mylandscapes contemporary garden design & build

subtropical lushness courtyard chic

chic courtyard garden design london

blog / alfresco living

design & words Amir Schlezingeramir schlezinger

Chicly jungled

Our clients utterly adore faraway holiday destinations, perennially relishing Andean mountains, Bali beaches and Mexican haciendas – a passion for exotic exuberance keenly expressed in the design of their Hampstead courtyard garden. These bold, extrinsic cultural influences, impelled by irresistible tropical allure, and cultivated with urban flair, inhabit luxuriant niches in a fully miniaturised, jungly landscape. We revisited the garden with world-renowned photographer Jerry Harpur for a Homes & Gardens magazine designer profile, where our clients' grasp of outdoor chic and horticultural profundity interlace in a personal, intimate and imaginative London courtyard haven.

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1. flora 2. walls 3. lights 4. water 5. floors 6. refuge 7. seating 8. offbeat 9. logistics 10. upkeep

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1 flora

exotic redolence

Small but perfectly splendid, this southwest-facing, 40-square-metre courtyard garden lusciously imbues the endemic sultriness evocative of our clients' much-loved worldwide travels. Bamboo, Ferns, Jasmine, Mexican lilies and Palm trees define a scaled-down interpretation of lifelong journeys in a daily reminiscence of seductive landscapes. The exclusiveness of this secluded walled back garden, with its shielding microclimate in heavenly Hampstead, enables a broad cultivation of semi-hardy, subtropical floras, portrayed through ground beds, raised borders and water planting – symbolising the botanical diversity of tropical gardens and their aquatic, epiphytic and terrestrial cycles.

2 walls

spatial scalability

The courtyard's transformative design process from a higgledy-piggledy canvas of mismatched cobble setts, disorientated patterns and Lilliputian undergrowth into a full-fledged horticultural sanctum sparked an enticing prospect. Enclosed by an imposing, red-bricked wall across the western boundary which dwarfs the outer perimeter, we sought balanced scale. By rendering two walls asymmetrically at a consistent height, the garden unlocks its spatial potential, amplified by proportional, gradational and amply layered planting. The volume of the London yellow stock brick wall which demarcates the eastern edge, draped in ancient Wisteria, is echoed horizontally by a decked dining area, forming interconnected, visual reciprocation.

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3 lights

rippling silhouettes

Thoroughly exoticised with subtropical plant life, this leafy hideaway imparts an abundance of sensuous, evergreen lusciousness, magnified nightly by cosy outdoor lighting. Alfresco lights reinvent this daytime jungle style garden into a chic urban courtyard, readily outfitted for our clients' late-night, social get-togethers. Rendering two perimeter walls enabled the nifty embedment of low-voltage cables to produce ambient downlights, juxtaposed with uplighting through architectural canopies. Reflections generated by gentle ripples in the waterfall pool via underwater spotlights project wavy silhouettes onto the walls.

4 water

gushing chute

Sited discretely along the courtyard's side brick wall, the waterfall generates white noise to muffle nearby traffic noise, creating peaceful counterbalance to the rest of the garden. Designed as an integral part of an L-shaped raised bed, with casual perching spots on its coping, the water feature and reflecting pool produce a contrastive setting of subtle bubble fountains and a cascading water surge. Floating amid this aqueous dialogue, a solitary Palm tree, planted in a waterproof, submerged container by the chute, forms a sculptural composition triangulated with two taller Palms emerging from a lush understorey opposite. Equipped with a UV filter and remote-controlled lighting, the courtyard waterfall and its streamlined, urban chic poetically complete a wholesome triad of earth, water and greenery.

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5 floors

organic flow

The natural, warm tones of Brazilian hardwood and Portuguese slate compose a cohesive surface, extending inherent materials and floor patterns used in the adjoining kitchen and throughout the residence to form a modern courtyard retreat. The Ipe wood's deep ochry patina echoes a yellow brick side wall, repeated in built-in seating, further merging with slate coping along the raised beds and waterfall pool. With a trapezium extension protruding into the courtyard garden, and an obtuse-angled back wall, the grid of rectangular pavers in a stack bond and perpendicular decking increase sense of depth pivotally.

