Dangar barin smith
Will is one of Australia’s pre-eminent landscape designers. With a career spanning 25 years and over 1000 gardens, William has designed and built some of the country’s most iconic residential landscapes. In addition to his design practice, he’s also creative director of Robert Plumb, a distinctive Australian design and
construction brand synonymous with quality craftsmanship.
With a background in horticulture William has developed a reputation for his refined design aesthetic, nononsense
manner, and highly creative approach to problem solving. His intense focus on quality materials, clear communication, robust construction, and elegant design solutions has laid the foundations and
establishes Dangar Barin Smith as one of Australia’s premier high-end landscape design practices.
Combining a house perfectly with its natural environment is the ultimate aim of clever landscaping, and this Sydney beachside garden is perfectly emblematic of this. Located along Sydney’s Coogee oceanfront, this project is evidence of a supreme understanding of site conditions and the procurement of unique planting to suit. As Will says, “This is a tremendous site with a clarity of architectural presence. My job was to massage the landscape around it.” The garden is structured in such a way that allows for a lush and tropical introduction which gradually transitions into an integrated, succulent-dominated landscape that may withstand the harsher
coastal conditions. The garden takes on a layered approach around the house and its infinity pool, marrying the architecture with a mix of aromatic Frangipani, Figs, Kentia Palms, Banksias and sweeping lawns. Along the lower portions of the garden, it’s evident how the material selection of the impressive large granite rocks, sourced from the distinctive boulder country around the Snowy Mountains, and recycled hardwood sleepers complement the rugged, exposed nature of the Coogee coastline. These elements help entice users out towards the sea and their placement make them seem sculptural in their own regard. Casuarina ‘Cousin It’ has been employed here to soften hardscape edges and provides a beautiful green carpet, where larger succulents like Aloe ‘Ferox’ and Aloe ‘Baby Bush Yellow’ are placed to add further elements of texture and interest to the eye. At its border, Will created a fence made of deadwood timber gathered from rural Walgett, concreting them into the boulders and stringing them together with gabion wire mesh. As he puts it, “There is a roughness and rawness to this part of the garden that is more about the connection to the sea and rocks beyond.” This garden has evolved into a work of art, and involved a close relationship with the client, architect and Will to see its realisation. The big items were placed first and then plantings were worked in and moulded around them, “The garden is chunky and raw and unpretentious – our ideas were very much aligned in this regard.”
Hunter Valley Garden
Creating established gardens in an instant is always a challenge: this came to pass with a garden in the Hunter Valley where Will was finally able to utilise 20 mature Crepe Myrtles that he had been nurturing since 2008. Set amongst the foothills of the Yengo National Park, this project incorporates a functional landscape approach which features established specimens meticulously placed to accentuate the wider landscape beyond. “The project in the Hunter Valley was park-like in its scope,” says Will, “much of the emphasis was in sculpting the landform itself to create a majestic setting with great views.” The landform around the new dwelling has been
banked up to create the effect of the house nestling into the hillside landscape. Initially the site was virtually treeless so these remarkable Crepe Myrtles were pivotal to the design intent. Other species including Chinese Weeping Elms, Queensland Bottle Trees, with their distinctive bulbous trunks, Moreton Bay Figs and Weeping Willows that looked as if they had been there for an age were cradled into the
softly undulating grassland. Will realised the importance of water and established two lakes at the Eastern end of the property, incorporating natural rock weirs which connected and filtered the two water bodies. Weeping Willows were implemented to sweep the edges of these lakes, allowing for soft textures and forming an enticing space for rest. At the Southern end of the house lies a stone wall covered with the bursting fragrance of Orange Jessamine, both elements providing a sense of arrival and direction toward other garden areas. Keeping in line with its functional nature, at the homestead’s rear lies a large timber pergola which houses a stone fireplace,
barbeque and dining area. Its framework is entwined with Wisteria and Orange Trumpet Vine, of which colours are contrasted with a backdrop of Eucalypt forest. Garden and house here are perfectly wedded: the lush rolling grass, mature trees and valley vistas make this environment appear completely symbiotic.
Will’s Mollymook project serves as a showcase to some more unique specimens on offer in Australia and abroad, resulting in a juxtaposed and luscious landscape in comparison to that of its native coastal scrub surrounds. Playing on contrasting tones and textures, the project’s scheme utilises planting to provide a sense of variation and interest, as seen in the street-front garden, but also applies appropriate planting at boundary points to help create a more seamless transition with the native bush character. This street-side landscape,
arguably the most striking feature of the design, features an array of mature specimens, namely Tree Aloes and Tuckeroos with a dense and varied understorey including King Sago Palms, Gymea Lilies and clumps of Star Jasmine and Chalk Sticks. A row of prized Kentia Palms can be seen jutting out from the dwelling’s woodwork, of which can be further appreciated internally along the timber lined hallways, featuring lush tropical pockets of Swiss Cheese Plant and Philodendron at their base. Scale has been employed in such a way that it marries the upper floors of the building with the wider garden, as well as fostering an immersive user experience as one may wander along its subtle pathways amongst the lush and varied planting applications that line their edges. Sliced hardwood log steppers lead to the rear garden where the living under croft and pool area lie. Here, the landscape takes on a more minimalistic approach to suit the program of the space, with Kentia Palms again carefully placed amongst the lawn and between the silvered New Guinea rosewood decking. A planting mix of exotic tropicals like Giant White Bird of Paradise and native coastals like Coast Banksia dominate the sites perimeter giving interesting contrast. Both architecture and landscape lend themselves to the astonishing ocean views, with hardwood sleepers in lawn and Native Violet directing views past the copper outdoor shower, between the natural coastal heathland and onto the golden sands of Mollymook.