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chic urban garden clapham town

chic small town garden clapham london uk

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design & words Amir Schlezingeramir schlezinger

Clapham a la mode

With chicness aplenty and a discerning eye for detail, design and art, our clients embarked on a complete renovation of their townhouse in Clapham Town. While most of the garden's structure was facilitated by an on-site architect and building teams, we were appointed to design planting schemes for the home's small town garden, new roof terrace and frontage, as well as bespoke planters, lighting and a spectrum of finishing touches. We returned to the site with acclaimed landscape photographer Marianne Majerus to shoot the garden for the European book publication ’Green Islands: Small Gardens in the City’.

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1. family 2. colour 3. foliage 4. seating 5. lighting 6. cooking 7. planters 8. surfaces 9. water rill 10. sculpture

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1 family

outdoor lineage

When our clients' South African and Spanish families get together in the garden, companioned by two rather sprightly Shorthair cats and a mellow German Shepherd dog, their inherent propensity to fully relish a versatile outdoor lifestyle takes centre stage. Huddled near a wood-fired oven, surrounded by abundant foliage, bold colour and flowing water, there's a suitable errand for all members – whether cooking, deejaying, pampering guests, or rotating as a head raconteur.

2 colour

maroon masonry

Sophisticatedly designed, our clients' home was envisioned and crafted with unsurpassed attention to detail. From the slender gaps of Cedar cladding which seclude the front garden, to a cantilevered glass bay window framing the back garden and positioning of every artwork in between, the refinement of architectural details manifests design elegance. We followed suit with bespoke curved vases, accentuated by a deep maroon hue for the water rill wall, setting a vibrant backdrop for an exceptional living room and its south-facing courtyard garden.

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3 foliage

perfect positions

Since each garden elevation faces a distinct aspect, its flora range depicts a unique habitat, creating a cosmopolitan array of plants. The west border features deciduous North American species, with Redbud and Silverbell trees, linking into the north-facing boundary through a raised bed of Bamboo, Japanese maple, Tibetan Cherry and Chinese wild ginger. Along the water wall, facing east, a line of Sweet flags in troughs flanks the runnel, contrasted by white Water lilies. The south perimeter, adjoining the living room, is home to Spanish green olive, Mediterranean spurge, Australian spider flower and Mexican Sotol.

4 seating

creature comforts

Although the garden was considerably reduced in size; its breadth diminished by an open-plan living room extension, it nonetheless contains plentily integrated seating throughout. This well-balanced layout, impelled by a predisposition for alfresco creature comforts, is articulated via two familiar family hubs – an open fire cooking zone and a formal dining area. These contemporary outdoor seating spots, tastefully ornamented and equipped by our clients with a contrastive medley of rustic wood and steel, elevate the entire residence through sheer focus, decorative excellence, intimacy and personal touches.

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5 lighting

undeniable chic

Night-time illumination forms an innately axiomatic landscaping element in the design of urban gardens, where outdoor lighting not only achieves undeniable chic, but also substantially amplifies and sustains nocturnal garden activities. With cavernous retaining walls by the glass bay window, cascading water and sculptural foliage aplenty, this small town garden accomplishes maximum potential within the bounds of a modern walled courtyard in abundant lustrousness.

6 cooking

food for body & soul

Multifunctional, centrally located and mesmerisingly lightful, our clients' outdoor oven is in frequent use, neighboured by a Cedar-clad storage space which doubles up as a bar counter. The red-hot sizzler takes a rather deeper personification within this small town garden, through Yin and yang's transposition of water, fire, wood, metal and earth, articulating seasonal transformation. These natural polarities resurface while guests gazing at open flames, or dining streamside, savour a multi-sensory and well-orchestrated luxury garden design.

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7 planters

tubs, vases & urns

Retrofitted around an existing framework, we designed a diverse range of planting containers to consolidate an architectural scheme. Two curved vases, placed diagonally, provide contoured focal points, powder coated in taupe and featuring linear striped Horsetails. The waterfall's elongated runlet is flanked by variegated Japanese dwarf sedges, planted in low troughs which function as a safety barrier. In light of a planning condition outlining neighbours' privacy across the roof terrace, further planters define the edge with evergreen Photinia. These streamlined qualities are contrasted by a tactile layer of clay ewers, interspersed from the front garden to the roof terrace and culminating in a stately potted Tree fern beside the water chute.

8 surfaces

proactive pros

Joining the architectural team at the build's penultimate stage, we extended inherent patterns into a cohesive synthesis. The project's triadically synergetic link of insightful clients, intelligent architects and proactive landscapers illustrates nuanced reciprocation through indoor-outdoor basalt flooring and unified wood detailing, expressed in an exceptionally lateral design approach. Resulting in enduring spatial consistencies and well-integrated clients' personalities, the ground materials convey embedded sophistication both above and below the surface, continued into every available elevation.

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9 water rill

down the streamlet

Clapham's shortest watercourse passes beside the garden's 5-metre-long sculpture wall, forming an all-year-round bourn... This modernly designed brook, amid its own source, path and destination, is planted with three water plant species, including white and peach Water lilies, Sword-leaved rush and Pickerelweed. These fully submerged aquatics, enveloped by the marginal plants Horsetails and Sweet flags, instil a sense of seasonality and foliar renewal in the garden's natural cycles – soothed by the resonance of a mellifluous water feature.

10 sculpture

corten abstraction

The project began, rather intriguingly, with the positioning of an abstract wall sculpture selected by our clients, fabricated in corten steel. This unique piece of oxidised, modernist abstraction found its vertical maroon-tinted home offset asymmetrically right of the living room's bi-folding doors to form an eye-catching exhibit. Harmonising gracefully with its textured backdrop, this outdoor sculpture generates elongated shadows as the sun's arc rotates westwardly, adding three-dimensional depth, coalesced by daintily moving tree silhouettes.

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– coda –

Style & Substance

This 50-square-metre small town garden contains a wealth of refined details which embody our clients' passion for outdoor living, design openness and appreciation of Taijitu philosophy. With each garden elevation embracing a discrete microclimate, aptly delineated through ground borders, raised beds, water planting and a sunken garden, this mindset clearly demonstrates the owners' perspicacious distinction between style and substance. The young couple's seasoned fusion of home and garden, via inextricably linked architecture and landscape, highlights their boundless stylishness as a definitive feature of small, yet perfectly substantial and highly liveable, London city gardens.