An L-Shaped Plot is Transformed into a Practical and Chic Urban Garden
With tricky dimensions and a list of requirements from the space, the owners of this London garden headed to Houzz.co.uk to research ideas that could work and the right professional to help with their project. After seeing a similar urban project and multiple 5-star reviews on her Houzz profile, the owners reached out to garden designer, Georgia Lindsay. “I actually get quite a few jobs from Houzz, it’s such a great website,” explains Georgia. “Potential clients are normally very well researched on you and your work when they get in touch as it lays it out for the consumer in a really clear way.”
At only 40 sq m, the l-shaped space needed to include a bike-shed, parking space and provide extra security, whilst acknowledging the owners’ appreciation of stylish design. It was also important to the owners’ that the garden include bee and butterfly-attracting plants. To help communicate their ideas, Georgia tasked the owners’ with creating an Ideabook on Houzz, explaining “I think Ideabooks are great. I always encourage my clients to create one and to leave notes to let me know what they like and why.”
Georgia trained as a theatre designer and says she likes creating spaces that are multi-purpose, as is often the case with a stage set. “You have to be much more inventive in a smaller space. Things have to double up – a coffee table that’s also a firepit, or a cupboard door dropping to become a bar area. Every surface is within eye-level, so attention to detail has to be very precise because of that.” Small spaces aren’t Georgia’s speciality, but she explains “I’ve done quite a lot of them and I really enjoy the challenge.”
“It’s quite an unusual plot,” Georgia says. The original garden was divided into two when the house was converted. The result is an L-shaped plot that includes a metal staircase up to their floor. Before Georgia came on board, the garden had low fencing that wasn’t doing a good job of providing screening for either side. “Because of the layout, the owners and the downstairs neighbour felt very much in each other’s pockets,” she explains. The other garden forms a rectangle inside the L. The aim was to create a sense of intimacy without it becoming claustrophobic.
As the owners access the garden from their first floor flat, via a staircase from their balcony they wanted the garden to become a secondary space where they can enjoy nature for short periods. It also needed to look attractive from the balcony and work as a transitional space, as they regularly walk through to access the car.
One of the most noticeable new features is the black fretwork screening which Georgia added to two sides of the garden. The garden had previously had an open, wrought iron fence between the old bike shed and the street, which was very visible and a cause of concern. The chic new screen provides more privacy, as well as conceals the car and bins from the rest of the garden.
For seating, Georgia had a metal-framed hardwood bench built in, with planters at either end. “It’s a floating design to create the illusion of as much space as possible, rather than one down to the ground that could have closed off the space,” she says.
The planters are filled with a mix of Euphorbia characias subsp. Wulfenii ‘Black Pearl’, two heucheras (’Blondie in Lime’ and ‘Obsidian’) and Lysimachia. Each planter features a similar mix. “I wanted to get some real acid green colour in there to lift the monochrome,” Georgia explains. Many of the plants will look good all year round. “In a very small space, it’s good to have a lot of evergreen foliage. You can’t get away with bare patches in a small garden,” Georgia adds.
To zone the seating area, Georgia designed a tiled ‘rug’ which was inlaid into a plain porcelain tile surround. The patterned tiles are also porcelain, designed to resemble traditional encaustic ones. “They’re printed to look encaustic, but they’re much more hardwearing and don’t need sealing every year,” explains Georgia.
The stairs to the flat are just visible from the seating area. To add some greenery to the wrought-iron staircase, Georgia clad the risers with artificial maidenhair fern panels. The faux fern comes on grids and was fitted behind the metal mesh of the risers and pulled through the gaps. “I don’t usually like to use artificial, but in the right setting it can be very effective,” she says. “And a real fern would have taken a battering here. It gives the illusion it’s real because there’s lots of real planting in the garden as well. Also, it remains dense, it doesn’t deteriorate, and you don’t have to worry about stepping carefully. It was a good, robust solution.”
The garden also had to accommodate a bike shed large enough to store the whole families bikes. The shed was custom-made and is the full height of the fence for maximum storage. To boost the view from the owners’ kitchen window, which overlooks the garden, the bike shed has a green roof. This helps boost biodiversity in the garden and is planted with bee and butterfly-attracting plants.
As the garden starts to mature and knit together it has created a Zen escape from city life. In this busy world, it’s incredibly valuable to step off the treadmill for a moment and just contemplate nature. This garden is so accessible you can instantly take those stolen moments from the urban world and yet the space works so hard for each square metre providing parking, bike storage, privacy but most importantly respite from daily life.
The owners’ are bowled over by the finished result. “A garden in London is not something I took for granted but we now have a lovely outdoor room and more reason to nip outside,” they say. “It now feels like home once you come through the gate, and style-wise it ties in with our house. We like the modern art feeling and the screens cast beautiful shadows as well as being practical – they are a fence, a gate and support for climbers. The inlaid tiling adds personality and quirkiness. Just looking at the garden makes us happy. What was once an eyesore and a burden feels like a new piece of home.”
For more information visit Georgia’s Houzz Profile