An overgrown garden, tired paving and not enough space and light were the problems to be sorted by London Stone Trade Club member Tom Howard Garden Design and Landscaping in Chelsea recently. Inside the newly renovated house, the couple had maintained its period features in the main rooms but opted for an ultra-modern basement. They wanted a bright, open garden where their young children could play, and which blended traditional and contemporary to match the house.
A contemporary garden with a classical feel. Photo: Tom Howard Garden and Landscaping.
The couple had zero desire to garden, and Tom chose a design with a classical feel that would be low maintenance, with box balls, box hedging, ferns and box-head hornbeams. Symmetry was important to continue the classical feel. So, although the left wall was of lovely London brick, the ugly red brick wall on the right had to go. To marry the two, Tom rendered both and painted with Farrow and Ball 'Clunch', which is a soft grey with yellow undertones, making it more mellow than pure white.
The garden was overgrown, with tired paving. Photo: Tom Howard Garden and Landscaping.
It also goes very well with his choice of stone: Warm Beige Porcelain. The consistent light colour and texture give it a modern edge, while combined beige and sand colours introduce the required touch of tradition. “The lower area is straight out from the kitchen-diner,” said Tom, “and the couple also wanted a bright feel to match the interior. The need for low maintenance was a deciding factor too. The porcelain needed no sealing, doesn't stain too easily, and with its texture it doesn't get slippery. The biggest worry was having little children with lots of steps.”
The meranti screens will silver down to blend with the walls and Warm Beige Porcelain paving. Photo: Tom Howard Garden and Landscaping.
This is the second time Tom has used Porcelain Paving. “The chap who lays it loves using it because it's so consistent and laying is easier.” Matching Larsen grout was sponged into the 5mm joints and, because this contains cement, Tom recommends cleaning the residue away quickly and frequently.
The bottom of the garden, showing the raised nature of the plane tree, before the new design. Photo: Tom Howard Garden and Landscaping.
Hellebores have been planted among the ferns in the planters, and two tracheospermums trained against the meranti screen at the back. Photo: Tom Howard Garden and Landscaping.
Finally, just in case you're wondering, (and no, that's not real grass), the slope at the back is a cunning solution to a rise in level required to protect the roots of the plane tree, which has a TPO. The alternative would have been to raise the height of the whole garden, not only making the steps somewhat overwhelming from the kitchen-diner, but possibly eliciting objections from the neighbours. “As it stands,” said Tom, “the steps are 1 metre 30 high, so you can see into the garden from the basement.”
A rather neat solution all round, we think.