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low maintenance garden mayfair courtyard

modern low maintenance courtyard garden london

blog / minimal upkeep

design & words Amir Schlezingeramir schlezinger

Mayfair Minimalism

Once our clients' newly renovated basement flat in Mayfair was perfected internally with great panache, exuding personalised finesse in every detail, its spotlight finally focused on a shaded yet intimate 43-square-metre courtyard garden. Hailing from Belgium and raising two boys, the owners' affinity and appreciation of their native design palettes, both contemporary and classic, coupled with raising a young family, was fully encapsulated in our design of this low maintenance garden – transforming an outmoded outdoor space into a focal point of architectural seamlessness, infused with classical topiary, modern alfresco undertones and minimalist detail.

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1. walls 2. tiling 3. grass 4. design 5. clients 6. plants 7. topiary 8. seating 9. troughs 10. gadgets

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1 walls

verdant backdrop

While dispersing a fair amount of daylight within the apartment via three glazed elevations, the courtyard garden is cocooned among four tremendously high walls. To balance scale and create eye-level focus, the primary elevation design is layered with a 10-foot-high rectilinear composition, containing a tetrad of elements. Powder-coated troughs, Box hedging, Ivy and Cedar cladding form a verdant yet clean-lined textural backdrop to the living room, underlined by an artificial grass verge. Opposite, contrasting this 4-metre continuous expanse, three tall vases planted with Box spheres beneath overhead heaters and downlighters produce a punctuated centrepiece by the seating area.

2 tiling

seamless interlude

Light-toned porcelain tiles, arranged in a stack bond grid, define the courtyard's central area, reflecting natural light in this shaded aspect. Detailed with slender, matching grout lines, the uniform surface forms a seamless span of sympathetic hard landscaping which matches the surrounding walls' colour. The impermeable, all-round resistant tiles provide a hard-wearing solution in a frequently traversed and utilised courtyard, alleviating the weather whammies of Central London and complementing City of Westminster's classicality, while maintaining a pristine, robust framework which condenses time-consuming garden routines into unfussy, minimal upkeep tasks.

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3 grass

manageability factor

Low maintenance has progressed from a glorified buzzword into a pertinent keyword, revolutionising garden living across diverse uses, varying scales and environmental factors, and no material embodies this zeitgeist more than artificial grass. Here, in Mayfair, the squared courtyard garden outline is mitigated with an asymmetrical stretch of synthetic grass, infusing greenness amid bare walls below street level. The tactile surface, laid onto a cushioning underlay pad, extends as a play area for two young boys, where effortless manageability all year round not only unchains the shackles of the lawn mower and sustains a manicured display for the grown-ups, but also enables expeditious, hassle-free installation, while curbing valuable energy resources.

4 design

vintage timelessness

How do we produce three-dimensional qualities in a statically flat, squared and mostly shaded London courtyard, while conjunctionally moderating laborious garden chores? In this project, each elevation expresses distinct focality; its elements elevated off the ground by custom-made containers, delineated via classic symmetry within an asymmetrical outline to purposefully dynamise the small courtyard space. Layered with undemanding, shade-tolerant floras, the layout articulates miniaturised nature; tamed, citified, compressed and fitly arranged into spotless vignettes of alfresco artistry. For our Belgian clients, this premise comes rather naturally, where low maintenance garden design in Western Europe's third smallest country illustrates an intuitive, modern outdoor lifestyle.

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5 clients

belgique with chic

Our clients' quest for architectural perfection is thoroughly imbued throughout the apartment's interior fabric – a mindset which aptly accompanies the prodigality of their Central London location. This wholehearted juxtaposition of visual congruity alongside wholesome family life filters through to the very nucleus of the courtyard design, where a long working week culminates in the emancipating respite of an ever-ready, handily outfitted garden and its self-sufficient ethos.

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London's exclusive W postcodes traditionally impart immaculate grandeur, where the lax, woodsy ambience of northward localities is typically replaced by wasteful, though courtly refinement. The inner workings of such horticultural orthodoxy are customarily manifested in elaborate blueprints, sustained by labour-intensive maintenance schedules. Yet here, the owners' resourcefulness and creative insight have facilitated the hand-picking of ideal attributes from both these environments, embedded in a truly low-maintenance design.

6 plants

year-round photogenicity

Continually camera-ready and everlastingly evergreen, this low maintenance courtyard garden design utilises resilient materials and robust plants to convey our clients' desire for a meaningful work-life balance. Well-drained, fully irrigated and elegantly lit, the woodland floras from Japan, New Zealand and Europe form a multilayered, year-round planting scheme, portraying a consistent foliar equilibrium.