6 refuge

topically tropical

When the clients approached us in late winter, asking to remodel a dilapidated back garden into a chic courtyard, their unambiguous design brief delineated a long-standing ambition to maximise this underutilised outdoor space. With a kitchen basin facing a sunny, secluded garden, love of the great outdoors and a new puppy, by mid-spring, the stage was set for creating an elegant sanctuary underlined by constructional ingenuity and immersive tropicality.

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As in countless London town gardens, the courtyard is tucked away behind the property, indiscernible from the majority of living spaces. Yet, designed as an architectural focal point outside the kitchen, for owners who devote a good deal of time to entertaining guests in their own private lived-in food hall, the garden functions as an all-year-round retreat in daily recollections of favourite, distant shores.

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7 seating

boundless chic

Designed to accommodate for twenty guests, the courtyard garden integrates built-in perching spots with a formal dining lounge. The clients, passionate alfresco aficionados and both trailblazers in the fashion industry, make full use of the space, frequently extending indoor social activities into their homey and versatile outdoor hub. With old habits relinquished and a brand-new, open-air lifestyle re-established, the courtyard's seating areas certainly mitigate outside smallness through out-and-out usefulness and boundless chic.

8 offbeat

outdoor sociability

What ensues when an architectural courtyard garden kindles new-found owners' idiosyncrasies? Here, in balmy Hampstead, this formula outputs a rather candid reply: unadulterated tropical seduction! With personal touches, plenty of garden style and companioned by Truman the Tibetan Terrier, our clients' bohemian persuasion exhibits offbeat trends endearingly with vivacious eloquence. Driven by an insatiable desire for entertaining guests out of doors, amongst idyllic, favourite landscape luxuriance entwined with urban stylishness, the myriad of enigmatic travel artefacts, camouflaged within fabulous foliage and some new plant additions, articulates a quirky, leisurely lifestyle – gazed by a stealthy gecko statuette nestled atop the waterfall...

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9 logistics

synergetic teamwork

Handily detached, with great access for site works, this Hampstead period residence epitomises its owners' charismas and consistency in modern visual insight, alongside preserved authenticity – enjoyed in solitary exclusivity. Yet, the sunny courtyard garden, envisioned as an intimate oasis of sights and sounds, required copious design & build inventiveness. To facilitate planting mature specimen Palm trees, the team assembled stacked palettes as sloping ramps beside the high raised beds to winch heavy root balls and tall crowns into position. Subtropical plants were collected from 3 specialist nurseries, and Palm trunks painstakingly stripped off their fibrous hairs to reveal exotic woody patterns, while the waterfall's uniform flow entailed four-way, collaborative engineering to achieve a refined result.

10 upkeep

ongoing tlc

The 12th letter of the English alphabet commences both the capital's name and its prevailing lifestyle prerequisite which define Londoners' low-maintenance courtyard gardens. Typically, you won't find many of our London city clients engrossed in heavy-duty pruning, conveniently delegating most garden upkeep to seasoned pros. With this rationale in mind, the courtyard living we orchestrate relies per se on carefree maintenance which enables preoccupied owners to spend precious spare time amid outdoor presentability, served with optimal chic. All well and good, no garden is one hundred percent self-sustained, and ongoing TLC goes a long way to preserve the integrity and long-term essence of well-designed, bespoke architectural gardens.

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– coda –

A Chicer Hampstead

With the garden lushly greened; its smallishness redeemed and chicness served al a carte by two suave gentlemen and a gorgeous Tibetan terrier, this modernised courtyard in blissful Hampstead is positively no Paradise Lost, but rather a private hideaway regained. Elevated by organic materials, a clean-lined framework and simplified maintainability, our clients' outdoor sanctuary timelessly transcends fleeting stylistic trends as an enduring personal achievement in a continuously evolving courtyard landscape: leafier, user-friendlier, roomier and tidier – granted, while just a little bit more chicer!