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PATH Design Studio

The Designer Outdoors

With David TC Yang from PATH Design Studio

Rolling lockdowns and years of pandemic insecurity have seen many of us spend more time at home than ever before. Unsurprisingly, this has caused a surge in homeowners updating and revamping their properties. From renovating the bathroom to redecorating the bedroom, comfort and liveability are now priorities when it comes to our homes. This also applies to our outdoor areas, as people transform their regular gardens into aesthetically functional outdoor spaces. Here, Melbourne Pool + Outdoor Design writer Penny Robinson chats with PATH Design Studio’s esteemed Creative Director, David Yang, about all things landscape design and the many ways homeowners can make the most of their outdoors.



Have you ever walked past a manicured garden and wondered how many YouTube videos you would need to watch to create something similar in your backyard? Do you have daydreams of cooking a summer feast for your family outside or entertaining friends around a firepit? Do you worry you don’t have the right sized space, or simply have no idea where to start? Reader, I’ll let you in on a secret: you don’t need a practised green thumb or a brain for construction to achieve your very own garden of Eden at home – you just need a skilled landscape designer up your sleeve. Thankfully, PATH Design Studio’s David Yang has offered his expert advice to help you on your design journey and jumpstart your landscaping dreams.

PR: How can a landscape designer help homeowners maximise the utility and appearance of their outdoor space?

DY: Gardens should be an extension of your living space; a seamless indoor-to-outdoor enjoyment for you and your family in all weather conditions. Having a landscape designer to help you plan your garden is the same as hiring an interior designer to plan your indoor space. An outdoor area can be anything you dream it to be: a tranquil water wall feature, a cosy breakfast nook, a pizza dome, or an entertainment pavilion complete with plunge spa. The ideas are endless but, no matter what, it all takes planning. This is where we can help!

What is the typical design and construction process from start to finish?

Depending on what the client is dreaming, PATH Design Studio tailors each landscape design to the individual needs of the client. Our process at PATH is straightforward and made easy for our clients. Initial consultations are always done by me, so I can get a comprehensive brief and, once it’s all approved, we move on to the fun stuff. The landscape design concept is the realisation of a client’s brief in colour: it is beautiful, with plant species noted, and you get a real sense of what the space can be.

Design development is the next stage and can include refining the design, adding lighting, irrigation, planting quantities and construction methods for approval. The final stage of drawings is contract documentation, or working drawings, where any necessary permits are obtained prior to putting the shovel in the ground. Finally, a skilled landscape construction crew – including carpenters, concreters, bricklayers, steel smiths, master pavers, pool builders and more – will bring in the premium quality materials and lush robust plantings to complete the vision.

PATH Design Studio

What should homeowners keep in mind when considering how to balance a pool and landscaping?

Pools are gorgeous additions to any garden and, depending on the desired effect, can be incorporated seamlessly into any landscape. A couple of things to bear in mind are the frequency of use, the purpose of the pool – whether it is for laps, exercise, spas and plunging or for the kids – and finally the land conditions. Even if your landscape is extremely sloped, there are loads of nifty landscaping tricks that can be achieved with pools, such as infinity edges that drop into a pond of pebbles.

What are some common mistakes homeowners make when attempting to design their own outdoor space, without the help of a landscape architect?

One of the most common is impracticable aesthetics like creating a vegetable or herb garden at the wrong height and reach for harvesting and replanting. Another is choosing the incorrect plant species for the position, such as popping an ornamental shrub under a row of feature trees without realising the shrub’s mature height is 1.5 metres and it’s going to kiss the bottom of the tree soon. Lastly, chopping down a big tree or constructing without the correct permits.

Have you seen a surge in popularity for residential landscape design/landscape architecture in the last two years?

Absolutely. Especially with people spending more time at home, there has been a great shift in homeowners seeking highly refined, customised and functional landscapes. The old hills hoist clothesline in the middle of a bare grass garden is no longer a standard like back in the ‘80s (thank goodness). Clients now want spaces for entertaining the family, lush greenery, water walls and feature pools.

PATH Design Studio

In your opinion, what makes the perfect alfresco entertainment area?

Personally, as a family man, my perfect alfresco entertaining space needs durable flooring, outdoor cabinetry for storage, a ceiling fan for those hot days, inbuilt cooktops and sinks, and a large dining area for all those family meals in summer.

What factors do you consider when selecting materials for an outdoor space?

Outdoor materials are quite different from indoor materials. They need to be more durable to cope with fluctuating temperatures and harsh sun, and traversable surfaces need to comply with the Australian standard slip resistance rating. Also consider the formatting, size, colour, texture and quality before utilising a certain material.

How often do your projects take sustainability and environmental impact into consideration?

Sustainability and the environment are always taken into consideration when we design a new project and our methods have been improving with better standards over the years. On average we add around 10,000 mostly indigenous plants back to the local environment every year, which helps offset carbon. The introduction of rain gardens, native gardens and rainwater catchments is becoming more common practice as well.

How do you ensure a client’s brief and desires are met from idea to project completion? For example, is there a lot of consultation and collaboration with the client?

Absolutely! We devote a lot of time to the developing of a design with a client to really lock in the elements they are after so when it comes to tools everyone is on the same page. Literally, we are all looking at the same signed-off plans! During construction, we metaphorically put on the client’s shoes and walk around the site together to ensure the finishes are coming to fruition. At the conclusion of a build, the resulting garden will be everything previously collaborated and agreed upon with the client.

PATH Design Studio

As many metropolitan properties are limited for space, what are some simple tricks for urban homeowners wanting a beautifully designed outdoor space?

Limited space is a great area for ingenuity to shine in multifunctional small goods, vertical green spaces, and multifaced hard elements. Imagine a beautiful two-by-three-metre terrace that houses a vertical vegetable and herb garden above an outdoor firewood heater unit that doubles as a BBQ grill that has storage for utilities and kitchen below. There is a feature small tree in a raised planter that doubles as bench seating with a modular table. A gorgeous functional capsule oasis.

Are there any particularly unique or creative landscaping projects you’ve worked on?

Our wonderful team designed and worked on a particularly challenging garden in Lysterfield and the final landscape was spectacular. The site was a corner property; bushy, steep and mostly just mulched with a 2.3-metre-high slope between the street level and front entry doors. There was no other garden space other than this steep area facing the street, so we needed to design privacy pockets, entryways, and an edible planting aspect into the concept. We used large natural boulders, stone steps, stone pathways, and a landing halfway up the slope that doubled as a private pocket courtyard. The boulders in the private courtyard worked as bench seating with lush plants cascading over the edges. Japanese seedless mandarin trees and herbs were spotted throughout the design. Feature trees planted in rounded Corten steel planters retained the soil while lining up with windows and doors for additional privacy. Up-lighting throughout the frontage added dimension, additional safety and a touch of magic to the garden at night. The result was a functional, lush and private space.