Bold Curves at Cove House

Published
2 May 2021

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Matt Cantwell from Secret Gardens tells us about the encouragement he received from his client, Shane Noble, to be brave and bold when designing the landscape and swimming pool for Cove House.
granite landscape design

The iconic home, Cove House, overlooking Sydney’s Port Hacking across to Bundeena was designed in 1969 by a renowned architect, Reuben Lane. The original brief was to be bold and not constrained by the usual square and rectangular shapes.

This is reflected by the unique design of the house with abundant use of curves and circular shapes defying all the traditional rectangular and linear planes.

During the renovation of the landscaping areas, Shane wanted to match the daring design of the house with a garden with a statement that is just as unique. Paying dutiful respect to the existing design, Shane’s brief to Matt from Secret Garden was to be brave.

Arresting Garden Design

The daring design of the house is now paired with a suitably provocative garden. Since the building was the inspiration for the shapes found throughout, the landscaping uses a combination of curves and angled lines.

At the waterside of the property, where the design is most striking, the lawn is divided upon large circular stepping stones adjoining a circular fire pit, creating a grand introduction to the house and capturing one’s attention from afar.

The circular shapes accompany you as you step towards the house, which appears to be emerging from the ground. The lap pool with a glass wall that overlooks the water, blends in with the garden design.

Outdoor features include the mix of cacti, a large koi pond and round stepping stones across the front as well as the back of the property.

Our Custom-cut Silhouette Granite

Secret Gardens installed our Silhouette Grey Flamed Granite for the landscaping area. Due to the design requirements for the project, we’ve provided the natural stone custom-cut to fit the unique landscape design surrounding the house and pool.

The mid-grey colouring of this Granite provides a strong and eye-catching backdrop to the dominant surrounding white and green colour palette.

The lighter notes with less of a speckle than is typical for a Granite, the stone is elegant and sophisticated while still providing the benefits of being extremely durable and low-maintenance.

pool granite

About Secret Gardens

Matthew Cantwell lives and breathes landscape design, as the founding director of Secret Gardens turned his passion into a successful company, establishing Secret Gardens Landscapes in 1994 with 50+ employees.

Secret Gardens team offer a variety of skills to their clients including landscape architects and designers, structural landscaping specialists, carpenters, stonemasons and horticulturalists.

Matt is widely regarded as an expert in the field, gathering numerous awards during the 25 years in the industry, including trice winning the Australian Institute of Landscape Designers and Managers Alan Correy Award for Design Excellence and appearing in numerous publications including Vogue, Belle, Inside Out, Home Beautiful and others.

Matt’s Perspective on Cove House

What was the feeling you had, knowing you were designing something special here?

We were thrilled to be involved; we knew it was going to be challenging but we knew we had the team to deliver. You look forward to these projects because they are so unique you know that they will be few and far between.

Did you feel any pressure at all knowing how iconic this building was in the world of architecture?

This was a unique opportunity to develop the landscaping and gardens for an iconic home overlooking Sydney’s Port Hacking across to Bundeena. The home was designed in 1969 by Reuben Lane, who once worked under Oscar Niemeyer and it was completed in 1973.

The original brief by Reuben’s client was to be bold and not be constrained by the usual square and rectangular shapes. The brief from our client was similar with regards to the garden.

We knew we were working on something that was architecturally significant and that we were working with a client that was totally invested in the process and the outcome. We didn’t feel any pressure. Briefs like this are what we live for, they are meant to be challenging and that generates excitement, which leads to great results.

cove house exterior

There are a lot of curves in your design – what was the rationale and inspiration for these forms?

The development of the structural layout of the garden was considered at length during the concept phase and presented the most challenges for our team. It was important to acknowledge the more organic forms of the building as well as the influence of some of the other shapes on the building, including the tall concrete columns that support the roof, apparently a nod to the neo-classical form that was part of the original inspiration.

Angles were also evident in some of the windows and doorways. These shapes were taken through to our design, the proportions of the garden areas we were working with often dictating whether we used curves or angles or a combination when designing a particular element. This was also driven by the level changes which were significant across the site leading to complicated engineering resolutions.

What were your reasons for choosing Sareen Stone’s granite for the outdoor tiles and pool surrounds?

It was important to have something that was durable, subtle in colour and finish and complementary to the mass of white walls on the house and in the garden. The soft grey colour brings a lovely neutral, cooling quality, which also looks great against the lawn and vegetation.

There are a lot of elements to this project and collectively we felt it was a perfect choice. It was important that we partnered with a supplier that could customize the pieces we needed and deliver everything on time.

cove house pool design

The home is nestled by the water, did this influence your choice of plants?

Facing south, being subjected to salt-laden winds and often in the shadow of the home, our plant selections needed to be durable. We want the garden to look great year-round, not to ebb and flow, always ready to show.

Do you have a favourite part of this overall project?

That’s a tough question, there is something about those circular lawn areas that act as steps across the garden. They’re unique and Secret Gardens is always trying to push the boundaries and offer our clients a unique outcome that they can truly call their own.

The Interior Providing a Final Touch

One of the most spectacular aspects of the Cove House is that this project carries the original design of the building by Reuben Lane with bold curves and angles across to the landscaping as well as the interiors.

When all these elements maintain the same design principles, seeing it all together is quite spectacular. Brendan Wong, the interior designer, who was equally excited about the challenge as Matt, said: “It was the dream project with dream clients.”

Just like the outdoors, the interior is a celebration of the concrete curve and abolishment of right angles and rectangular shapes.

This kidney-shaped organic home offers a dynamic and flowing interior and the curved shapes are reflected in dominant features inside the house such as the staircase, furniture, windows as well as details like angled edges, artwork and small decorative pieces.

Dominant seven-metre windows offer panoramic water views and soaring timber ceilings with large sky windows luxuriate in views and light as well as adding to the grandiosity of the design.

cove house interior

Cove house leaves an impression of the design that is deliberate about every detail. There are many elements repeated and reflected across different sections of the house, forming a complete symbiosis.

The dominant elements include the circular and curved shapes, stunning water views, abundant use of cacti, artwork and natural materials that make this house live up to the reputation of the original architect, Reuben Lane.

Sareen Stone works in collaboration with Secret Gardens to assist clients in hard surface finishes in line with their landscape design vision.

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