Flint & Celia’s subtropical outdoor living space in Hawke’s Bay

When Flint and Celia Collinson built their home in Hawke's Bay, they approached the project with a unique point of view, working their design from back to front. With plans for a family wedding underway, getting the garden and outdoor living area party-perfect was top priority. 

Now with a lush, well-established subtropical garden on the same level as the interior, their outdoor area has very much become part of the couple’s living space. An array of raised beds and structural elements carry the same materials and colour scheme as the interior to further enhance the link.

The couple moved in after Flint’s company, Ainsworth + Collinson, finished the home, but the garden had been completed earlier, which is why it already looks so well-established.

“Our son was getting married and he wanted everyone to come back to the house for a barbecue. We were really lucky to get landscape designer Blair Robb [of Dig Landscape Design] because he had worked with our architect Nick Bevin several times before; and like Nick and Flint, they had a good rapport.

“Blair was totally in charge of the garden but I wanted a water feature - for good feng shui - as well as goldfish. I also asked for a bridge across to the entry and a red door, of course. I was thrilled when he said yes to everything.”

The home sits on the former driveway of Sacred Heart School at the top of Napier’s Bluff Hill. Nick says that the only flat part of the property is where the garden sits. The rest is a large slope cascading down into an untamed woodland area. Nick’s design cut into the top of the slope to allow two-levels of generous living space with expansive views to the west and easy access to the sheltered private garden enclosed at the east. “We tried to preserve as much flat outdoor area as possible, so we had to put the house as far over as we could.”

While the property offers magnificent northern views of the ocean, it is also exposed to strong winds, so creating structure to provide shelter around the planting was crucial. Blair drew the elevation plans and worked together with Flint to determine the heights of the walls, which translated into Flint’s final design.

The proportions were important, says Blair, “because everything had to withstand the swirling wind. Raised plaster garden areas, finished in Resene Double Black White to match the house soffits, highlight the plants at a level where you see them. It makes them shine a bit more. It’s nice to have those level changes rather than a flat platform. The solid structure in white gives interest and balance. Then, we softened it with landscaping.”

Some of the plants were specifically chosen to withstand the wind, such as the agaves, bonsai, giant bird of paradise and the unusual South African cabbage tree. Flint and Celia brought their own cycads from a previous garden and a number of other special plants were sourced from Auckland, including the monkey-no-climb tree (Ceiba speciosa).

“There is an emphasis on subtropicals – bromeliads and echeveria around the pond with a few low natives, like the tractor seat plant. Most of the colour is in the foliage rather than relying on flowers and the only structural colours are white and natural.”

However, a Scarlet O’Hara bougainvillea will eventually provide a dazzling display of crimson flowers along with star jasmine weaving through the Resene Double Black White slats of the pergola, designed to deflect the wind. To provide a warm natural contrast to the cool whites of the structural elements and the darker, more intense Resene Thunder Road of the house’s joinery, Flint stained the timber decking with Resene Woodsman Decking Oil Stain in Resene Heartwood.

On the western side of the house, a deck in the same stain extends from the living area and takes in the views. It’s protected by light sliding louvres in Resene Double Black White. Celia and Flint also decided to soften the solid concrete boundary with portions of slatted vertical cedar fence finished in Wood-X Traverse to marry into the texture of the cedar weatherboards that wrap around the south-eastern side of the house. To complement the solid block walls, natural stone pavers form a practical hard-wearing surface throughout the garden as pathways and under the pergola.

While there is a lot going on in this relatively small garden, the selection of calming natural colours and materials that blend with the interior and contrast with the greenery of the planting is a cohesive result. The combination reflects the shared passions of the owners, architect and landscape designer. “It was great having keen gardeners as clients who appreciate interesting plants,” says Blair.

“And,” says Nick, “it was refreshing to work with an owner who was also the builder because it informed our discussions during the design process as we explored pricing and options with a commitment to materials and strategies. It was such an enjoyable process.”

top tip The bright sun tends to make exterior colours look lighter, so make sure your exterior colours have enough contrast so that they don’t all look the same outside. Always test and view your colours outdoors first by painting a full Resene testpot in two coats onto a large piece of cardboard, leaving an unpainted border around the edge.

Published: 28 Aug 2019

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

exterior inspiration, garden inspiration, exterior design, exterior ideas, outdoor living ideas

Homeowners Flint and Celia’s backyard was the top priority during their renovation so that it could be picture perfect in time for their son’s wedding. They kept their palette neutral to allow the garden to stand out. The pergola is painted Resene Double Black White and the furniture is stained with Resene Woodsman Whitewash. A selection of subtropical plants cosy up to the timber decking, which has been stained with Resene Woodsman Decking Oil Stain in Resene Heartwood. In the background, you can see the original deck furniture colour. A similar look could be achieved with Resene Cedar wood stain.

exterior inspiration, exterior ideas, exterior design, stain ideas, resene stain, exterior paint

The view from the street shows off the unique topography of the lot. The cedar cladding and fence have been stained and protected with Wood-X Traverse, available from Resene ColorShops, the plaster walls have been painted Resene Double Black White and the soffits and fascia are coated in Resene Sonyx 101 waterborne semi-gloss in Resene Double Black White and Resene Thunder Road.

garden inspiration, backyard ideas, backyard design, garden design, backyard inspiration, resene

A bird’s eye view shows the artistic repetition of the rectangular forms that block out different areas of the backyard. The deck has been stained with Resene Woodsman Decking Oil Stain in Resene Heartwood and the pergola structure has been finished with Resene Double Black White.

garden inspiration, backyard inspiration, garden ideas, backyard ideas, pergola design, resene

Flint and Celia went with Resene Double Black White for the pergola, which, in a few years’ time, will support a canopy of greenery. They recently finished their outdoor furniture, which was originally rimu-toned wood, with Resene Woodsman Whitewash to brighten it up.

exterior inspiration, exterior ideas, backyard inspiration, backyard ideas, garden inspiration

Stone steps bridge the gap between the upper levels of the garden and the lower patio, which served as an extra area for guests to mingle during the Collinson’s son’s wedding. The home and pergola are finished in Resene Double Black White.

images Tim Whittaker

Square square colour information icon
Square square colour information icon

Resene Double Black White

register h icon  look book

Create your own mood boards of your favourite colours, photographs and information from habitat by resene.

Login or Register to get started!


register h icon  look book

Create your own mood boards of your favourite colours, photographs and information from habitat by resene.

Login or Register to get started!


the look

If you're stuck on what
colour to use or need colour
advice, try out the Resene
Ask a Colour Expert service.