Alastair MacGregor is a Landscape Designer based in Perth, Western Australia, with a business called Urban Journey. Alastair and I connected via Instagram initially, and a mutual love of great-design-that-makes-your-life-better has kept us connected. When a member of the UA Community asked questions on how to get it right with landscape design, Alastair was generous enough to provide the answers. Keep reading …
Tell us a bit about Urban Journey, and how it came into being?
I’ve always been fascinated by design across all disciplines – Architecture, Landscape, Furniture, Interior, Industrial and Graphic and it took me quite a while to listen to my intuition and turn this passion into a career.
I let the usual fear based reasons get in the way of achieving this, until life served me up some perspective in the way of losing my mum to cancer back in 2009.
That became the catalyst to sell my home and start the process of exploring my own business which became Urban Journey. The name itself for me is reminiscent of my travels and discoveries of places where I feel inspired and alive. It’s about engaging with and celebrating the many stories out there that add interest to the world, and bringing that into your own daily living.
What do you love about landscape design?
There’s so much to love but seeing people engaging with well-designed outdoor spaces is a treat.
This gets said a lot but we are definitely becoming busier and trying to do more things, so the art of creating a space in people’s lives (whether public or private) that truly connects with what makes them calm, relaxed and ultimately happier is my biggest driver.
I’m passionate about creating spaces where people feel they can take on the world and achieve their greatest passions. Think of how you feel when you’re on holiday in a beautifully curated space. This is when you’re dreams seem a lot closer to the surface – then typically we arrive back home and it tends to slowly evaporate.
What are your main philosophies or aims in landscape design?
I love the Japanese aesthetic philosophy of Wabi Sabi or ‘Beauty in imperfection’ (Your can read more about Wabi Sabi here).
I much prefer the use of organic, lively materials rather than highly polished, reflective surfaces. I see all the time the anxiety that immaculate living creates. Surely life is more than polishing and cleaning things to keep them in this artificial state all the time.
Is landscape design dependent on location? Should we be doing different things in different locations around Australia?
Totally! This is what good design is about.
Each person, situation and location requires a bespoke solution to deal with the things that make that place unique. This doesn’t mean an entire overhaul of every element each time but some materials are more at home in certain locations than others. It’s about authenticity.
Planting is also highly dependent on location – that is geographical at a major level and also within the smaller scale of the space itself. Levels of light, wind, salt air and water are very different from space to space, suburb to suburb and state to state.
I’m sure there are some people out there offering “out of the box” type solutions who believe that this difference isn’t important but ultimately, this dumbing down and homogenising of design is not what’s going to create lively, happy populations.
Landscape is usually the first thing to be cut from the budget, or where savings are sought – as it’s the last thing to be built / installed / planted.
Do you have any suggestions to help homeowners get bang for buck in their landscaping?
My biggest suggestion is to defy the conventional thinking when building.
I see a lot of homes that are built with rooms that are never used because “that’s just what you do”. People often will look to the future resale as a reason to include things that they don’t need themselves now (or more worrying, including things to compete with others) and these trends, I strongly feel, do not align with a happy, content and enjoyable life.
If you don’t need 3 bathrooms, put that budget into something else that can create an amazing life for yourself everyday.
Always allow a budget for an outdoor space. Engage a landscape designer early in the process to help work this out with you and your builder / architect / interior designer as you’ll be able to create a much better solution together rather than try to retrofit later – plus, it can be a really enjoyable process.
What would be your main tips for creating great design in your home gardens and landscaping?
- Act intuitively – don’t overthink things as our rational minds can often get in the way of creating something that truly connects.
- Collaborate with people who make the process enjoyable
- Don’t be constrained by popular, conventional ideas – total magic can happen when you apply different thinking and this doesn’t necessarily mean that it takes a massive budget to achieve – it might even cost less.
- Allow time for great ideas to percolate – rushing things does not produce good results and these results can live with you for a long time.
Do you have any recommended resources that can help homeowners?
I suggest Pinterest a lot due to its clean, easy to use format. I think people can tend to over populate their inspiration boards and create utter confusion within themselves. I advise people choose 10 images that they love immediately without thinking. Don’t go to your head on these, choose purely from the heart. If you like another image, it replaces one in your collection.
Other places that can be useful are holiday pictures from destinations you love, and favourite magazines. Inspiration can be things other than spaces as well. I mention on my website that it might be Kim Kardashian’s dress material that you love – so even as obscure as it is, there’s something in it that connects that person to a feeling.
Looking at what is growing really well in your neighbourhood is also a great start. It encourages you to become a tourist in your own town.
Do you have a fave project and why?
Tough one to answer but I had a recent project that was challenge filled and budget limited but fortunately the clients were very open and transparent and a joy to deal with.
I managed to expand on their expectations and challenge their brief to deliver a space that has transformed the way they engage with the space (whilst in the space and also from within the home)
Where can people find you – and where do you mainly work?
I enjoy diversity so my projects range in size and location but mainly inner urban, smaller spaces. Through the marvels of modern communication, a national or international project is relatively easy so I would always encourage contact from people located outside of Perth. (This can also unearth interesting design perspectives).
Thank you so much Alastair, for some great info and resources in helping us get it right with landscape design. Make sure you follow Alastair on Instagram and check out his website for more landscape inspiration. (All images are from Alastair’s website and are photos of his finished projects, or renders of his design concepts).
Your landscape and garden design can be the last piece in the puzzle that really finishes off our home – and some planning, budgeting and expert guidance can certainly make a big difference in the outcome that is created.
How about you? Are you worried that once your home is finished, all you’ll have money left for is some turf and a pot plant or 3? How are you planning on getting bang for buck with your landscape, and achieving a great design? I’d love to hear your comments – pop them in below.