With bags of indoor spaciousness spread across a 4-storey terraced home, our clients sought a complete and timely update for their trio of outside spaces, where both young kids and grown-up guests can relish some alfresco Primrose Hill ambience in elegant seclusion. A withered lawn, bound by an obtrusive retaining wall situated far too close to the living space, defined a bland and unutilised back garden, distinctly lacking a patio area. At a humble 35-square-metre outline, yet boosted by a small rooftop terrace and a roomy front garden, this modernly designed patio forms a pivotal part in a series of intimate family gardens as an oasis of serenity and new-found chic.
By applying a simple golden section, the back garden's static layout was transformed into a split-level patio, portioned with a small lower deck and larger, upper paving area – interlinked via two angular steps and a Box hedge partition. Counterbalanced by an asymmetrical, high raised bed at the back and superimposed with perpendicular seating zones, the patio's spatial simplicity generates effective transition, and maximises everyday utilisation. This pared-down efficiency, elevated three-dimensionally by a graduated planting scheme, not only creates an illusion of greater depth, but also facilitates easy maintenance.
Given its inherently boxy outline, towered over by imposing buildings, and lacking a discernible landscape backdrop to favourably link into, the garden design utilises inward focal points to enhance perspective. With a native Hawthorn tree in the top right-hand corner, which we conserved, the patio design leads the eye leftwards to create a vista demarcated by a Japanese maple. This angular sightline triangulates towards a taller, existing tree, subtly increasing perception of space, while the built-in bench mirrors the pattern along the raised bed.
perch, dine and gaze
Despite its bijou scale, this Primrose Hill patio garden sustains exceptionally diverse outdoor seating, expressed with playfulness of form as well as function – thoroughly utilised by all family members. The usual sedentariness of an alfresco urban lifestyle in its nurturing, visceral form is most commonly delimited by the permanency of idle garden furnishings. Here, the out-of-doors experience is reinterpreted through free-standing and built-in seating originality, supplemented by ad hoc perching spots. This new-found, open-air stasis envelopes the garden with a floating bench and a Gloster circular dining table, gazed by a whimsical seat. With organic contours, slender hardwood and sleek powder-coating, the fun Mantis bench, created by Factory Furniture, enhances the tranquil stillness of this private garden.
primrose hill locale
Only 10 square metres in size, the roof terrace garden presents a commanding view of the patio as a sunny and intimate breathing space for the grown-ups. Bathed in plenty of sunshine, the roof is planted with a multi stem Olive tree in a triangular corner planter, accentuated by a lower trough of crimson Daylilies. A veil of Black bamboo on the left-hand side provides seclusion and a little shade, augmented by Lavenders in a unique aperture vase design. Decked in smooth Balau hardwood and fully irrigated, this small roof terrace forms an architectural gem as a layered continuation of the patio design, with bird's-eye views of its peaceful Primrose Hill locale.
Well-balanced, modern outdoor lighting schemes forge renewed three-dimensionality in well-lit, small city gardens. In this intimate Primrose Hill patio garden, downlighting amplifies colossal natural stone pavers, creating pools of warm ambient light around seating areas and steps. We designed the back raised bed as a contemporary crevasse – an unfilled cavity which conserves the trunk of a native Hawthorn tree. Planted with Golden Bamboo, this enigmatic chasm generates an enchanting uplighting effect, aptly counterbalanced by rhythmic spotlights concealed below the cantilevered bench.
Predominantly shaded along its back section, the garden features a minimalist design palette of half-dozen woodland plant species. A remarkable Japanese maple, Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’, produces striking red autumn colours, remaining brilliantly purple throughout the season. Situated diagonally to the maple, a Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’, planted beside an existing Hawthorn tree, reciprocates with deep purple, heart-shaped leaves. Along the sunnier border, Black bamboo reiterates its Golden counterpart in the raised bed; underplanted with variegated Phormium, the New Zealand flax, this evergreen elevation balances the deciduousness of forest trees, linking into the roof terrace through balanced soft landscaping.
Quarried by Bingley Stone in West Yorkshire, the large flagstones arranged crosswise in a stack bond thoroughly enhance the garden's limited breadth. Blue pavers form angular steps, leading to the upper patio surfaced in buff paving which progresses under the bench seat. Hardwood decking, laid perpendicularly to the stone, continues this natural materials palette, repeated within the roof terrace. The front garden's paved creaminess and the back patio's rendered walls, tinted in blue-grey, extend a cohesive scheme with sleekly radiant surfaces.
With the back garden situated a fair distance from this terraced home's entrance, we were handily assisted by our clients' considerate neighbours living in the adjacent end-of-terrace house. Immense new Yorkstone paving slabs, quarried at 900 x 600 x 75 millimetres, were conveyed through the neighbouring garden and lifted manually over the boundary into our site. To engineer a perfectly floating bench, we collaborated with a local metalwork expert who imparted some nifty techniques, enabling integral solutions amid non-parallel walls and an angular design. While steps were constructed in the patio garden, materials winched up to the rooftop terrace, and front garden hard landscaped, the home's entrance hall was contemporarily retiled.
The prim and proper Victorian terraces which distinguish Primrose Hill disguise countless contemporised back gardens stealthily behind their verdant avenues and quaint crescents as magnetic nexuses for innovative garden design. This zingy juxtaposition of vintage grandeur and cutting-edge landscaping signifies a three-decade pilgrimage of trailblazing garden designers summoned by home modernisers galore to equal swankily designed interiors with compatible outdoors in a bid for the ultimate chic – either side of the bifold garden doors...
Here, in Gloucester Avenue, cocooned among the extravagant Primrose Hill set, our clients' front garden receives its fair share of encroachment from passers-by enticed by local ale establishments. A tall, dense and evergreen Holly hedge relives this public predicament, cloaking the private space with its prickly foliage. Smooth paving and staircases clad in buff sandstone, irrigated Bay topiaries and a 2.5-metre-long bespoke trough planted with English lavenders complete the home's south-facing front elevation in a foolproof composition.