blog / design elements
design & words Amir Schlezinger
Designing privacy screens forms a key practice in achieving precious seclusion when developing London's urban outdoor spaces. Awnings, canopies, climbers, fences, foliage plants, hedges, louvres, partitions, railings, trellises and walls often shelter us from prying eyes tangibly. Across many urban sites, planting ideas sustain practical methods to preserve a retreat in both gardens and roof terraces, amid proximity of tall buildings, augmented by eye-level screening to pivotally create much-needed shade, wind shelters, or conceal unsightly views and objects. A garden's functional aspects invariably determine material and pattern selections, yet, whichever screen we design, it should define detailed refinement within the space, as well as outside it!
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1. steel 2. detail 3. glass 4. louvre 5. pattern 6. privacy 7. webbing 8. multi-use 9. hardwood 10. planting
The back elevation of this duplex Clerkenwell penthouse overlooks a commercial office building, where screening was required across its two-tiered layout. The living room's tiny balcony was planted with an evergreen Pittosporum in a bespoke rooftop planter which advances copious daylight through its lateral void, while the entrance hall and various bedrooms were neatly screened by custom-made, expanded aluminium sheeting, powder coated in slate-grey. We concealed air conditioning units with a small square pattern, enabling adequate airflow, while posts were coated in a deeper hue to add definition, where an openable gate leads to a fire escape into St John Street.
Although this rooftop terrace is only one storey high, its perimeter required a sturdy screen to increase safety for the kids. With a lush woodland backdrop and captivating sunrays filtering through tree canopies, we designed a contemporary hardwood screen in keeping with the residence. Solid Balau timber was specially machined and precisely engineered to enable slotting horizontal boards, providing abundant light filtration. The entire frame was fitted snugly onto its parapet, congruent with the decking, built-in barbecue and overall detail design, complementing the surrounding architecture.
When our clients embarked on the extensive renovation of their three-storey Southgate townhouse, detail was on everybody's mind from the outset. With a sizeable garden, frontage and roof terrace to design and build, we fused the screening narrative into one master plan. In order to minimise the typical rigmarole of neighbours' right to light and tedious building regulations, we selected a minimalist, frameless glass screen for the rooftop terrace. The adjoining master bedroom regained a significant amount of daylight, augmented by night-time silhouettes and a translucent backdrop for dainty foliage, where paramount safety attributes and a low maintenance material define long-term, indoor-outdoor usability prospects.
How do we let revitalising daylight in, and divert prying eyes from spoiling a sunny afternoon in an inner-city roof terrace? Design and build an angled, hardwood louvre screen! Such a solid yet elegant structure is sufficiently high, and adds much-needed seclusion, while letting copious sunrays in. The angled slats match the wood details of this small roof terrace space, forming an aesthetic, optimal backdrop for sedges displayed on top of the parapet wall, along down lighting fitted above – juxtaposed with a bright colour scheme. In a Parsons Green small courtyard garden, a similar construction technique was modified into vertical segments to produce a cedar screen above a built-in spa, reiterated with galvanised steel detailing across the residence's bespoke roof terrace handrails.
Dynamic patterns form the essence of a contemporary outdoor screen, where bespoke elevations, augmented by a versatile design ethos, enhance precious daylight in a myriad of urban settings. In this North London garden, near Highbury Corner, the blueprint of its shared boundaries conveys resourceful and creative methods utilised to distinguish neighbourly zoning, where a sympathetic, well-detailed approach produces practical design solutions. Whichever pattern we detail, its rhythmic composition invariably forms an intrinsic element of the overall garden design layout, defining effective techniques to lessen the impact of otherwise a mere, utilitarian object.
This 70cm-high Cedar screen enhances the privacy of our clients and their neighbours across three elevations of a Fulham back garden. We devised various full-scale samples, in consultation with the owners of adjacent properties, to ascertain the most suitable gap between the Cedar boards, and collectively agreed on 15mm, which lets in copious daylight among the contiguous gardens. We designed and built the screening structure in-situ, and installed essential light fittings to illuminate the garden, increasing liveability within seating areas.
We utilise polypropylene to create vibrant privacy screens, and where there's an existing vertical metal railing, we weave flexible webbing between the handy balusters to produce colourful, screen tapestries. The seating area in this Shad Thames roof garden presents a view of an internal courtyard, yet is overlooked by nearby windows. While we couldn't construct a high enough barrier, as the building is conserved, we designed a pattern of green and brown straps, utilising two sizes. The webbing was fastened by chrome rivets at each end, fixed into a fold in the material, where its fabric undulations create dynamic, three-dimensional rhythm, and highlight the yellow grasses in front.
The horizontal hardwood screen in this expansive Covent Garden rooftop accomplishes a multitude of versatile functions, where a solid partition provides safety, as its low parapet wall is situated six floors high, and conceals a lacklustre view. Mediterranean rooftop planting benefits warmth and wind shelter, amid this minimalist, slatted Balau backdrop which highlights textural, foliar essence. An outdoor speaker fixed to the screen's top board enhances alfresco ambience, linked to a surround sound system, while mellow roof terrace lighting ties in this entire multifunctional composition cohesively.
This small Parsons Green patio was in a dilapidated state when we first arrived, requiring efficient screening from nearby properties and design ideas for disintegrating boundary walls. To minimise structural work, we repaired the perimeter, and built a Balau hardwood screen. As the brick wall was incredibly uneven, the wooden frame produced a level and plumb vertical surface with warm cladding which forms a robust backdrop for a bench seat along the entire patio.
We've outlined screen techniques created with hard landscaping, yet, at times, there isn't a more suited way to enhance privacy, or hide a hideous view, than with luscious, green architecture. Plants provide a diverse, long-term viable solution when it's unfeasible to construct solid panels due to building regulations or site access limitations. We specify fast-growing, tall upright plant species to achieve camouflage, where dense foliage obscures curious minds, shields from blustery winds with compact roof terrace planting, and produces distinctive architectural displays as intimate, verdant hideaways.