Garden Tour: A Tiny, L-shaped Space Becomes Practical and Chic
This small garden, attached to a flat, is a tricky shape, but it needed to serve numerous purposes for the owners
This appealed, as the owners needed their compact garden to include a family-sized bike shed, a parking space, and extra security. It also had to be a relaxing place to sit, to acknowledge the owners’ appreciation of stylish design, and to include bee- and butterfly-attracting plants.
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Who lives here? A couple and their two daughters
Location North London
Property A flat on the top floors of a Victorian terrace corner house
Designer Georgia Lindsay of Georgia Lindsay Garden Design
Garden size 40 sq m in total
Project year 2018
Photos by Nathalie Priem Photography
“It’s not that I specialise in small spaces,” Georgia says, “but I’ve done quite a lot of them and I really enjoy the challenge.”
Georgia trained as a theatre designer and says she likes creating spaces that are multipurpose, as is often the case with a stage set.
“You have to be much more inventive in a smaller space. Things have to double up – a coffee table that’s also a firepit, or a cupboard door dropping to become a bar area. Every surface is within eye-level, so attention to detail has to be very precise because of that.”
The redesign may look like an outdoor living space, but Georgia points out that it’s not typical of this idea, since it’s quite an effort to reach. “You can’t just nip out of your bifold doors to get to it,” she explains. In fact, the owners’ flat is up a flight of stairs, at the top of which is a little balcony, which they use quite often.
So they wanted the garden to become a secondary space where they could enjoy nature for brief periods and have a drink, as well as storing the bikes and car. It also needed to look good from the balcony and as a transitional space, since the family walk through it to get into the flat if they’ve been out in the car.
“It’s quite an unusual plot,” Georgia says. The owners’ garden belongs to a large, upstairs conversion flat. The original garden was divided into two when the house was converted. The result is an L-shaped plot that includes a metal staircase up to their floor.
Before Georgia came on board, the garden had low fencing that wasn’t doing a good job of providing screening for either side. “Because of the layout, the owners and the downstairs neighbour felt very much in each other’s pockets,” she explains.
The other garden forms a rectangle inside the L. The aim was to create a sense of intimacy without it becoming claustrophobic or hemmed in.
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This photo is taken from where the car would normally sit. The flooring is resin-bound gravel. “It’s a poured surface, but it’s permeable,” Georgia explains. “This is good for [allowing] water to go back into storm drains and it’s great for driveways.”
She chose a grey colour to tone with the grey porcelain tiles in the garden. All the fencing is painted in a darker grey.
Fencing and bike shed, The Garden Trellis Company; painted to order in the company’s own shade, Autumn Tide.
This close-up of one of the planters shows it filled with a mix of Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii ‘Black Pearl’ (at the back), two heucheras (’Blondie in Lime’ and ‘Obsidian’) and Lysimachia tumbling onto the cushion in the front. Each planter features a similar mix. “I wanted to get some real acid green colour in there to lift the monochrome,” Georgia explains.
Many of the plants, including an out-of-shot Persicaria, will also look good all year round. “In a very small space, it’s good to have a lot of evergreen foliage,” she says. “You can’t get away with bare patches in a small garden.” The tree seen in the previous shot is an evergreen Nandina domestica.
‘Arabic’ fretwork steel screen,
“They’re printed to look encaustic, but they’re much more hardwearing and don’t need sealing every year.”
Porcelain encaustic 3D tiles, Alhambra Tiles. Plain porcelain tiles, London Stone. Folding tray table, Ikea.
More: How to Care for Encaustic Cement Tiles.
To screen all this and to incorporate some greenery into the area, Georgia clad the risers with artificial maidenhair fern panels. The faux fern comes on grids and was fitted behind the metal mesh of the risers and pulled through the gaps. “It was quite a job,” Georgia concedes.
“I don’t usually like to use artificial, but sometimes in the setting it can be very effective,” she says. “And a real fern would have taken a battering here. It gives the illusion it’s real, because there’s lots of real planting in the garden as well. Also, it remains dense, it doesn’t deteriorate, and you don’t have to worry about stepping carefully. It was a good, robust solution.”
Faux fern panels, Evergreen Artificial.
The planters themselves are fibreglass, meaning they can be just 3mm thick, allowing more space for growing. They’ve been spray-painted to tone with the tiles.
Fibreglass planters, painted in RAL 7023, Cedar Nursery.
The right-hand fence separates the space from the downstairs neighbour’s garden.
What ideas do you have for maximising space in a small garden? Let us know in the Comments.