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6 designer backyards that make outdoor living impossible to resist

by Joanna Tovia

These award-winning gardens offer tons of inspiration for your own outdoor oasis.

Outdoor rooms are as popular as ever, and the line between indoors and out is becoming blurrier by the year. In these inspiring gardens, created by the winners of the 2016 Landscapes of Distinction Awards as judged by Landscaping New Zealand, there’s an outdoor version of every room in the house. See which ideas you could apply to your own home, to make your backyard infinitely more inviting.

1. Together yet alone
Christchurch-based Goom Landscapes has coined the term ‘lifescapes’ to sum up what its landscape designers try to achieve in every project – outdoor rooms that extend your living space, enhance a home’s functionality and style, and add value in the process. This project took out not only Best Design of the Year in Landscaping New Zealand’s 2016 Landscapes of Distinction Awards, but also Landscape of the Year. 

Design elements of the house are repeated in the garden, linking the two spaces together – the wide pavers echo the dimensions of the house, for example.

2. Nature’s elements
Natural materials such as wood and stone have been used skilfully by Design & Garden Landscapes in its Pumpkin Hill project, which won the Landscape Construction award for projects over NZ$60,000. Natural stone makes the outdoor dining area a highlight, and the same stonework has been used on the built-in barbecue.

Natural rock features help the outdoor areas blend into their surrounds, and overcome some of the challenges that come with a steep slope.

Speak to a landscape architect or designer in your area

3. Secluded splash
Bathing outdoors is the ultimate way to really relax, but only if you can get your gear off well out of sight. Auckland-based Natural Habitats created this swoon-worthy set-up as a private slice of paradise for the homeowners. They can escape for a soak in the tub …

… or take a shower while admiring the views. Could you steal any ideas from this bathing space and make them your own?

Find your perfect bathtub on Houzz

4. Tropical escape
You don’t have to have amazing views to create an amazing backyard, of course. Natural Habitats worked its magic on this Auckland backyard, creating a suburban retreat with a tropical vibe. Clear fencing makes the garden one with the outdoor living areas, and allows unimpeded views of the greenery from inside.

A fireplace makes this outdoor living room inviting, even on cool nights. Comfortable seating grouped for conversation is definitely an idea to emulate. This project took out a silver award for Landscape Construction, and a gold for Landscape Design.

5. Arm in arm
The lessons from this impressive Southern Landmarx garden are twofold. First, think about your lifestyle and plan your backyard accordingly. If you really prefer one-on-one get-togethers to crowded parties, be true to that. This project, which won silver awards in the Landscape Horticulture and Landscape Construction categories, creates nooks for two as well as places to gather with a few friends. Second, don’t be afraid to steal ideas from other countries – this garden is positively Zen-like thanks to its Japanese influence.

6. Climate control
Southern Landmarx won gold for this project, largely because the landscaping merges so beautifully with the home’s natural setting.

View more beautiful dining areas in our photo gallery

Protecting outdoor living and dining areas from the elements should come first in any project – exposure to rain, wind, heat or cold is the opposite of inviting. This dining area is protected from breezes on two sides, and its louvred roof gives homeowners a measure of control over the elements.