a “small slice of Fiji” was a dream come true for this Auckland couple. Step inside their perfect city sanctuary


An Auckland couple create a resort style garden in the city

With inner city Auckland properties getting tinier by the minute, having enough space for a swimming pool is a rare luxury in many areas. So David and Marie Leakey thought, but nevertheless they still dreamed of building a “small slice of Fiji” with a pool and spa alongside their Pt Chevalier home.

With their contemporary house occupying most of the section, their thoughts would often turn to the neighbour’s large, empty and unused back section on the eastern boundary of their house. “We kept looking longingly over the hedge and dreaming of owning some of this land with a view to giving ourselves some more space and developing a pool and spa area,” says David.


Two years ago the couple’s wishes came true when the neighbours decided to sell and they were able to add 220 square metres to their site. But the new addition wasn’t exactly inspiring, David recalls. “There was a huge, sloping back lawn with a brick barbecue, two small glasshouses in a state of disrepair, a potato patch, a plum tree which was half-dead, a compost bin and an incinerator.”


Finding a designer to help them seamlessly link this land to their house was the next issue – and here luck was again on David and Marie’s side. A chance conversation with Dave Paddy of Nikau Landscapes led them to meet landscape designer Margaret Chapman of Magenta Landscapes, who immediately understood what they wanted to achieve.


Simplicity was key for the couple, as was a clean, rectilinear design that would complement the contemporary architecture of their house. The garden had to be low-maintenance and the pool/spa area a relaxing family space, which they could use all year round. Stella the schnauzer needed room to play also, as well as fencing to keep her contained.

”We have busy work lives and wanted a sanctuary to retreat to, but also a space we could share with family and friends,” Marie explains. “We were looking for a semi-tropical feel (bright colours and good foliage shapes), and defined spaces including a pool and spa that were integrated with the house and deck. A shade space was essential, too, as I love the sun and David likes more shade.

“We also wanted to plant to ultimately gain privacy for ourselves and our neighbours, as we are in a fairly dense suburban area. A nice lawn space to include some sculptural art was also important.”


Once the site was cleared, the pool construction began. As the property was down a long, shared driveway, this made access quite tricky. To protect the driveway from damage by the heavy machinery needed for excavation, plywood had to be laid over its surface. Other excavation issues proved more complex


“Soft soil and rubbish-type fill in the middle of the site meant that deeper, engineered foundations were required for the block retaining wall to the upper level,” says Margaret. “Also the clearance requirements for a private stormwater line belonging to the front site meant that the pool pavilion had to be relocated from where we’d originally planned to put it.

“In actual fact, this ended up being a positive as it improved connections between the pavilion and other areas, allowed more sun during the day and meant the jungle-type planting could be beefed up to include a denser selection of taller species.”



Margaret suggested planting clipped hedges in clean, simple lines around the lawn on the top level of the garden, while around the pool she used a varied palette of subtropical plants, including palms, Cordyline ‘Showoff’, lush-leaved ligularia, canna, gardenias and vireya rhododendron, to add scent, colour and height. On the lower level around the outside of the pavilion the planting is similar but with more palms to give a denser, jungle-like feel.

Recently David installed a living wall, complete with its own irrigation system, near the basement of the house. This is planted with a mix of rengarenga, acorus, liriope, chlorophytum, Doodia australis, Fuchsia procumbens, heuchera, nephrolepis and bridal veil (gibasis).

Standout features

The star attractions are obviously the pool and spa, built by Tranquillity Pools in concrete with a Quartzon ‘Santorini’-coloured render finish and Bisazza ‘Ghiaccio’ waterline tiles. To reduce the number of lines around the pool, large honed terrazzo pavers (Jagas ‘Mocha’) were laid right to the edge rather than using a coping.

The elegant pavilion alongside the pool is equally special with its white cantilevered roof and cedar battens on the sides and back. The battens cleverly form part of the pool fencing and are repeated as a screen alongside the pool steps.

Words by: Carol Bucknell. Photography by Helen Bankers.

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