Other people's gardens

Courtyard garden

All things being equal Sydney’s terrace house owners would surely prefer to go carless and use their precious outdoor space for gardens, but Sydney real estate realities put a dollar value on rear-lane access that prioritises the car. Is it possible for terrace house owners to hedge their bets and create a hybrid car space/garden that works well as both?

Outdoor Establishments MooCourtyard
Late last year Outdoor Establishments won the LNA Master Landscapers Association gold award for a residential project under $75 000 for a garden that does just that. The Moo Courtyard project is a renovation of a formerly derelict public housing terrace in Woolloomooloo. Trystan Graham’s clients were old school friends who formed a ‘boutique property rebirthing firm’ called A Gentlemen’s Agreement. Working with friends meant that the budget was something of a gentlemen’s agreement itself with Graham asked to make it as good as he could and spend as little as possible.

Given that rear lane access exists, the garden was always going to have to allow for a car. Graham chose grey marble flooring and a gal iron door. The door becomes a feature with the addition of a length of repurposed gutter acting as raised lintel, planted with red mandevilla and a tumbling curtain of Dichondra ‘Silver Falls’.


The marble is durable, car-tough and looks good as the floor of an outdoor lounge room. Providing privacy behind the lounges are perimeter plantings of the super-upright Manchurian pear, ‘Cleveland Select’ and the dense, eminently clip-able evergreen magnolia ‘Teddy Bear’. Both are underplanted with tough philodendron ‘Xanadu’, which is a popular choice in public spaces throughout the neighbourhood.

Outdoor Establishments MooCourtyard

The garden is below the level of the house, and the two areas are linked by an outdoor dining room and kitchen. This outdoor room is an integral part of the house as there is no dining room inside. The aesthetic is rustic industrial, but there’s a sophistication to the finish that takes it way beyond hipster DIY. Graham says that as much as possible materials taken out of the house were reused to avoid the double cost of carting rubbish, and buying new. So floorboards from the house were remilled as fence slats and given a decorative polish, rescued bricks form raised garden beds, and timbers ripped out of an interior wall make a simple decorative screen.

Outdoor Establishments MooCourtyard

The new owners love it, use the outdoor dining room year-round and find the space is perfect for entertaining. So they are ambivalent about having to leave it behind to take up a work offer overseas. They have listed the property on Air B n B, so terrace owners tossing around the car versus garden question have an opportunity to take a closer look.


Photo credit: Natalie Hunfalvay


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