Our garden design produced an uncluttered layout, where the clients enjoy an aerial view from their master bedroom. This clear-cut outline was achieved by utilising fairly straightforward design principles: lay the largest available flagstones, apply daring colours, and triangulate planting to expand spatial depth. With fifteen 1-metre slabs, 3 clumps of Bamboo and 9 sedges, a minimalist composition was in place, and the tiniest of city gardens has evolved into a cosy outdoor space.
Halfway through renovating, moments before our clients gave us a call, phenomenal realisations dawned on them: the levels between garden door and its patio present a topographic dilemma; the walls are out of sync, manhole cover way too high, and the space overly shaded. For us, the project presented a worthy challenge, bringing to an end our clients' cul-de-sac predicament, where a floating deck, leading towards the garden, creates a mini bridge as a promenade into a miniscule yet plentifully chic, renewed city patio space.
We selected a beautiful, deeply veined lilac sandstone; this unusual material is quarried exclusively in Derbyshire, integrated often into cladding and architectural detailing. These colossal pavers simplify the outline, aligned in a perfect grid, and infuse our clients' sought-after gothic resonance. The shaded garden is now brighter, where a vibrant stone matrix blends into new wall colours, while graceful woodland foliage drapes above epic flagstones. Not much need to fuss over either, with maintenance simplified into a mere jet wash.
The design & build process of a city garden as tiny as this, within a minimalist hands-on approach, entails refined detail design, where each element contributes to a cohesive experience, amid captivating eye-level focal points. In this pocket-sized patio, smooth 60mm blue-grey cobbles create definition among variegated sedges, and a 5mm rhythm between deck boards produces pristine shadows gaps, while Bamboo canes reveal a golden tinge to mimic the lighter walls, and contrast the flanking bench elevations.
With a streamlined wrap-around patio design, we created a seating zone for 12 guests. This layout was achieved by utilising an unsightly manhole cover, and transforming it into an integral part of the bench design in a continuous elevation. Planting space is sparse, yet, such was the genius loci – a Shoreditch courtyard garden fully optimised for relentless entertaining, reduced garden chores and maximum joy. As our clients both work ungodly hours, this rather small city garden performs its role non-stop as an energising, intimate hub of morning coffees and weekend alfresco dining right beside the kitchen.
The left wall's deep burgundy colour is repeated across the right benches' facade, contrasting the back wall's light ochre and left bench elevation. This Yin and yang approach enhances the garden's asymmetrical layout, where perspective shifts diagonally – enabling spatial perception of greater outdoor depth. Colour schemes form an adaptable technique, effortlessly utilised to evoke dynamic ambience within high surrounding walls, and consistently redefine sense of depth in urban gardens and small town courtyard garden designs.
We love planting low tufts of evergreen, grass-like Carex sedges, and there are plenty of cultivars available. We selected one species, nine clumps in three beds, mulched with smooth blue cobbles. Foliage is renewed by removing brown leaves and spent flower heads, while for diverse daylight levels, in any patio garden, in the ground, in pots or integrated into green walls, Carex sedges provide easygoing outlines. For our not so green-fingered clients, these unfussy textures define minimal upkeep, articulating a contemporary all-year-round display.
your lights are on
By zoning outdoor lighting circuits in combinations of up and down lights, foliage conveys a distinct night ambience, and having rendered the perimeter walls in this small Shoreditch city garden, cables were niftily concealed, enhancing a streamlined appearance. No small patio garden is worth one's keep until lights are installed and switched on, expressing a truly homely environment. Bamboo daytime daintiness glistens in the evenings, when a skilfully lit city garden transforms into an invigorating twilight lightscape.
say it with canes
Our design's chief focus is formed by architectural Bamboo canes, emerging from an inverted raised bed. Having mitigated a sheer level change into the patio with a decked bridge, a void remained at the garden's edge, and instead of backfilling, we utilised its cavity as a light well to display a robust focal point. This resourceful technique evolved into a distinctive element in further projects, when viable solutions transform an ordinary London town garden into a radiant, contemporary family space. Confined within its own individual bed, a vigorous Bamboo has nowhere to spread, and since sporadic thinning of canes forms the only maintenance required, Phyllostachys fits our minimal upkeep approach. Me ol' Bamboo is well behaved – a wholly foolproof design idea for instant impact in many small city gardens!
10 city life
a patio in the city
In a small city garden, we seek proportion, human scale and renewed character to make it liveable, easy on the eye and conducive to our clients' lifestyle. No matter how desperate an outdoor prospect may seem, dilapidated a garden is, or decrepit the courtyard walls are, an inventive solution, within a gamut of inspiring patio design ideas, is often more than likely. By enhancing daylight nuances, and producing night-time illuminations, the outdoor recipe yields a delectable main course, where we spend precious time beyond the patio garden door – savouring a personal, intimate and manageable exterior space.