Bringing a long-dead dream back to life.

The Project

This project is a doozy. Years ago, when the clients were building, they decided to put their pool in and get the backyard structure done before the house went in. Great idea - right?

Unfortunately, they didn't seek a design, and the contractor they engaged did not complete the job: the retaining walls were left unfinished, (and what was done was uneven and not squared); the pool was at the wrong level, and off centre; and the contractor downed tools and disappeared. The whole thing became horrible mess, and remained that way for years.

Then we got the call - would we be able to do something to get this long-deferred project back on track?

We thought so! 

Being left with an unworkable space happens more often than you'd think. Usually its because there was no 'big picture', no plan to follow.

This is a pretty extreme example of what can happen when a job stalls or goes off the rails, and becomes a burden on the family who have to live with it, and work out where to go from here. 

We thought we'd take up the challenge to try and salvage this space for our clients, and try to make the existing works tie in seamlessly with the new works. 




The pool was completely stripped, re-plumbed and re-lit - the existing uneven steps were removed and the whole area was started again. Because the existing walls were so unsquared with the pool, and the footings reached right across to the pool, we were unable to plant anything to break up the space - so we decided to build planter boxes each side to house some plant life and break up the hard surfaces. This also served to give the appearance that the area was properly squared off.

We then re-rendered the pool walls and tiled the pool in glass mosaic tiles to give the pool a shimmery effect. The pool is quite dominant in the space, so we wanted to make the most of that feature.

To lighten up this dark, dank space, we finished the area in a light concrete paver, and rendered the walls in a slightly darker tone so that it wouldn't be too "glarey" to be in. Because there was just so much render and hard paving, our raised planter boxes broken the planes up a bit more and added some green life - in this case we went with a modern mediterranean feel in the planting. Some spaces were too tight to install planters, so we used some dressed timber battens fixed to the wall to break up the area and to create some shadows as the sun moved across.

Where to entertain?

The existing walls were so close to the pool that there was really nowhere for the family to congregate - there were some existing stairs up to the unfinished level above the walls, so we decided to make this area a relaxing family space. This area would feature a built in seating area, some lawn and be a space for the teenage kids to hang out.

To save some cost, we made this paved slab out of honed exposed aggregate with base colour to match the paving below. The seating is a rendered block seat, and the timber battens from below are echoed on this upper terrace. Planting is designed to give maximum privacy as soon as possible. We used a bit of artificial turf up on this level to break the paving up - and because real turf would not thrive in this situation.

The family terrace is a wonderful place to relax, to lie in the sun, and to call down to the swimmers below. The timber detail is echoed on the upper wall, again to break up all of the rendered wall space.


This project was tricky, as access was extremely limited and the constraints of the existing structure made for some very interesting solutions. Limited access means extra cost in most cases, and this project was no exception - the access issues we encountered, coupled with some issues left to us by the previous contractor, most likely accounted for about 30% of the cost of the project. It's important to note that many of these costs would have been avoided if the project had been planned in detail at the beginning - something to think about!

Essendon Landscaping rose to the challenge and were able to find creative ways to execute the design, and they did an amazing job under difficult circumstances.

Much better! The pool area is now an inviting place to be. Light coloured paving has lifted the area, bouncing light into the once dark corners of the walls

Before - a slimy grey mess of concrete and clockwork.

After:   The new and improved pool area seems much more expansive - planters on each side provide some much needed green life and somewhere to relax by the pool, and the timber detail across the rear wall breaks up all of the hard rendered surfaces.

Randomly sized timber battens are a low cost way to break up the vast rendered walls - as there was no way to get plants into that space.

Our lovely client enjoys her new life poolside.

built by : essendon landscaping / pool renovation : the pool company / pool tiles : swimple / paving : erskine by stone outdoors / cushions : inform upholstery / firepit : ecosmart fire


This project has been a very rewarding one, in that so many obstacles and constraints were involved. The main lesson is that no matter what mistakes have been made, there are always solutions - and ways to turn these negatives into positives. The main lesson: always talk to a designer first!

If you have any specific questions about this project, please don't hesitate to email or call to discuss.