The Wildest Requests Pro Landscapers Have Fielded
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The Wildest Requests Pro Landscapers Have Fielded

Moats, Trampolines and Crazy Pools, which have they actually pulled off.

By Erica Gerald Mason
Mon, Mar 29, 2021 1:40pmGrey Clock 3 min

Some of us might debate placing any sort of decoration in our yard. Will our neighbours find even a discreet tin deer statue pretentious? Other homeowners, however, freely pursue extravagant landscape ambitions limited only by their imaginations. Santa Barbara designer Margie Grace recalled designing and installing over 10 types of gardens on a three-acre site in five months. “A couple of months later they called,” she said, noting that she and the clients are still friends. “They wanted to put in a model (ride-on) train that ran ‘round the whole thing—and the adventure continued.” Here, a collection of the most fantastical outdoor-design directives professionals have ever confronted.

“A young family in Texas requested a moat and drawbridge around their country estate. It sounded like a lot of fun, but unfortunately logistically we just couldn’t make it work [within their time frame].” —Michelle Nussbaumer, interior designer, Dallas

“For a wraparound terrace on Fifth Avenue, a well-known fashion designer requested a trampoline for her boyfriend, who insisted it was safe, with no netting or railings on the edge. It was 16 stories up. The boyfriend never had an accident, but he wore out his welcome. We removed the trampoline and added planters with peach and apple trees.” —Janice Parker, landscape architect, New York

“Our client requested that we accommodate his refurbished World War II Sherman tank that was to be stored in a show garage neatly tucked into the hillside of their 62-acre site. The request was revoked when it was determined that their Belgian-block driveway would be destroyed and have to be repaved every time they took the tank out for a spin.” —Margie Lavender, architect, Ike Kligerman Barkley, N.Y.

‘We had to create some really intense engineering to stabilise the home while protecting the trees,’ said Miami architect Chad Oppenheim of ancient pines that geologists wanted to remove but the client loved.

Chad Oppenheim

“We were asked to create a miniature golf course and ice skating rink for a Connecticut client. During the warmer months, the kidney-shaped course featured buildings and monuments—the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty—to serve as golf holes, and in the cooler months [it was cleared and] chilled to be a skating rink.” —Chris Pollack, builder/developer, Greenwich, Conn.

“[A client] told me she had begun taking trapeze lessons and would like to install a trapeze above her pool inside a garden pavilion…She thought it would provide a unique way to exercise. A local stage-rigging company helped us attach a trapeze to the ceiling beams and equip it with a motorised lift. When finished, she would just drop into the swimming pool.”—Mark Lavender, interior designer, Chicago

“We designed an elaborate terrace with wall panels of rusted steel, a water feature, outdoor kitchen—you name it. The biggest challenge? Meticulously detailing and designing comfortable areas for the dog to go to the bathroom.” —Brianne Bishop, interior designer, Chicago

With help from Hess Landscape Architects and MAMO Architects—and carefully conceived hydraulics—Philadelphia interior designer Marguerite Rodgers satisfied an Avalon, N.J., homeowner’s desire for a backyard pool that could be covered with a sturdy surface on which to entertain.

Halkin | Mason Photography

“It was an exhaustive wish list—a white garden (“like the one at Sissinghurst Castle,” the client said), a theatre garden (“like Lotusland”), a parterre garden (“like Versailles”), a Zen garden, children’s garden, vineyard, herb garden, veggie garden, outdoor chess… And could we complete it in five months and have it look fully grown? Endless midnight design sessions and five months later, the gardens were complete.” —Margie Grace, landscape designer, Santa Barbara, Calif.

“A young family was looking for ways to incorporate a pool in their backyard, ideally without losing square footage for their children to play and space for them to entertain. They asked if there was technology like a hydraulic retractable floor that would cover the pool. With the right team, their goal was achieved, the first such pool in northeast America.”—Marguerite Rodgers, interior designer, Philadelphia

“A movie director’s property for his new Los Angeles home featured incredible, ancient pine trees, and his directive to us was ‘Do whatever it takes to preserve these trees.’ Problem was, the geologists wanted them removed to stabilise the cliff-side property. We had to create some really intense engineering, like tremendous caissons, to stabilise the home while protecting the trees. In the end, the window in one of the rooms basically frames these beautiful, old sacred trees.” —Chad Oppenheim, architect, Miami

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House values continued to fall last month, but the pace of decline has slowed, CoreLogic reports.

In signs that the RBA’s aggressive approach to monetary policy is making an impact, CoreLogic’s Home Value Index reveals national dwelling values fell -1.0 percent in November, marking the smallest monthly decline since June.

The drop represents a -7.0 percent decline – or about $53,400 –  since the peak value recorded in April 2022. Research director at CoreLogic, Tim Lawless, said the Sydney and Melbourne markets are leading the way, with the capital cities experiencing the most significant falls. But it’s not all bad news for homeowners.

“Three months ago, Sydney housing values were falling at the monthly rate of -2.3 percent,” he said. “That has now reduced by a full percentage point to a decline of -1.3 percent in November.  In July, Melbourne home values were down -1.5 percent over the month, with the monthly decline almost halving last month to -0.8%.”

The rate of decline has also slowed in the smaller capitals, he said.  

“Potentially we are seeing the initial uncertainty around buying in a higher interest rate environment wearing off, while persistently low advertised stock levels have likely contributed to this trend towards smaller value falls,” Mr Lawless said. “However, it’s fair to say housing risk remains skewed to the downside while interest rates are still rising and household balance sheets become more thinly stretched.” 

The RBA has raised the cash rate from 0.10 in April  to 2.85 in November. The board is due to meet again next week, with most experts still predicting a further increase in the cash rate of 25 basis points despite the fall in house values.

Mr Lawless said if interest rates continue to increase, there is potential for declines to ‘reaccelerate’.

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Statistics released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics this week also reveal a slowdown in the rate of inflation last month, as higher mortgage repayments and cost of living pressures bite into household budgets.

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