Photography: Joshua Lawrence
Contemporary-style landscaping is all about sharp angles and minimalism. Nature, on the other hand, can appear random, even chaotic. Yet these two are far from mutually exclusive in the gardens of this newly built home in the Fairfield area of Victoria.
“Honouring the home’s modern architecture was important to the owners,” says Bianca Bodley, owner and principal at Biophilia Design Collective in Victoria, B.C. “But so was creating a very natural, friendly and welcoming space.”
The couple, who share their home with a pug dog, brought the designer in before tearing down the house that had previously occupied the lot. Together, they toured the existing garden with an eye to repurposing as many of the original plants as possible. Several apple trees, an imposing mature grapevine and countless bulbs were carefully uprooted and set aside.
First, Bodley tackled the design of the new gardens. Water features were not only a must-have for the owners, but serve as focal points for the overall design. She devised interlinked troughs in modernist rectilinear shapes: long and rectangular for the front yard, squared-off cubes on the back terrace. Both fountains are crafted of concrete and Corten, a type of steel that develops a highly textured and organic-appearing surface over time.
The home, designed and built by the team at MDRN Built of Victoria, features a stunning front porch. Crafted with spare lines and of warm and exotic balau batu wood, its design is resolutely contemporary. Yet it also embraces an old-school concept dear to the owners’ hearts: that of encouraging interaction with neighbours passing by. Bodley and her team created a three-foot-tall natural Vancouver Island stone wall with a built-in bench to encourage socializing; it delineates the garden’s edge. The bench faces the street, providing passersby with a place to stop and chat.
“I really enjoy using grounded natural materials and contrasting them with modern architecture and the hard lines of concrete and metal,” she says. She also used flagstone for pathways, and in the back garden, pea gravel, a natural material that feels good underfoot when the homeowners go shoeless.
The front porch faces east, making it a prime spot in which to enjoy a morning cup of coffee. To further encourage interaction, the civic-minded couple were among the first in their neighbourhood to put up a community book box.
The layout of the 1,500-square-foot back garden reflects the couple’s down-to-earth and laid-back lifestyle. Bodley devised it with smooth flow in mind. A series of paths winds through, punctuated by beds of flowering perennials such as Salvia divinorum, nepeta, Perovskia atriplicifolia, verbena and ornamental grasses. They connect the patios and the vegetable-and-herb patch located in the lot’s northwest corner.
In contrast, privacy was the main goal for the elevated patio that wraps around a corner of the top floor. It lies off the master suite and provides a cozy and intimate spot. For additional privacy, Bodley designed a green roof surrounding the master bedroom and patio, replete with tall ornamental grasses and feature planters that hold bamboo. “The homeowners are ecologically minded and wanted to make sure we were using sustainable materials and using water very efficiently,” the designer says. To ensure they stay low-maintenance through British Columbia’s dry summers, plants that need water only once or twice a week were selected for all gardens.
Typically, a contemporary garden is planted in sharply demarcated blocks, with one type of flower or greenery per section. The result can be rather stark, Bodley says. She prefers to take her cues from meadows, where plants may appear in clusters, yet also overlap with those nearby. There are also more different species and more colour than in most modern gardens. “I love a more natural form,” she says. “Nature is my muse. I love her natural flow and layered textures and colours. I try to channel this in this garden.” •
Originally published in the Summer 2020 issue.
Biophilia Design Collective