Brooke’s garden design goes with the flow

02 Feb 2016

When landscape designer Brooke Mitchell was told the brief for this garden, it was music to his ears. Especially with a stunning mountainous setting such as this. The owners wanted the house and its garden to incorporate and reflect the colours, plants and materials of the glorious landscape around them. And it does just that.

With the exception of the eye-popping red front door in Resene Del Toro – and there’s a reason for that – the finishes on house and hard landscaping are subdued but warm, perfect for its surroundings.

For most of the year, the owners live in tropical Singapore. But for their five-hectare section on the Crown Terrace near Queenstown, they envisioned something completely different.

Specifically, a contemporary house that snuggled into the contours of the site; accommodated groups of up to 10 family and friends with ease; and which drank in the jaw-dropping views of Lake Hayes, Lake Wakatipu, Coronet Peak, the Remarkables and everything in between.

In the Wakatipu, the landscape is the hero. You draw inspiration from it. You complement it. You can’t possibly compete with it. Anyway, properties on the highly visible Crown Terrace aren’t allowed to. The district plan requires homeowners to use dark, recessive colours that retire into the landscape, not light-reflecting colours that intrude and impose upon it.

Neither Brooke, a director of Baxter Design Group, nor architectural designer Simon Adnitt of Walker Residential Architects wasted any time humming and hahing about their brand of paint. Both say Resene is enormously proactive and supportive in their respective fields and that the company understands the kind of products required by those work with them. 



Simon’s team matched the colour of the powder-coated aluminium parapets, fascias, guttering and window sills to Resene Gunmetal. For the lower part of the house they chose Resene Gravel, a brownish grey that works with the tussock growing against it, the cedar walls and stone. Most of the natural materials were locally sourced.

And that red door? Resene Del Toro can hardly be called ‘recessive’. That side of the house isn’t visible from the Wakatipu Basin so it isn’t subject to council regulations, enabling the design team – and their Singaporean clients – to inject a small but meaningful shot of colour. “To the Chinese, red symbolises good luck,” says Simon.

The house nestles in a small natural basin towards the rear of the west-facing property. The owners asked Brooke to enclose it with landscaped plantings which gradually thin out towards the boundaries, merging with existing ryegrass, wild broom, scrub, gorse, matagouri and shelterbelt trees. They also asked him for some seasonal variation.

So he wrapped the house with sculptural forms of lawn, grasses, retaining walls and the creek, which terminates in a curved pond animated by low waterfalls.

Brooke assigned one plant to each part of the garden – carex, flaxes, red tussocks and golden speargrass to replace the 380 snow tussocks consumed by the plague of rabbits that almost brought Brooke to his knees. Conversely, the indigenous flora – which makes up about 60 percent of his plant list – includes plants chosen precisely because they are mouth-watering to native birds.

Spring brings forth the pink froth of flowering cherries; late summer delivers apples and pears; scarlet oaks and Jeffersred maples provide autumn fireworks. Two icons of Central Otago planting add their colours to the picture: hornbeam hedges are yellow in autumn, amber in winter; and lavender donates its purple flowers.  

The garden’s only candidates for paint were the terraced plaster retaining walls, filled with red tussocks. Brooke settled on an earthy grey which beautifully complemented his plants, the house and the tones of the wider landscape.

He claims the fact that Resene Wanaka celebrates a local township had nothing to do with it. But he likes the coincidence. “It was named by Resene with Wanaka in mind.” 

landscape designer Brooke Mitchell, Baxter Design Group
pictures Claire Takacs


Did you know…

That there’s more to this house paint than meets the eye? Because dark colours soak up heat, and because summers on the Crown Terrace are scorchers, it can get awfully hot inside.

To mitigate that, Resene CoolColour paint was used for the Resene Gravel paint, a system that allows dark shades to absorb the light that gives them their colour but also to reflect much of the heat that comes with it.

Surfaces remain cooler than they otherwise would, helping to keep indoor temperatures down. Bonus – it extends the life expectancy of the paint and whatever lies beneath it. 

Do you have a home full of wonderful Resene paint and colour? Send us some snaps by emailing editor Sharon Newey on [email protected].

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Both the colours of the house and the garden purposefully blend with the dramatic surroundings using craggy tones such as Resene Gravel and Resene Arrowtown.

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The bright red Resene Del Toro front door is a pop of colour in an otherwise earthy colour scheme.

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Resene Arrowtown was chosen for the retaining walls for its ability to complement the planting… not because it honours a nearby town.

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The front terrace opens up to the granduer of the view and includes a pond that is fed by a ‘stream’ – a cleverly upcycled drainage ditch. 

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Concrete paths intersect with timber boardwalks in a playful combination of materials. 

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Sweeping curved walls in Resene Arrowtown echo the naturally occuring mountain terraces in the landscape beyond the garden.

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