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 The request was revoked when it was determined that their Belgian-block driveway would be destroyed and have to be repaved every time they took the tank out for a spin.”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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Expert tips for prospective buyers looking to purchase a home in 2024.

By Josh Bozin
Fri, Apr 12, 2024 3 min

For aspiring homeowners, be it a first-time buyer, downsizer, or investor, picturing your idea of homeownership bliss is the easy part. But before deliberating on furniture choices or scouting for that perfect neighbourhood coffee, understanding your purchasing power stands out as the most important step in ensuring your success in homeownership.

And with the Australian property market gaining momentum in 2024, there’s never been a better time to come to grips with your financial options.

In 2023, amid the changing financial landscape that saw rising interest rates and the cost of living skyrocket, among other factors, the total amount borrowed for property purchases across Australia was estimated at $300.9 billion, a 12.7 percent decrease from the previous year, according to PEXA’s latest Mortgage Insights Report.

Each mainland state also experienced a decline in new lending, according to the report, with Victoria and New South Wales seeing the biggest drops to $84.1 billion and $109.5 billion, respectively.

While this trend reflects the repercussions of such financial hardships on the everyday Australian, John Morello, director and auctioneer at Jellis Craig, said we’re seeing renewed confidence in the property market during the first quarter of 2024, particularly in Melbourne.

“Auction clearance rates have started the year strongly and consumer sentiment is rising. This lift is driven by cooling inflation and an improved outlook on interest rates. At Jellis Craig, as with the rest of the market, we are experiencing an increase in volume of property compared to the same period in March last year (up 28% in 2024),” Mr Morello said.

“Melbourne’s property market, in particular, is showing its ongoing evolution and resilience.”

PEXA’s report revealed that, while borrowing saw a decrease in 2023 in Australia, Australians still invested $613.0 billion in property purchases in 2023. In 2024, purchasing confidence is only going up, as prospective first home buyers, seasoned downsizers, and savvy investors look to capitalise on a flood of new property hitting the market, coupled with the lowering of interest rates across the board.

“With more certainty in the economic outlook, along with an increase in volume of property available, we are seeing these factors translate to early signs of a boost in confidence in both buyers and sellers,” said Mr Morello.

“Further encouraging data shows that whilst there is more property available to purchase, more people are inspecting property, again indicating that demand has increased broadly across our marketplace.”

If you’re in the market for a new property, the biggest question you must ask yourself is how much house can I afford?

A great starting place is to speak with your mortgage broker or financial professional, who can guide you on your lending options. This is critical, as you need to know what your future repayment options might look like, and ultimately, what you will typically be able to afford.

A useful tool for judging whether you can afford a specific property is to factor in the 28/36 rule — a rough guide that suggests you should not spend more than 28 percent of your gross monthly income on housing, and no more than 36 percent on all debts. Another useful tool is the idea of a debt-to-income ratio (DTI); a formula whereby an individual can divide all of their monthly debt payments by gross monthly income to arrive at a number that one can measure as a way of managing monthly mortgage payments.

Mr Morello emphasised the need to understand affordability and what’s feasible for each individual when looking to make a purchase, no matter the budget, on a property in 2024.

“It’s pivotal to work out what you can afford. Get your finances in order. Consider all associated costs with buying, and research what concessions and grants are available,” said Mr Morello.

“It’s easy for individuals to begin the process today. Start actively searching potential properties on a weekly basis, and research areas you are interested in. Check weekly sales results, attend inspections and auctions, to get a feel for the process. Just remember, it’s important to be really comfortable in understanding your living expenses, and what the ongoing expenses will be once you have bought a property.

“For example, mortgage repayments, council rates, water, power, owners corp fees, insurances, maintenance costs; if you are buying as an investment, the Land Tax payable on that property which is an ongoing tax. There’s many factors to consider.”

To see what’s possible for your specific circumstances, visit our Finance Portal for specific tools, guides and tips—as well as our own mortgage calculator—to assist you on your property journey.

 

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11 ACRES ROAD, KELLYVILLE, NSW

This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

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