Planning a small town garden is a challenge, especially when you want to make it feel as spacious as you can. When the owner of a Victorian mid-terrace house came to us for ideas, this is what we said.

Small town garden with Kandla Grey Indian sandstone hard landscaping, brick raised bed along fence and garden dining set
Kandla Grey Indian sandstone was an ideal choice for small town garden surrounded by tall fences and shaded by buildings. Designed Sarah Kay and built by Acacia Gardens.

Think about what you really want

Take time to view the garden from inside the house and outside. What view would you like from the window? How would you like to use the space? What do you need for that to happen?

Our client was very clear that she wanted natural stone paving that would look good in years to come. It needed to cope with cold, wet weather and a north-facing aspect, so she wanted a surface that provided some grip. She also wanted paving that required minimal maintenance.

Hard landscaping to reflect the architecture of the house

Ensuring that hard landscaping reflects the character and colour of surrounding architecture will make a small space feel part of a larger one, rather than a small, tightly delineated corner.

For example:

  • Small sandstone or granite setts could replicate the look of original, traditional cobbled streets for a mews house garden.
  • Different clay pavers are easily blended to complement the brickwork of the home, or if you're in the capital, London Mix is a choice to match vernacular architecture.
  • Reclaimed Yorkstone may well suit the dignity of a Georgian villa.
  • Sawn natural stone can work well in a small courtyard garden of an older property.
  • Porcelain paving would complement a modern, high-tech extension with full-length glass doors.
  • Composite decking blends with a wide range of styles and is also a good choice when you want to vary the materials within the paved area.

In this case, we recommended Indian sandstone, which has a riven surface, and is therefore more slip-resistant. One of the denser varieties, such as the Kandla Grey or Raj Green, would also be more resistant to algal growth, which can be an issue in damp and shady gardens, and therefore lower maintenance.

Small town garden with reclaimed Yorkstone paving and raised patio.
Designer Anne Jennings of Viridian Landscape Design created a hard landscaping design of reclaimed Yorkstone and planting pockets in this award-winning secret garden.

Remember level changes

In her discussion with one of our team, the homeowner realised that the patio forms the transition point between house and garden and, although one appears to flow easily into the other, there is a drop from the french doors to the outdoors, as well as a slight change in level further down the plot. You also might also need to consider garden path design.

We advised her to consider matching step treads, and that a path linking the patio to the far end of the garden should be in slabs of the same colour but in a smaller size to be in proportion to the width of the plot.

Small garden with amber designboard with raised bed and exotic planting
Amber DesignBoard has been used to face the raised bed as well as deck this awkwardly shaped plot designed by April House, built by Darren Watt Landscaping. The extra height of the bed helps the exotic planting disguise the boundary behind.

Raised beds for better soil depth

One of the best ideas for a small town garden design is the creation of raised beds. Soil in city gardens is often very dry and poor, due to the surrounding foundations of walls, fences and paving. Raised beds provide richer, deeper topsoil. They can also be faced in stone or cladding to match paving and architecture, increasing the coherence of the space.

Our adviser was able to show the visitor images of how designers and landscapers have used stone cladding, DesignClad or facing bricks on raised beds to make them a valuable addition to the design.

View down onto small town garden with inbuilt bench seating between planters against tall clad wall.
The generous wooden benches give plenty of room for lounging in this small city garden, designed by Georgia Lindsay. Paved with Slab Coke and Slab Khaki porcelain, it also shows how different porcelain paving combinations can add interest to a small space.

Built-in seating to save space

Space-saving benches mean you don't have to store garden furniture and can keep the garden free of clutter. Incorporating planter benches for added growing space,is a neat solution. Extra seating doesn't have to be obvious, either. Coping stones, with their rounded, profiled edges, form the perfect surface for extra seating on a low wall or the edge of the raised beds.

Small town courtyard garden, with Westminster clay pavers, wooden dining set and pergola with lights.
Westminster clay pavers have replaced the lawn in this small town garden designed by Mark Wallinger. The colour reflects the tall brick wall, drawing the eye down from the height of the boundary.

Reduce the work in the garden

Finally, our client wanted a garden with minimal maintenance, and that included the paving. So, we said:

Replace the lawn

Often small town garden lawns are not much to write home about. There's not much more depressing than the sight of unhappy grass in the midst of high walls and overhanging shrubs and trees. Many urban spaces benefit from replacing a small lawn with paving. This is because:

  • You won't have to battle to improve the grass or gaze out of the house at muddy patches where grass won't thrive.
  • You'll have more time to laze in the garden or tend to beds, pots and planters.
  • It increases the opportunities when you can enjoy the outdoors, as the garden will be drier underfoot.

There are many options when replacing grass. You don't have to pave entirely in stone. Pebbles, bark chippings and gravel are just three materials which can be used in conjunction with paving, to aid drainage, increase a natural feel, and create interesting textural contrasts.

Treat your paving

Small town gardens - so often shaded - can remain damp. Conditions like these promote slippery algal growth. Sawn natural stone paving should always be sealed, prevents stains from penetrating, making for easier cleaning. But there are times when you should consider a sealant for riven stone and porcelain too, as it makes dirt removal that bit quicker and easier.

For more small town garden ideas, see our suggestions for planning a porcelain patio. Or why not pop into one of our showrooms and talk to one of our trained advisers? We'll discuss the conditions in your garden and what you want, to help you find exactly the right materials. We can also show you plenty of images of garden designs, both in store and on our website, to help you envisage exactly what you want and you'll be able to see and handle the various paving choices.

Finally, if, like our client, you're developing a brief for a hard landscaping design and are looking for someone to build it for you, check out garden landscapers near you.

Post updated: March 2024