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I designed parts of the landscape of this converted barn over the years and it was time to focus on this sizeable corner. The enclosed space offered great sunset views and shelter from outbuildings. The client wanted a contemporary approach in adapting the plot into a Japanese garden. With plenty of good access, we could crane in large rocks and stone.

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SAFFRON WALDEN | contemporary landscape design

220mē | barn conversion


This barn conversion in Essex occupies a 1.5-acres site tucked away at the edge of a field. With half a dozen outbuildings dotted around the landscape, this corner is snug between an annex and a car shed. Facing west, it enjoys beautiful sunsets over the fields beyond. When the client returned from a recent trip to Japan, he asked if I could transform this dreary corner into a contemporary Japanese garden. It seemed fitting to maximise this wasted space, particularly as it would provide a pleasant surprise as the area is not immediately seen from the house. With good access, we could crane in heavy materials such as rocks, stone and tree specimens.


A diagonal line of granite rocks meanders through from corner to corner, traversing through the landscape of floating decks, gravel and hedges. Decreasing in height, the rocks culminate with the last in the series forming a trickling water feature. The narrative for the surfaces encompasses natural stone with black and grey flamed granite alternating in random shapes and sizes. Sandstone is used as edging, contrasted with old Yorkstone, which forms elevated paths into the seating areas. Blocks of basalt create steps into the sunken main area, which was excavated using diggers to add depth in the design.


Magnolia, maples, ferns, Camellia, Holly, bamboo and grasses are layered throughout to infuse an Eastern feel. A multi-stem Cherry tree acts as a focal point by the seating area with a backdrop of a contemporary stone wall. Low Box hedges divide the space, providing architectural partitions that articulate the layout. A sculptural Japanese Holly tree, in a cloud form, is situated in the sunken gravel area, reminiscent of temple gardens. Aggregates such as pebbles and cobbles in different sizes, colours and finishes add a layer of detail and refinement to the overall design.

Similar projects: Debden large garden | Milan country garden | Sandbanks courtyard garden | Wandsworth garden

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