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Design Review: Volume 4, Issue 4 (August-September 1952)

Sunrooms and a Garden

page 82

Sunrooms and a Garden

Black and white photograph of house interior, designed by E. A.Ernst Anton Plischke and Anna Plischke

This is a large and elegant house near Wellington, with a fine view towards south and south-east. After a few months of living in it the new owners of the house were considering selling it because it had become apparent that the first owner had preferred view to sun and that no mid-day or afternoon sun could penetrate either the living, dining or bedrooms through the 11 in. thick almost windowless brick walls.

In the end, however, the new owners decided on another course: Part of the first floor of the house was taken down. The house was opened towards the sun by big openings, the floor above being supported by new concrete beams. New living room, bedroom, bathroom, sunroom and sundeck were built. The new part of the house is quite independent of the neo-Georgian style of the old part. It is built in timber to achieve the utmost lightness in structure. Excepting posts and bracing, the outside walls of the new part are glass. Soundproof folding walls between living and sunroom provide flexibility for social occasions.

A sliding door 9 ft. wide and 9 ft. high and glass walls down to the floor help to diminish the distinction between indoor and outdoor living. page 83 Previously this part of the garden served as a drive to the main entrance; the rest of it was a high hill formed by the spoil from the excavation of the house when it was built. A few big pines and other trees were growing haphazardly on it. The previous owner was not interested in this part, and spent his time on the rest of the garden. In re-making the garden two possibilities offered themselves: one was the normal course of making a neat and formal approach to an elegant house, with lots of lawn, etc.

But, on the other hand, since one of the owners is a keen gardener and quite prepared to take some trouble, and since this is the sunny part of the garden and is just in front of the new rooms, it seemed worth while laying out a garden directly related to the new part of the house. The area is not big, but it is completely filled with flowering plants and flowering shrubs which make an agreeable show all the year round. The drive has been reduced to a minimum, and by paying part of it has been linked up with the other garden terraces.

A lay-out and grouping of the garden around the house into different courtyards and terraces gives shelter and sun space for outdoor living even in the winds of Wellington. The sunroom forms the core of the layout, and its proportions are related and interlocked with the courtyard, the steps and terraces. The character and feeling of the new rooms also penetrates to the other rooms which have not been altered; for instance, the bedroom shown in the photo. The new sundeck enables the owners to walk out into the open and enjoy morning sun and view without having to go downstairs.

And now about the garden itself: One often asks why people like gardening—a difficult question to give a general answer to, because the replies are so many and various. There are, of course, very many reasons; for my own part, I like a garden to look well in the end—the goal draws one on. But there is more to it than that; I like the various kinds and varieties of plants individually. I like to handle them, Black and white photograph of house exterior, designed by E. A.Ernst Anton Plischke and Anna Plischke Black and white photograph of house interior, designed by E. A.Ernst Anton Plischke and Anna Plischke page 84

Black and white line drawing of house floorplan, designed by E. A.Ernst Anton Plischke and Anna Plischkepage 85 to plant them to their best advantage, to multiply them, even to weed them; in short, to be in their company as much as possible. The garden shown on these pages tries to give an opportunity for that kind of appreciation. It brings the plants near to the rooms, which is where I would always wish to have them.

As one steps out of the big sliding door, one finds one step running all along the whole wall. It is the right height to sit on in the sun and contemplate the garden. The courtyard is payed partly with old mellow bricks and partly with large concrete slabs. Colour has been added to the concrete and the slabs are a kind of burnished pink, which makes them less hard-looking. In party weather people can easily spread out into the open. Between the slabs in several places, various kinds of moss-like plants have been planted.

The courtyard is enclosed on two sides by dry walls about 2 ft. high, and planted with rock plants. On top of the walls are all the various spring bulbs planted in groups. In front the smaller ones like freesias and petticoat daffodils and so on; a bit further back groups of hyacinths, tulips, Spanish, Dutch and English irises, anemones and ranunculus in big groups—in short, everything that flowers in the spring. Further to the left there are shrubs like camellias, azaleas, ericas and many others. (On top of the dry wall, parallel with the sliding door, the space behind the bulbs is planted with rose bushes and behind with delphiniums and regal lilies.)

On the right-hand side there are five very wide and deep steps, leading past the rose terrace and a second higher terrace to a sunken lawn. On the right these steps are bordered by a steep clay bank, on top of which grow some native trees. Into the clay bank we made holes with a chisel and stuck pieces of succulents with a bit of good soil underneath, into them—not an orthodox way of doing things, perhaps, but it works. All in all, the owners say the garden is as easy and pleasant to work in as they find it to look at.