An inner city garden

When Jamie Durie created this urban courtyard for longtime friends, he made magic in a miniscule space by creating a water feature that was also a plunge pool and spa. Alex Brooks writes.

Jamie Durie Courtyard

When you walk through the front door of the smart inner city terrace that belongs to Anna and Tim Pope, the eye is instantly drawn out the back to the courtyard.

The rear wall makes a bold statement – three flute-style lights shine on a planting of stark yuccas and dark pebbles covered in a dainty moss, made even more dramatic by what looks like a cascading water feature.

The water feature is actually a plunge pool; a small and compact-looking box of deep water that doubles as a 10-seater spa when the weekend arrives and entertaining becomes a priority.

This tiny 55 square metre courtyard is more like an outdoor living room than a backyard – it has a dining area, an outdoor shower, planter boxes, bench seating, a barbecue, a wall-mounted outdoor heater as well as the very glamourous water feature, come plunge pool, come spa,.

The tall walls not only make the space private, but create a cradle that makes what could be a stark and minimalist area feel cosy and snug.

On the ground, stone paving is in-laid with a timber floor that looks as though it is a rug beneath the hardwood dining setting.

Anna enjoys the design-impact of the garden the most – “It hits you straight away. I love that it’s the first thing you see when you walk in the house,” she says.

The couple use the garden for outdoor dining, entertaining and relaxation.

“The plunge pool isn’t purely for aesthetics. We are in it all the time – after the gym, at weekends when we have friends over,” explains Tim, who had known Jamie for 10 years before getting him to design his garden.

“It gets quite hot in these tiny backyards of back-to-back terraces so the pool keeps everything cool. And in winter we heat it to 40 degrees so it’s always used.”

An outdoor shower is nearby – complete with hot water – to allow an easy wash-off after a dip.

Jamie admits it helped knowing his friends well to create this garden.

“I know how busy they are and how shocking they are at looking after their gardens,” Jamie says.

Jamie selected the bamboo and yuccas for their vertical architecture which saved space, and also because the Popes insisted they didn’t want to irrigate their garden or spend time watering.

“The house has everything that opens and shuts so when these two come home, they just want to press a button and make everything happen. And they don’t want to spend any time on maintenance.”

But Jamie could have been wrong about the Pope’s dedication to garden maintenance.

The original native violets that were planted beneath the yucca trees were ripped out when Anna deemed them too weed-like.

Jamie Durie Courtyard“The native violets were supposed to soften the look of the masculine yuccas,” Jamie explains.

“The violets were just not to my wife’s liking – she preferred the minimalism of the yuccas. Much to Jamie’s glee, though, some moss has started growing in its place,” laughs Tim.


  • Double up on function – this water feature is also a plunge pool.
  • Create an inlaid flooring design on the ground to separate functional spaces like dining areas from general seating areas.
  • Use small and compact lighting and heating that can be wall-mounted. Select a small and mobile barbecue.