Inside Selling Houses Australia

Décor Disaster: Charlie'sTransformations

Take a walk down memory lane and relive some of the gardening horrors from Selling Houses Australia!

Check out some of these memorable outdoor transformations from resident gardening expert Charlie Albone!

House 1 –San Remo:

Sally and Brian Gillings’ house was literally full of frogs, as was the garden. The back garden was also home to a large collection of “dog’s logs” – and the place stank to high heaven! Hardly fitting for a beach house, especially one that was for sale. So Charlie’s first job was to clean up the garden ready for some planting.

Charlie wanted to emphasize the beach house theme but coastal environments can be very harsh and many plants won’t survive the salt air and strong winds. So he chose plants that would withstand the conditions, such as Indian Hawthorn, which has thick solid leaves and coastal rosemary, which copes well in this environment.

  • Tip – When planting a coastal garden, layers of plants work well; put your hardiest plants in the front, then work backwards to the more delicate plants. That way they have added protection from the elements.

The house had no driveway, which had a negative affect on the street appeal. Charlie had a very tight budget, so instead of paving the whole area, he laid two strips of pavers and filled the centre with crushed granite in the same colour. This gave a smart, uniform look to the drive at a fraction of the cost of paving the entire area.

  • Tip – If you’re laying pavers in a driveway, make sure they’re at least 60mm thick. Thinner pavers may be cheaper but will soon crack under the weight of a car and will need to be replaced.

House 2 – West Footscray:

The front yard of this cottage just needed mowing and tidying but the small back garden was like a techni-colour Martian landscape. Red scoria stretched as far as the eye could see and it had to go. Charlie was aware that the potential buyers of this house were likely to be busy young professionals, so it was essential that the garden was low maintenance yet high impact. He built a deck off the back of the house then filled the rest of the garden with grass.

  • Tip – If you’ve got a small garden, don’t be tempted to fill it to bursting point. Keep the design simple with just a couple of major elements. Tall narrow plants in pots and green walls add impact without taking up valuable ground space.

Charlie wanted a contemporary design for the entertaining area as it flowed straight off the back of the house, so he chose furniture for the deck that complemented Shaynna’s interior design. He selected pieces that would give a cosy feel to the small area, without making it feel cluttered.

  • Tip – If you have a small entertaining deck, a dining table and chairs may make it feel too crowded. A comfortable armchair and footstool or side table plus a plant for shade are all you need to create a relaxing area.

House 3 –Mt Martha:

This modern project home had been built on a steep sloping block, which caused immediate problems for Charlie. The back garden was also like solid concrete and Charlie had to use a jack-hammer to dig it up. He then terraced the space to make several usable areas to suit a family, including a grassed area as well as a more formal seating area.

  • Tip – If you have a large slope to terrace, build the flat areas and connecting steps in the steepest part. That way you’ll save on material costs and labour.

Charlie’s other issue with the garden was the planting. A sloping block plus coastal conditions meant he had to choose hardy plants that could survive without much water. So he selected a range of native and coastal plants to complement those in the front garden.

  • Tip – When choosing plants for a new garden, take a look at what’s flourishing in neighbouring gardens. As well as creating a flowing streetscape, your plants should settle happily in the local soil conditions.

House 4 – Highland Park:

The street façade of the house was fairly good and the front garden was in keeping with the style. But the back garden was extremely cluttered, which made it feel far smaller than it actually was. The balconies were narrow and there wasn’t enough space to create entertaining areas. So Charlie maximised the space by building a bar over the edge of the glass balustrade, drawing buyers out to drink in the stunning views.

  • Tip – If you have a balcony that’s too small for formal seating, you can effectively extend the area by building a bar outwards from the balustrade. Add a couple of stools and you have a great area to sit and enjoy a drink.

Charlie had removed most of the pots as they were taking up valuable space, but he wanted to add some greenery to soften the area and frame the view. So he created a prototype green wall and reused some of the existing plants to keep the costs down.

  • Tip – Commercial green walls can be very costly – up to $1800 a square metre for those with a built-in irrigation system. For a cheaper alternative, use climbing plants that can be trained up against a frame or a wall.

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