Hailing from Holland and Bulgaria, both our clients work ungodly hours in the city, and while raising a young family in a typical Fulham terraced home requires significantly more space, there were plenty of layout reconfigurations to orchestrate. This long-term foresight, aptly underscored by an ambitious ground-floor extension, a fresh rooftop terrace and a complete restructuring of the entire interior blueprint, was dynamically managed by an up-and-coming, maverick Italian lady architect. We joined the building team during the project's concluding stage, appointed to diligently augment a well-planned scheme with imaginative, cohesive and modern garden design & build output.
With design cues taken from a lightful interior abound in exquisite finishing touches, we continued inherent indoor surface patterns into the courtyard garden, where the lengthwise span of an extraordinarily elongated Fulham house is focalised by a granite waterfall across the garden's back wall. Linked by a small hardwood deck, the kitchen tiles which recur throughout the residence merge with a chic dining patio, progress beneath a built-in bench and feature along the raised bed's coping – defining a detailed design repertoire of elegant minimalism.
Situated above the kitchen, a 15-square-metre roof terrace overlooks the garden, enveloped by a frameless glass balustrade which sustains visual fluidity between these two outdoor spaces, punctuated by sun-loving plants. Cedar cladding neatly conceals air conditioning units, linking into the garden's slim privacy screens, while a hardwood deck reiterates the courtyard's natural surface elements. The two-tiered layout magnifies this small Fulham garden, subtly graduating scale upwards in a continuum of materials, outlines and luminosity.
Despite its limited breadth, this Fulham courtyard garden embraces varied seating areas. While the west-facing rooftop presents sunning opportunities across a decked lounge, the garden design juxtaposes a formal dining zone alongside an L-shaped, semi-cantilevered bench which provides a casual perching spot beside a tranquil water wall. This asymmetrical interplay of linear and three-dimensional cavities utilises the kitchen's magnificent vista through a vast, floor-to-ceiling glazed elevation to maximise indoor-outdoor reciprocality between a stupendous dining room table and its modest, exterior counterpart.
Small on size, yet rather big on outdoor lighting, this Fulham garden continues its thriving daytime legacy in a nightly display of opulent illumination, extending ambience, and linking into a cosily lit kitchen. By utilising a four-way remote-controlled lighting system synced with the waterfall, our clients' nocturnal relaxation once the children are finally in bed or when relishing the odd social escapade is smoothly fine-tuned to preserve an optimal night-time setting. Amply downlit via Cedar cladding and through luxuriant foliage, while amplified by LED modules embedded within translucent pots and below benches, this courtyard garden metamorphoses into a radiant lightscape.
To facilitate congeniality among the various neighbours in adjacent properties, we prepared a range of screen samples with variations in light transmittance between horizontal wood battens. We settled on a liberal 15mm gap, which sustained an agreeable framework, and built this linear pattern in smooth Cedar boards around the entire garden perimeter. These 70cm-high privacy screens add an elegant, natural material above rendered elevations, repeated on the rooftop, while subtly contrasting the hardwood detailing of the decking and bench. Discreetly fixed with lost head stainless steel brads, the custom-built panels convey fine architectural detail in a feather-light appearance.
We design countless gardens of varying scales around South West London, from Parsons Green to Chelsea, and across to Battersea, Wandsworth and Clapham. Developing gardens in this vast, highly cosmopolitan district often calls for planting schemes which are equally and eclectically universal, and in this Fulham courtyard garden, the uniform distribution of cardinal points in a squared outline enabled the creation of four distinct plant borders.
Fragrant Desert willows and Mexican lilies line the south-facing elevation, contrasted by Bamboo opposite which enhances privacy. Gracefully flanking the water feature, a downy Japanese maple and winter-flowering scented Paperbush create striking sculptural focal points, underplanted with evergreen Sweet flags. A pair of variegated New Zealand flax, planted in epic curved turquoise pots, and framing the kitchen doors, completes this minimalist septet of plant species in a truly low-maintenance and highly architectural composition.
room for detail
The gradation of scale through surface materials thoroughly uplifts spatial exiguity in small city gardens, and in this Fulham courtyard, a discernible progression of element sizes enables plenty of room for a finely detailed design. A classic stack bond grid of 60cm-square tiles emphasises indoor-outdoor fluidity, interlinked by a slender section of 100mm-wide deck boards, in a surface hierarchy which culminates in 40mm-high Cedar slats across the garden's privacy screening. This progressive design philosophy, articulated through well-executed hard landscaping, consistent shadow gaps and highly structured elevations, extends surface lustrousness – especially in the east-west orientation of this petite and semi-shaded London urban garden.
Tucked halfway Fulham's smallest street, at the epicentre of the SW6 postcode off New King's Road, our clients' home presents a markedly elongated layout, lengthened by an ultra-modern kitchen extension. This spatial configuration, tapering the garden's principal sightline and stretching its focal plane had catalysed the design of a bespoke water feature, intended to produce crisp definition as a bold, lucent centrepiece. With the courtyard's prime focus instated, this granite waterfall and lower reflecting pool sustain an eye-catching dialogue between light and deep-toned design elements, in a contemporary conversation piece huddled among multi-stemmed greeneries.
With fabulous input and a generous helping hand from a close-knit family, energetically enthused alongside an inspiring, offbeat architect and aided by a super-efficient contractor, we embarked on a 4-week modern garden project in a busy Fulham road. This full-on synergetic paragon, however fortuitous, had meanderingly transcended the many urban lifestyle paradoxes which pervade contemporary landscaping in metropolitan milieus – manifested through the lens of Clive Nichols.
A London garden designer's drafting table is frequently flawed by contrived and overused vignettes of permanent perfection, where fixedness of urban ideas hinders the pertinence and potentiality of wildlife, seasonality, eco friendliness, edibility, sustainability and diversity agendas, compressed into a rather limited and apathetic repertoire. As our clients' family grows and their garden flourishes, gradually altering use, the key elements we all aspired to achieve continue to surpass our initial outlook, where mellowing woodland trees soften architectural sleekness, chic pots make way for kids' horticulture, the water feature adopts some aquatic life and the entire framework is thriving through maintenance forethought.