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Upstairs, Downstairs

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  • Upstairs, Downstairs - living-wall
  • Upstairs, Downstairs - we-have-plants
  • Upstairs, Downstairs - the-new-red-seating
  • Upstairs, Downstairs - need-a-step-up
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  • Upstairs, Downstairs - what-a-view
  • Upstairs, Downstairs - a-view-of-the-living-wall

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These are the gardens to a unique, end of terrace, mews-style property in the grounds of a former Grade II listed manor house in Harefield, with spectacular views over fields and woodland.

The Brief:

The front garden area adjoins the parking space and is block-paved with a wall to one side, over which one can see the views. Facing the house there is a railing separating the space from the neighbouring former manor house and a matching railing protects the drop into the light well serving the downstairs bedroom.

To the back of the house there was an area of riven paving, a lawn and a low, angled brick wall which marked the boundary to the rear and one side. There was a higher brick wall partially separating the garden from the neighbours’, with a Box hedge forming the rest of the boundary.

As in the front garden, there are railings surrounding the drop into the basement level and again, there are stunning views over the side wall, and also to the rear of the garden into tranquil woodland.

The open space to the basement also extends underneath the ground-level garden.

Our clients had not lived in the property very long, but wanted to make the most of the valuable outdoor space as soon as possible.

They saw it as very much an extension of their indoor living space and wanted us to create gardens which are both low maintenance, and also cater to the varied needs of their young family.

The Solution

In the front garden

…it was important to provide a welcoming entrance to the home with attractive planting that has year-round interest, and this area can now be used to sit out and take in the beautiful view. The space felt slightly exposed as it is part of a larger communal area and is also overlooked from the properties in the main house. We installed some planters along the railings to screen the step area to the main house and planted evergreen climbers on trellis screens to provide some colour and perfume to break up the rather barren feel and also to provide a wonderfully scented place to sit and relax.

In the back garden

…we created a more contemporary feel, but with some traditional touches so as not to divorce it from its historical location.

As our clients entertain a lot, they saw this as more of an adult area, with space to cook, dine and relax.

We replaced the original paving with sawn limestone in a light, creamy colour. This not only complements the indoor flooring, thus achieving the smooth transition from interior to exterior, but also marries very well with the soft red brick boundary walls.

The lawn was removed and the slope to the rear bought up to level and paved, providing a larger, and more useable, outdoor entertaining space for the whole family to enjoy. By bringing the slope up it also brings the wonderful vista out over the fields into view from a seated position at the table at the bottom of the garden.

Our clients wanted space to cook and we incorporated their existing barbecue into a small bar area which is at right angles to the boundary wall, where one or two people can sit and be sociable with the chef whilst he or she is cooking.

A further seating area was built under the high wall that is between our clients and their neighbours. This is in the form of a bench seat, clad in sawn paving, and with planters to either end to take scented climbers. This is also a good place to grow some herbs as it is south-east facing and receives a lot of sun. We added some comfy cushions to make this a really inviting place to sit.

The narrow side return is paved in the same material as the main garden and we planted a living wall to add life and interest to an otherwise plain access area.

The basement area

…is reached via doors from the children’s bedrooms,  and what was once a barren, unappealing space has been turned into an inviting area in which they can read and play.

There is expansive seating and play areas, not to mention valuable storage space, and clever lighting and heating were added it for it to effectively become a year-round outdoor room.

For privacy, we added an opaque glass panel to the top of the low wall separating the area from the neighbours. This is now a private space for the children to call their own, and will grow with them into a place where they can ‘chill’ with friends.

As our clients don’t have much spare time, planting in general throughout all the gardens is low-maintenance, but has billowy perennial planting that provides a softening effect to contrast with the more formal hard landscaping. Our clients preferred to stick to a limited colour palette of greens, blues, whites and mauves in order to provide a cool, calm, relaxed feel and favourite plants include Lavender, Wisteria and Jasmine. Perfume was also very important.

Lighting adds an exciting dimension to the gardens, making them not only useable on summer evenings, but also visually accessible in the winter months. With practical lighting to the barbecue area, inset lighting to the paving, up-lighting to the structural planting, not to mention the exciting lighting in the basement area, the effects can be dramatic. However we installed different circuits so that a more subtle feel can be achieved according to the mood and occasion.

Finally, we installed an automated irrigation system.

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40 Bloomsbury Way , Lower Ground Floor, London, WC1A 2SE