Private sanctuary

A private sanctuary encompassing an award-winning garden provides a secluded haven from the bustle of the inner city.

It can be a challenge to create a lush sanctuary from a concrete jungle, but this award-winning garden designed by Adam Robinson Design shows it’s possible.

Called Sanctuary House, the home was an extensive renovation in Sydney’s Paddington and the garden was the last piece of the puzzle. The client’s brief was to ground the large home and walls into the property with a feeling of being submerged in a retreat a private sanctuary – with a sense of canopy and full of lush greenery. Additionally, because the client lives between Brisbane and Sydney, all green areas required irrigation with a lock-and-leave solution.

The project was a collaboration with Jason Gibney Workshop, ARD and Ivory Gardens, and the result is a Mediterranean respite in the heart of the inner east. The design was recognised at the 2022 Landscape Excellence Awards and Adam Robinson Design was honoured with the Husqvarna Landscaper Of The Year award for Residential Design.

Softening the hardscaped areas

As part of the brief, hardscaped areas were to be blurred and counterbalanced with planting. The client wanted the area above the garage to be enticing to use and interesting to look down onto. The balconies were to be dressed, with the kitchen balcony planted with edibles for practicality.

Adam Robinson said the biggest site constraint was all areas were concreted already, which made the client’s wish for a green retreat quite challenging. Plant placement was crucial to the overall design, while the existing concrete meant everything had to be carefully planned.

“The towering boundary walls required the concrete slab to act as the footings to the existing walls,” he explained. “We worked with the engineer and builders to puncture two large holes to allow the two Kentia Palm root balls to be craned into these holes next to the pool.

“We then punctured a series of 100mm core holes throughout this area to plant mini mondo grass and allow this area to drain into ag lines created underneath. All services from the house to the garage and pool ran under this concrete and needed to be avoided!

“It was challenging, but the outcome is really great.”

Towering boundary walls required the concrete slab to act as the footings to the existing walls.

Incorporating the pool

The private sanctuary design extended to the pool area, with Adam’s team working to add greenery to the space as well as create a relaxing spot for the family.

“It was important to the client to have greenery around the pool and a pool breakout area, even though it’s a tight space,” explained Adam. “The outdoor shower is a nod to the retreat vibes they wanted. The steppers add green and make the area more functional. Two sunlounges allow for a pool break-out area, while the oversized pot dresses the space and adds further greenery.

“On the other side of the pool, we created raised garden beds from structural steel against the existing wall. More core holes were punctured into the concrete to allow the drainage water to get taken away by further ag lines.”

The structural steel boxes contain advanced Dwarf Date Palms and other planting to give the area scale and provide instant filtered shade. Paving choices Adam chose Viscount White granite paving from CDK Stone on the concrete slab throughout the space, including the pool surrounds and steppers. A grout was chosen to blend into the natural colours of the stone.

The steps were poured and paved in granite, with mitred details in the risers fabricated to allow the garden bed to be installed next to the steps. Lomandra was planted throughout the area to blur the lines between the hard and soft elements.

A tallowwood deck was included, which was oiled with a natural oil.

The design extended to the pool area, adding greenery to the space as well as creating a relaxing spot for the family.

About the awards

The Landscape Association’s (TLA) annual Landscape Excellence Awards are the highest accolades in the industry and celebrate the pinnacle of achievement in landscape construction, design and maintenance. The 2023 Awards will be announced at the Gala Dinner, the industry night of nights on Friday, November 3, in Pyrmont, Sydney.

Visit the TLA website to purchase tickets or learn more about the awards.

About The Landscape Association

The Landscape Association (TLA) is the peak industry body for landscaping in NSW and the ACT. TLA members enjoy a wide range of events, resources, information, services, and advice to assist landscapers to run their business and stay ahead of industry trends.

Learn more about TLA at

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