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21 January 2022
Pool landscaping project

Clever landscaping in the outdoor kitchen and around the pool gave this entertainer’s home a resort feel.
Words Anna Wallace Photos Sarah Rowlands

Kelly and John Nicholls always find themselves with a full house. When living in one of Christchurch’s first new builds post-earthquake, their vision for the property was to have a central outdoor living area for socialising and family living, with seamless access from each of the internal wings.

‘Water baby’ John, their children and grandchildren made full use of the pool in summer. The deep ends encouraged teenage bombs, and John would do lengths twice a day. Running an office on-site, employees took dips when the mercury crept up.

With Kelly’s 50th looming, the pair wanted to hold the party at home and so set about transforming the property further. “We really wanted a resort-style, holiday feel like the places we’ve been to in Bali and Thailand.”

Kelly wanted guests to be able to gather in separate groups while still achieving a feeling of togetherness. The view of the pool from the house had to remain.

“Without curtains in the main living area inside, we used the pool’s solar-powered lighting to illuminate the home at night,” she explains.

Pool side in Canterbury

Emma Johnston, a senior landscape architect at Goom Landscapes, came up with a number of ideas. As well as creating a crisp, resort-style living space, Emma set out to achieve better flow between the home, pool and outdoor room, with a pizza oven and defined seated areas.

With glass fencing, Emma planted different shades of green Pittosporum ‘Golf Ball’ and ground covers to keep the sight line open. “It looked beautiful but was really about safety, so we could see the kids in the pool,” Kelly recalls.

Warming up the “sea of concrete” using walls, planting and tiles enabled Emma to create smaller spaces or ‘rooms’.

Kelly was happy to trust in Emma’s expertise and that faith paid off. The project was completed (on budget) a week before Kelly’s two-day birthday celebration.

“They pulled out all the stops for us and it was exactly the ‘resorty’ feel we wanted. There’s nothing I would change – we loved it.”

With the kids all grown up, the Nicholls have since moved on. “It needed a family to enjoy it.”

For those embarking on a pool landscaping project, Kelly advises to find a reputable, proven company. “Look at their other jobs and do the reference checking before you sign up.”

Two ladies by the pool

LOCATION: Sawyers Arms Road, Harewood, Christchurch.

POOL: 12m x 9m Pioneer pool.


LIGHTING: South Island Electrical.


GLASS POOL FENCING: New Zealand Frameless Glass.

SIZE OF OUTDOOR AREA: Approximately 270sqm, including the pool.

PROJECT LENGTH: Seven months.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Emma says fencing is the number one consideration for pool areas: “It requires time and thought.” The result was a clever, aesthetically pleasing glass fence.

“We didn’t want metal fencing to be an eyesore as we looked out,” says Kelly. The panels have a minimal gap, and with no lines provide a seamless look. Two of the fence lines double as one end of the outdoor room and a wall of the house. Retractable, they can be opened up in summer and enclosed in winter.

“It’s an entertainer’s dream while still being safe for the younger children.”

CHALLENGES: Working with three existing surrounding buildings was tricky for Emma and the build team.

“We had to deal with surface drainage, which is where the water goes if it rains or splashes out of the pool. We had a very clever build team for the set out.” Good attention to detail is a must when dealing with what’s underneath, Emma says.

DESIGNER’S HIGHLIGHT: “The pool area ended up being very complementary to the house, thanks to the materials and colours we used – including kwila and two types of (nonslip) tiles,” Emma says.

AWARDS: 2021 Landscapes of Distinction Awards: a gold award for landscape construction and a silver for landscape design. For a resortstyle space, flow was needed between the house, pool and outdoor areas.

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