Steve Taylor, founder and director of COS Design, has been building and designing award winning gardens in and around Melbourne for over 20 years. One of our many collaborations together is our latest feature project in Mount Martha where Steve’s specialty of tackling challenging levels and environmental restrictions really shone through. COS Design has become one of the most highly regarded, awarded, and celebrated, design companies in Australia.  We recently sat down with Steve and thoroughly enjoyed learning about how he got started in the industry and what made our latest feature project so unique.



Q - Did you always want to be a Landscape Designer?

I was always attracted and drawn to art and graphics in high school and I was always good with my hands. After year 12 I nearly made the final cut to the first ever landscape architecture intake at Melbourne Uni in the very early 90’s. The initial interest saw 3000 applications and I made it to the final 50, yet I missed the final cut of 30. After the massive disappointment I took a gap year and fell into an onsite business management degree course and for a few years, I lost my way in regards to my true passion and calling. Although I never regret obtaining the business mgt degree, I was never at peace professionally and there was always something missing. 

During these years I purchased my first home at the age of 23 and couldn’t wait to start the gardens. With no experience or training whatsoever I dove into the front yard design and construction and I immediately knew landscaping was my professional destiny. I became obsessed with the project and based on the incredibly overwhelming and rewarding satisfaction I felt, I immediately enrolled into night school after a chance encounter with the course director and commenced the training of my new career. Whilst at the course I got to know a few of the other students and started working for one of them for free on my days off for 6 months until his boss eventually offered me a job. With a mortgage and no real guarantees I resigned from my well paid management role and started working as a landscaper whilst I completed my course at night school, and the rest was history.

The day I was qualified was the day I started my own landscape construction business and it was also the day of the birth of my first child. Nothing like throwing yourself into the deep end! A new business, a new baby and a mortgage was a scary scenario however I never hesitated nor a second as I knew all would be well based on the passion and desire I had for my new found craft. Within a year or two of building the designs of others I started to design my own gardens for free and within 10 years of design and construction, design was my primary focus and I proceeded to shut down my construction company and invest all my resources into creation over construction.  I still hold my builders licence and I strongly feel knowing how to build what I design is a real advantage for my clients and brand.


Q - What is your favourite/s design feature of the Mount Martha Project?

I think the way we managed challenging levels and the landscape as a whole. With over 8.5m of fall from the lower rear deck to the rear corner of the block there was a real challenge to create multiple large usable terraces throughout the garden so the once never used rear space became a highly used, integral part of the family’s everyday lives. 

The pool is the real hero and I am super proud of how well it sits within the rear yard and how it captures the stunning bay views and surrounding coastal gardens beyond. The fire pit zone is also a special feature that adds such interest from the views from the upper decks of the home.


Q - Did you get your inspiration from anywhere in particular for this project?

The Mornington Peninsula lifestyle as a whole was the inspiration for this garden. Relaxed, sophisticated coastal living and entertaining is the feel and ambiance we wanted to create with this space. The local granite stone walls, a modern Australian coastal plant palette where we mixed natives and exotics together to create a green on green tapestry with highlights of grey hues throughout.


Q - We know it's impossible to choose a favourite, but do you have a favourite project? If so, what makes it so special?

I still have a real connection to our Alphington project, our Shoreham project and our St. Paul’s Rd, Sorrento projects. The Alphington project was such a unique brief where the clients wanted to create an inner city, urban truly Melbourne, cafe style backyard that complimented their traditional bungalow frontage and modern rear extension. 

Shoreham is special as the entire project sits so well within its surrounding environment and the timeless, relaxed coastal feel of the spaces immediately calms you as soon as you enter the garden. 

St Pauls Rd has a little bit of everything, a real plant focused and relaxed, the natural front yard is perfectly balanced for the home, the family and the surrounding environment.


Q- What are the landscape design trends we are seeing more of in 2021?    

Plants, plants and more plants!!! Over the last few years plants have really come to the fore but in a more relaxed, eclectic way. Straight lines with mass planting of similar varieties still has a place however more relaxed curves, jaggered or random paved edges along with a strong focus on a more eclectic plant mixes has made a real surge of recent years. This garden application is often juxtaposed to the monolithic modern homes of today but both can sit in perfect harmony when done well.


Q -What exciting projects do you have in the pipeline?

We have many exciting projects underway from freshwater in Sydney to a rooftop in Chicago. We also have some great projects we are looking forward to sharing in Brisbane, Bendigo, Bright, Anglesea, Portsea and everywhere in between. 

Victorian residents are absolutely spoilt for choice as they have access to some of the finest designers/architects in the country, if not, the world. There are many Landscape designers and architects that I admire and respect and whom I draw inspiration from and I feel humbled and blessed on a daily basis to be a small part of a vibrant, progressive, exciting, inspirational world leading industry.  

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