Ask an expert: Phil Antcliff

Tuesday, 15 December, 2015

Ask an expert: Phil Antcliff

Pool+Spa editor Dannielle Furness spoke with Phil Antcliff, Landscape Designer and Director of Antscapes.

Pool+Spa: Tell us a bit about your background.

Phil Antcliff: I've been working in the landscape industry for the past 20 years, starting briefly in commercial and now working in residential landscaping. I have been running Antscapes, a residential design, construction and maintenance company, for 11 years. I studied at Ryde TAFE and have drawn experience and inspiration every day from my surroundings, places I've travelled and from industry peers.

P+S: How did you come to work in the poolscaping industry?

PA: I guess poolscaping is something that has developed over the years with the pool area being such a big part of the backyard lifestyle. As we designed more and more gardens around existing pools, we came to realise that the location of the pool and its surroundings are critical to the function of the outdoor area.

P+S: Gardens have become very much an extension of living space in a home. How have customer expectations changed in regard to this, and how do you ensure that there is a flow between these two spaces?

PA: The demand for outdoor living spaces to be incorporated with the internal living spaces has increased over recent years, with the clients wanting full use of the outdoor areas all year round — and the pool area is no exception. Clients have come to expect a seamless integration between indoor and outdoor. We achieve this by being consistent with materials that have been used in the house and try and use those or similar (outdoor-rated) materials in the landscape. This helps give the feeling that the whole job has been considered during the design process.

P+S: Is this even important, or can the two spaces work equally well as distinct, disconnected areas?

PA: This depends on the size of the block and the area that we have to work with. I believe there can be a difference when the two areas are separate, and sometimes this is dictated to us by the environmental condition, eg, the amount of direct sun or shade, etc; however, we still need to consider the style of the house, other materials used and how the garden areas are positioned.

P+S: Is there any pronounced difference in customer attitudes (with respect to design) during times of drought or extreme temperatures?

PA: From my experience in the residential market, the different attitude from customers during extreme weather patterns is shown in the plant selections. In Sydney, we need to plant for a range of weather conditions and have safeguards in place, such as irrigation systems for times of drought. We need to take into account the positioning of trees and shrubs so all plants can naturally withstand the change in seasons.

P+S: What are some of the value-add elements that can be incorporated into the design of a pool and surrounding areas without running the risk of overcapitalisation on a property?

PA: Recently, we have been designing gardens and pools for young families who want use of their pool area for both the kids and the adults. I think elements such as shade and seating really add value to a pool area without breaking the bank. As our summers start to get hotter, an open pergola that allows enough sun and shade through will make the pool environment more enjoyable for a longer period. If some functional lounge seating is also included, it means the kids can spend the best part of a day in the pool area, even if the adults don't.

P+S: How important is communication between all stakeholders in a poolscaping project? What are the pitfalls if everyone is not on the same page?

PA: Communication is essential. Designers, tradies and the client are all working together towards the same goal of producing the best result in the allocated amount of time. The road to a successful project may have a few bumps along the way, and in these times we can all work together to get past it or battle each other. The latter will result in a project that leaves everyone with a bad taste and will hurt future recommendations.

P+S: What has been the biggest change in the last 10 years with regard to design and building trends, as well as customer involvement/engagement?

PA: I have found that clients are aware of how they want to use their space; in particular, the flow from internal to external living areas. Most clients are open to the ideas we present to them, aided by a CAD program with 3D perspectives.

P+S: What do you see as the biggest challenge in the next 10 years, and what trends do you think will prevail?

PA: I think the biggest challenge over the next 10 years will be the continuous reduction of outdoor space. Houses are getting bigger, so we have to think outside the box to come up with new ideas that make the best use of the areas we are left to work with. A challenge that is always present with clients is having a realistic budget that will allow us to design and build their dream garden.

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