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Two Wheel trees generate graceful silhouettes by the kitchen and master bedroom windows, completed by a deciduous Japanese maple in the bottom left-hand corner as the only remnant of the previous landscaping – replanted and repositioned. Tassel ferns emanate from low troughs in sheer glossiness, interlaced texturally with variegated Sweet flags; the muted multicolouredness and grassy make-up of the flags is echoed by a New Zealand flax cultivar near the living room's door – providing vibrant accents amid an emerald expanse of foliage.

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7 topiary

belgian-style classic

Solitary topiaries occasionally appear isolated in the absence of harmonious foliar companions, evincing rather unnatural, discordant and arbitrary garden frameworks. We integrated spherical, lateral and vertical topiary plants in neatly clipped structures, softened by loose forms, to portray a natural progression as a modern, urban hedgerow. This sculptural sequence is backdropped by a green wall planted with Ivy, contributing medium-scale leaves, continued through a native Box hedge, and framed by the large-leaved, cascading contours of Wheel trees. This minimalist, contrastive hedge design was detailed closely with the clients to achieve a unique grouping of topiary species and texturally enhance the shaded courtyard garden.

8 seating

all-weather algorithm

Excluding microstates, and closely behind Holland, Belgium forms Europe's highest population density by area, and for such a small country with similar weather patterns to Britain, the proliferation of its outdoor furniture companies is simply unique, matched only by Spain which is sixteen times larger than its cooler rival. Manutti, Joli, Tribu, Royal Botania, Extremis, Jardinico and Diphano are some of the leading Belge brands in designing and manufacturing contemporary exterior furniture. In this Mayfair courtyard garden, the weatherproof sofas' taupe fabric matches our deep sable vases; their angled arms reiterated in tapered tree planters across two seating areas. With slim stainless steel frames and a contrasting anthracite coffee table, the lightweight modular lounge system enables effortless maintenance and painless reconfigurations, while embracing London's weather.

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9 troughs

unplantable to gardenable

While planting in ground beds within this courtyard setting is impractical, we've utilised our signature roof terrace techniques to create a compositionally structured and spatially enhancive design framework developed with bespoke planters. Fourteen containers in four designs and a tetradic palette of neutral colours reformulate the courtyard's anatomy with minimalist lines in a distinctly tiered layout, where a powder-coated repertoire of sculpted steel fosters a uniquely customised outdoor canvas. White denotes large-scale tree planters, Tellurium demarcates low hedging troughs, Sable accentuates smaller pots and slate-grey completes this subtly gradational visual legend in tall topiary vases – echoing the coffee table's anthracite surface.

10 gadgets

self-managing spectrum

High-tech garden gadgetry communicates nifty outdoor comfort, whether luxuriously fancy or classically utilitarian, and the myriads of worldwide product companies which reproduce indoor merchandise in all-weather versions undertake a rather vigorous modern-day design sortilege in their never-ending race for the much-coveted dernier cri. Heating, lighting, cooking, watering, upkeep machinery, wind proofing, sun shading and the endless gamut of outdoor tools, lounging, dining and seating are all reimagined by the minute to help us gain precious spare time, endure fewer maintenance errands and entertain in style.

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Here, the clients have opted for restraint with a handful of subtle, remote-controlled auxiliaries comprising illumination, irrigation and heaters, and just as classic Belgian chocolate, these highly reliable resources perform like clockwork. Cutting-edge apparatuses indeed promote self-sustained gardens, albeit to truly reconnect with our outdoor space and guests, not wirelessly so to speak, these gadgets are perhaps best kept in check to let winey wooziness take centre stage instead... or at least until the next, next-day delivery arrives!

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– coda –

Picture-perfect Convenience

Londoners, Europe's finest workaholics, have indeed long diverged from Britain's green-fingered progenitors. Thoroughly engrossed in a world where the garden shed is a no-go zone, herbaceous perennials are distinctly avoided and woodgrain connotes a cryptic enigma, we, mere urbanites, perceive ordinary garden tasks as a rather foreboding endeavour. Contemporary garden designers bolster this novel zeitgeist en bloc in facilitating maximised downtime, and prescribing decisively liberating outdoor freedom empowered by low maintenance gardens.

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Nonetheless, design professionals do seek to demystify urban myths of entirely self-maintaining garden environments, where founding an enduring balance between reduced upkeep, architectural fluidity and organic elements unearths a site's spatial potential, unique ambience and ecological merits, alongside with its owners' paramount sense of permanence. No landscaped garden is in any way wholly self-cleaning and auto-booting as a kitchen oven or a laptop computer, yet this low maintenance courtyard design project in Mayfair sensitively expresses our clients' aspirations, work and family lives through the advantages of a peaceful place to unwind in with minimal effort.