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External Feature Walls

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Updated: December 18, 2018

Just like their internal counterparts, external feature walls can create a true sense of style and distinction.

A feature wall can help break up a big space to create a cosy nook, frame a large backyard or draw the eye to other interesting aspects of a landscape. It can also be used effectively to anchor your garden design around a specific theme.

Outdoor feature walls should both complement and contrast with other walls outdoors.

To create a sense of continuity and flow between the exterior and interior designs, ry using the same materials, textures or colours used on any internal feature walls and floors. If no features exist, you’re only limited by your imagination and the client’s budget.

Depending on the look you want to achieve or what is already in-situ, consider which finish will work best for your feature wall – from urban raw concrete and horizontal timber slats to a green wall, textured wall tiles, corrugated steel, brick, Hebel or simple paintwork.

Painting is a very cost-effective way to create your feature wall. Choose the colour based on the effect you want to achieve. Australia’s climate is both harsh and diverse, so it’s generally preferable to use lighter colours or reflective finishes to reduce heat absorption. For instance, a warm yellow gives a space a Mediterranean feel.

TIP: For small areas it helps to create the illusion of space, for example mirrors can do wonders.

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Try dressing up a wall with a designer screen in metal or heavy-duty plastic, which are available in a myriad of designs from major hardware chains. Simply attach it to an existing wall or set posts in position and create a feature wall to shield the household garbage or car parking.

Let’s say your customers live in an apartment or townhouse and want to add more plants to their home: think about installing a green wall feature. Living walls come in all types of designs and many are sold as complete packages, ready for installation using the plants of your choice. If the green wall effect has to happen where it’s unlikely plants will thrive, think about using artificial plants, which require next to no maintenance and always look good. Remember though, like artificial turf, you get what you pay for!

TIP: For large or multiple green walls give serious consideration to subcontracting out this mini project to a specialist company. Save your team for other jobs that they do better and protect your financial bottom line.

Inset an outdoor fireplace in a wall of the entertainment area and surround it with wood to ceiling height. Playing on its fireplace setting, you can create a dramatic outdoor feature wall. As an added bonus, your clients `won’t have to go far for firewood.

Turn one bland wall into a feature wall with a functional spot for seating and shelter. Built-in seating is practical and can double as storage. It can also be used to visually section off different areas. Adding a roof means your owners can enjoy the fresh air whether it’s sunny or raining.

More recently, the humble retaining wall has often been turned into a feature wall of a type, using the Gabion technique. That is, a selection of rocks of different sizes encased in open weave galvanised metal cages. It is an ideal way to retain the ground and add usable space whilst achieving good drainage with an industrial look. However, construction is labour intensive because you select both big and smaller rocks and insert them in place according to the height and width of your wall.

Horizontal timber slats are a contemporary alternative to standard timber paling fences. They’re a great way to inject natural elements into an urban setting and a simple way to warm up a concrete or rendered space and again section off unsightly areas like garbage storage.

Distressed Oregon timber panels are great if you are going to renovate an undercover entertaining area. One such example is to use whitewashed timber, which lightens the wood while the distressed technique allows the natural grain to show through. Ideal for beachy, country or industrial design.

Northern Rivers Recycled Timber’s reclaimed Oregon boards come predominantly from milled down ceiling trusses, floor joists and posts and beams. It slices them up, wire brushes them and attaches them to a ply backing board for easy installation. They are soft, light and display a wide variety of timber grain. Supplied in planks pre-attached and offset to charcoal painted backing (http://www.northernriverstimber. com.au/wall-panel-range.html)..

TIP: Straight lines make the most of a garden’s minimalist aesthetic and play up to its symmetry.

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One idea that many landscape designers are incorporating in their external areas is using timber-look tiles for feature walls. Timber cladding is so popular at the moment, but it can be quite painful to look after over the years. Timber-look tiles in feature walls help create an ambiance of warmth with timber, without the hassle and maintenance headaches of the real thing. The Tile Wizards in Queensland, NSW and SA are very supportive of our landscape industry (www.tilewizards.com.au/ exterior-feature-wall-tile)

The design results using timber for a feature wall are endless depending on the look you want to achieve. It might be a geometric pattern to achieve an art deco feel to an otherwise modern space. With a barn-like feel, rustic-style timber gives any space an instant lived-in feel. Timber from old fence palings is also cheap to source and easy to install, making this a highly economical option.

Inset an outdoor fireplace in a wall of the entertainment area and surround it with wood to ceiling height. Playing on its fireplace setting, you can create an outdoor feature wall, which is dramatic.

As an added bonus, your clients won’t have to go far for firewood.

Polishing and lacquering wood adds warmth and a slightly elegant feel and curved timber walls are breath taking. The ultimate combination of form and function, this might be the most interesting way to use timber cladding.

Stacked stones are widely used to decorate walls, fireplaces, pillars and water features. Built from natural stones, stacked stone cladding comes in various shades ranging from red and brown to grey, adding a warm ambiance to the space. This design element is being increasingly used near the entry door to homes. Stone tiles are generally one of the more expensive options, but if you opt for tiles that are a maximum of 20mm thick, you can easily attach them to external brick, Besser or concrete walls. Simply stack and stagger the natural stone panels and they’ll adhere to each other like tiles. They are actually stone veneers so there is not the weight factor of solid stone. This innovative product can be delivered to NSW, VIC, SA, TAS from Norstone’s warehouse in Sydney. QLD and NT are served from its distributor in Brisbane (www.norstone.com.au/feature-walls-with-norstone-veneer-wall-cladding).

With a variety of colour and texture available, bricks are also a versatile material to use for a feature wall and the natural variation in brick can add a one-of-a-kind look. Brick is weatherproof, low maintenance and will last a lifetime.

Corrugated steel is an ever-popular cladding option for contemporary homes. It is composed of sheets of hot-dipped galvanised mild steel, cold-rolled to produce a linear corrugated pattern. It’s versatile, lightweight, weatherproof, fireproof and available in a range of colours. It’s quick and easy to install despite being a non-renewable resource. Steel is also 100 per cent recyclable, making it a smart choice for anyone building sustainable homes on a budget or wanting the industrial look to their landscape.

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Hebel is a lightweight, precast, foam concrete building material that simultaneously provides structure, insulation, fire and mould resistance. Products include blocks, wall and cladding panels. One of its advantages in construction is its quick and easy installation because the material can be routed, sanded or cut to size on site using standard carbon steel power tools. Transport costs of large loads are low because of its light weight.

Hebel can be coated with stucco, plaster compound or cement rendered to guard against the elements or covered with brick or vinyl.

TIP: To really shine a spotlight on your new feature walls, install external lights to create the perfect frame for your customers’ features at all hours. Lights do wonders for texture and dimension. Let the light wash down and create a stunning look.

The next time your customers are looking for bright ideas to add a comfort zone with ambience, utilise wasted space or dress up dull spots, you can offer to transform their outdoor living area without breaking the bank, with little disturbance to their household by adding exceptional feature walls.