Secret garden: A creative poolscape design transforms an unassuming suburban site

Rogan Nash unveils a Western Springs project stitched together by a swimming pool, a pergola, references to Palm Springs, and morse code detailing that reads ‘secret garden’.

Resplendent white timbers combined with luscious planting (designed by Babylon Gardens) create a backdrop that is both refreshing and cohesive for this project. Laser cut-outs of dots and dashes on the pergola offer a secret design code, light variation, and a touch of fun.

The clients for this Western Springs project are deeply embedded in the creative industries — one in the art gallery world, the other in film — and, as Kate Rogan of Rogan Nash explains, “They are very interested in, and have a fabulous eye for, detail.”

So, when the couple, who had been living in the house for more than 20 years, wanted to refresh the front garden, clearly define a pedestrian access from the street, add a garage and a swimming pool, and rethink the porch, while ensuring all those elements had a congruent relationship between them, the details proved to be crucial.

“We wanted the project to be called ‘The Secret Garden’,” says Rogan — as a reference to both the 1911 Frances Hodgson Burnett novel and the secluded nature of this little oasis deep within a city fringe site.

“We introduced a garage on the left-hand side, and then straight from there a connection to the front door of the house,” says Rogan. “We’ve introduced a new access path, and on the right-hand side is a new swimming pool and an outdoor area. All those were set a little bit back from the street to [allow for] some planting and enhance that relationship with, and soften, the paving.”

A pair of CLICK Sunloungers beside the pool. Layering of plants, and geometries of walls, colourations, and materials are all at play here.

To complement the existing secret-garden mood of greenery and seclusion, while also creating a visual connection to the bungalow, the designers instigated touches influenced by California’s Palm Springs: light-coloured timbers on white backgrounds, simple horizontal lines and basic geometries, crazy paving, and proportions that hint at the iconic United States architectural region. The result, according to the architects, “really rang true for the clients and their aesthetic”.

Continuing in the mid-century vein, the porch was reconfigured to become a multi-purpose room that could be a bedroom when needed, a pool bar at the height of summer, and, aesthetically, a perfect transition between the old structure and the new. 

The architects began playing with the idea of dots and dashes, the simplicity of a recurring decorative motif that could be used throughout as a way to seek connection within the courtyard/porch/garage flow. They tried this motif as laser cutouts on the roof of a pergola, to bring in a dappled-light effect.

The existing bungalow’s horizontal linearity and white timber joinery provided some of the design language for this Rogan Nash landscape.

“It gave us lovely shadows and lovely play with light. Then we started thinking of it as a literal code, like a moment of secret design or a double play, and we turned it into morse code,” said Rogan. “We wrote the words ‘secret garden’ in code — which you might not recognise until it is pointed out; it is subtle but it works!”

Add to this a combination of green-toned tiles in the swimming pool and the result is truly lush, nearly tropical but with a refreshing and highly inviting vibe.

The soft landscape design by Babylon Gardens, combined with the proportioned and minimalist Palm Springs mood, manages a subtle design, one that ensures that no aspect of this space is too dominant.

Architecture: Rogan Nash Architects
Landscape Design:
Babylon Gardens
 Federico Monsalve
Images: Simon Wilson

Latest video features

In the Coromandel, a home with a humble profile and a thoughtful design makes the most of a stunning location.

Built with awe-inspiring attention to detail, this Arrowtown home is a fresh interpretation of a familiar Otago rural vernacular.

This sculptural Northland bach is a perfect north arrow on a remote farm high above the sea.

With the sun on its bow and the community at its stern, this is a house in which the elements are always front of mind.

Trending articles

Design News

Reframed classics

Consisting of a series of interconnected rooms, the Knoll pavilion at the Milan Furniture Fair was designed by Belgian architecture practice OFFICE, and conceived as


Emotive subtlety

Polished plaster has a certain character that’s hard to look past, especially when it comes to feature applications. In this case, Ambitec’s Suave Polished Plaster


Beautiful rhythm

A restricted material palette, a modernist soul that is part Californian, and a touch of Japanese — all combine to form an entirely picture-perfect Waiheke