Multi-award winning Landscape Designer and Managing Director of Rolling Stone Landscapes, Dean Herald, speaks about his success in the industry and offers insight into the design process through a waterfront garden renovation in Sydney’s south-east. 

Set on the banks of the Georges River near Sydney’s Botany Bay, this Sans Souci property, with stunning water views, represents the ideal in Sydney living. The house sits at the top of the block—taking advantage of the elevated posi-tion—with a commanding view of the landscaped gardens below, leading the eye gracefully down to the boat ramp and water beyond.

Dean worked with the levels on the property and devised a three-tiered design that includes an outdoor living area, pool area and a lawn. Looking down from the elevated balconies of the house, the effect is striking. The curves that Dean has cleverly introduced into the design are all accentuated when viewed from above. A large Dragons Blood Tree (Dracaena draco) was craned in as a feature, and two existing frangipanis were left to help the contemporary architec-ture ease down into the natural environment. “We actually built the job around two existing frangipanis because I think they are such great assets and they just happened to work,” said Dean. “The backyard was a 60’s or 70’s garden layout which hadn’t been touched, completely overgrown, there was a small kidney shaped pool right down the bot-tom near the water.”

Whilst Dean is humble about his work, his smart design successfully harmonises architecture and landscape. “We start-ed to develop the idea of having the pavilion almost half hang off the cliff, creating a little grotto underneath, so when you are in the pool area you can retreat under the suspended roof from the pavilion above.”

Take us through the design process for the Sans Souci garden renovation.

There are normally three voices when you go on to any job. The client’s voice—they have a wish list—the architecture has a voice, and the environment has a voice. If you get those three things right you’ve normally got a fairly successful project. So the architecture here was a clean lined, contemporary, waterfront home. The idea then was to follow on with those elements—have some rendered walls and some really clean features.

So you have to look at the situation, it’s a very beautiful location on the water, but often with these big steep blocks the elements are quite disjointed.

So I look at the wish list—I’ve got a family that wants a pool, they want to entertain, they’ve got young kids which they have to keep an eye on—then look at the space and think where does everything belong here and try to make that work as seamlessly as possible. It’s about giving everything a priority as to where it should sit. Once you’ve established where everything belongs then it’s time to start really being creative.

A lot of retaining was required because the block gets steep fairly quickly, so we needed a steep set of stairs to transition from the house down to the next level before meandering through the garden. The job had a lot of inclusions and I’m really happy with all the layers and different spaces. They all have a separate purpose yet connect so well together at the same time.

Can you explain the reasoning behind the interesting use of shapes in this design?

From any house with an elevated position, the backyard will be viewed like a drawing. They really get to enjoy those shapes so there’s an opportunity to introduce these beautiful radi-us based shapes into the garden, particularly in that lower lawn area. There were some odd angles in that lower area, the sea wall was at a funny angle. Whenever that happens you have two choices—you can either follow it or break it, and the better way to break it is to put a circle in the middle of it. When you do that the angles fade away.

Having the circular lawn allowed me to use a big lazy curve on the wet edge of the pool which I followed up with an additional radius that overlayed the paved area. There are about four beautiful curves that overlay each other. But next to the house we kept every-thing square—the pavilion’s square, the lawn’s square the retaining walls are square. It’s really quite structural and masculine at the top and it softens up as you make your way to the water.

You have been awarded the highest accolades in the landscape design industry. How did you achieve your success?

I started Rolling Stone Landscapes at the age of 19 and was able to set myself apart with a natural ability to draw. Twenty-five years ago the idea of landscape design is certainly not what it is today, it was only the privileged few who used to get a landscape designer in back then. I was a pretty shy kid, but when you talk about something that you are passion-ate about, that shyness disappears pretty quickly. I would try to under promise and over de-liver with a sketch.  It’s also the implementation—putting together a talented team of sup-pliers and contractors, and reassuring the client that it’s all heading in the right direction.



Dean Herald
Multi-award winning Landscape Designer and Managing Director of Rolling Stone Landscapes.