Outdoor Secrets

Brett’s Backyard Rescue

What do you get when 12 close friends, over 170 contractors and suppliers, a leading Brisbane landscaping design and construction team and Channel Nine come together? The Johnson family’s dream backyard! After having their lives turned upside down, award-winning landscape company, Outdoor Secrets led a generous, highly skilled and passionate team in the visionary transformation of the Johnson family’s idyllic backyard in Brisbane.


Buying the typical suburban family home last year, the Johnson’s took the next big step in life. However, unfortunately for the Johnson’s, life is far from typical.  33 year old Brett Johnson is a loving husband to Casey and doting father to one year old Jack and for over four years now, Brett has been fighting Ewings Sarcoma. An aggressive cancer, the disease has a very low survival rate and although the once hard-working ex-boilermaker and now family man has beaten the disease twice, his third diagnosis is devastating. Doctors have given Brett just 18 months to live, a judgement no one ever wants to hear.

Understandably, every moment the family has together is precious and they are committed to staying positive and maintaining a healthy lifestyle; with both Brett and Casey dedicated to undertaking the Gerson Therapy.  Each day, the Johnson’s wake up grateful for what they do have and also determined to achieve as much as possible. One dream they had always planned to achieve was the transformation of their large overgrown backyard. This was the perfect opportunity friends and family knew they could help do something about!

Operation Maxted

Led by best friend Tina, 6 couples, all close friends of the Johnson’s united to form ‘Operation Maxted’. Together the team came up with the brilliant idea to make this project bigger and better than the Johnson’s ever imagined! After Channel Nine’s ‘A Current Affair’ put their hand up to organise and showcase the backyard makeover, the next crucial step was to secure a landscape design and construction company; and while any help would be greatly appreciated, it was vital that the right landscaping team were on board. This job would be massive and require superior project management skills and importantly the complete understanding of the importance of the makeover and how it would change the Johnson’s lives.

After receiving interest from several Landscaping professionals, ‘A Current Affair’ felt a great affinity with Outdoor Secrets and selected them to create the Johnson’s dream backyard. Renowned for creating outdoor havens that epitomise style, functionality and purpose, Outdoor Secrets are passionate about transforming spaces into places where families thrive together. At the helm of the award-winning landscaping team are husband and wife team, Nathan and Laurene Bisshop, who passionately infuse their slogan ‘Discover Design and Live’ into every project they deliver.  “Laurene and I were both touched by this situation as we have encountered clients and friends where cancer has completely changed their world. We believe that mental and physical health are key elements in living a wholesome life; that’s why we design and build gardens that change people’s lives and get us back to the basics of fun times with our friends, families and neighbours”, Nathan expressed.

The Brief

Sitting down with his highly skilled and experienced team, Nathan used ‘wish list’ sketches Brett had actually drawn himself as a starting point to design the ultimate Johnson family backyard. The Outdoor Secrets team specialise in incorporating multi-purpose functionality into a space so elements such as an outdoor gym, shower & bath, entertaining zones, pool & children’s play areas were all incorporated, designed to co-exist in harmony. Also taking insights from Operation Maxted, every element Brett and Casey could ever wish for were put down on paper to create an idyllic family backyard.

The Plan

Prior to Brett’s diagnosis, both he and Casey led healthy and active lifestyles – so much so that Casey studied Nutrition and is a Qualified Personal Trainer. The family are in their element anywhere outdoors so creating a backyard space that would allow them to enjoy it all year round was vital.

Before starting the project a working bee was scheduled to clean the entire backyard. As there was only one opportunity for Outdoor Secrets to conduct a brief 30 minute on-site inspection, attention to detail was a must! Typically Nathan would spend two hours measuring a site and documenting it with photos. Together Operation Maxted, Brett’s vision and the expertise and dedication of the Outdoor Secrets team prevailed and drawing by drawing the Johnson’s backyard came to life.

With an enthusiastic team of trades and suppliers generously donating their time and materials, the Johnson’s backyard plan was ready to be set into action. In just 3 weeks, and 180 hours spent planning, organising and scheduling all trades were organised and supplies were ordered. “Our team were absolutely overwhelmed by the generosity of everyone involved… there was over $400,000 worth of labour and supplies donated.  This incredible gift of kindness truly showcased what an amazing community surrounds and supports the Johnson family,” Nathan commented.


With just 7 days to complete the transformation, 120 tradespeople, 50 suppliers and heightened emotion invested, it was an uplifting environment to be a part of. Onsite, project managing the job, Nathan was overwhelmed, saying “I knew how passionate everyone was when pitching the project to them, but to actually see the comradery in action is truly inspiring; there are definitely no egos here at all.”

Just when everyone thought they had seen the greatest feature in the backyard, another team of trades would come in and continue to raise the benchmark. From the exquisite outdoor ceramic bath and shower and fully equipped CrossFit gym to the private sunken fire pit and the stunning inground pool; every single element of the design seamlessly came together to bring to life the Johnson’s dream backyard.

While there were minor setbacks such as burst pool pipes keeping Nathan and the plumbers’ onsite until 11pm one night, Nathan’s wife and Outdoor Secrets Co-Owner, Laurene was behind the scenes ensuring the transformation ran as smoothly as possible. Renowned for her phenomenal project management skills, Laurene worked day and night throughout the entire three weeks leading up to the project – organising, planning and scheduling trades, supplies and media. These vital project management skills are often what many clients are lacking when they come to Outdoor Secrets following a failed DIY attempt; they truly do make the difference between completing a project on time, on budget and to a high standard – or not.

The Reveal

After 100 hours of labour and installing thousands of dollars worth of supplies, the moment everyone was waiting for had arrived; it was time to welcome the Johnson family home. After spending a week away with the belief that Brett and Casey’s friends were tidying up the yard and repairing the pool lining while they were gone, the Johnson’s were truly in for the surprise of their lifetime!

Unaware of what to expect, Brett and Casey walked into the backyard, lifted their blindfolds and were immediately overwhelmed by the unbelievable transformation in front of their eyes! With over 100 people standing behind them, supporting them, they gushed with emotion. Unable to hold back her tears, Casey looked around in amazement with awe at what had been achieved in just one week! Trying hard to stay calm, Brett was shocked and appreciative to see so many people showing their love and generosity, all for his family.

The Outcome

A couple of weeks following the reveal, the Johnson’s absolutely love their new backyard, using the new pool and outdoor shower & bath nearly every day since reveal! There are several amazing places for Brett to enjoy the sunrise or sit back and watch Jack scoot around on his trike and Casey loves the convenience of having an amazing gym at home she can use for both personal and business use.  Already, Brett and Casey have planned many get-togethers with family and friends in the coming months!

The outcome of the Johnson family’s backyard is breathtaking and it really has to be seen to be believed. Nathan and his team at Outdoor Secrets are consummate professionals and although it may be tempting to try your own backyard makeover, it takes three key elements seamlessly aligning for a project to come in on time, on budget and to a high standard; highly skilled trades, high quality products and most importantly, superior project management. Outdoor Secrets are at the forefront of landscape design and construction, creating design mastery that is functional, inspirational and that ultimately, changes lives. Discover how Outdoor Secrets can enrich your family’s legacy today!