mylandscapes contemporary garden design london

small patio chic primrose hill

small city patio garden north london nw3

blog / outdoor trends

design & words Amir Schlezingeramir schlezinger

Snug by the Hill

Small yet perfectly balanced, this Primrose Hill patio garden forms part of three outdoor spaces reinvented for an elegant family home in North London. With its minimalist lines, woodland planting and a cantilevered bench, this contemporary design & build project utterly transformed a disjointed stretch of lawn into a spacious, multilayered and highly usable family garden. The dining area by the built-in seat maintains an eye-catching focal point, set above a capaciously paved patio, amid architectural flora. Viewed from a freshly renovated roof terrace, alongside a matching frontage, this well-lit, small alfresco haven sustains a truly low-maintenance canvas for our clients as a captivatingly incandescent centrepiece with all-year-round lure.

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1. family 2. layout 3. angles 4. seating 5. rooftop 6. lighting 7. planting 8. surfaces 9. logistics 10. frontage

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1 family

primrosy hilliness

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.

2 layout

split-level patio

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 a larger upper paved area – interlinked via a pair of angular steps and a Box hedge partition. Counterbalanced by an asymmetrical 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.

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3 angles

focalise this

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.

4 seating

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.

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5 rooftop

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 container 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.

6 lighting

enigmatic chasm

Balanced outdoor lighting forges renewed three-dimensionality in modern small town courtyard gardens. In this intimate Primrose Hill patio garden, downlighting amplifies supersized natural stone pavers, creating pools of warm ambient light around seating areas and steps. We designed the back raised planting 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 at night-time, aptly counterbalanced by rhythmic spotlights concealed below the cantilevered bench.

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7 planting

minimalist palette

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 via multilayered soft landscaping.

8 surfaces

paved creaminess

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.

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9 logistics

nifty techniques

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.

10 frontage

stupendously savvy

The prim and proper Victorian terraces which distinguish Primrose Hill stealthily disguise countless contemporised back gardens 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.

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– coda –

Comprehensively Primrosed

With silhouetted canopies, velvety surfaces and great fun elements for family and guests, this project's ethos conveys garden style and minimal upkeep through natural essence in the confines of a small Primrose Hill garden. Diminutive in stature, yet sensitively designed, comprehensively detailed and collaboratively orchestrated, this petite patio instils daily nuances of carefree outdoor living, inspiring visual silkiness and fascinating foliar daintiness – the hallmarks of highly liveable, and wholly entertaining, very small city gardens!