Brilliant ideas for small spaces

Just because you have a tiny garden doesnt mean you cant dream big. Quite the opposite in fact big says Tim Sykes of Gardenproud…


When space is at a premium it is understandable that homeowners want to enjoy every square metre of their gardens.

The town gardens and courtyards of Tunbridge Wells reflect the needs of these residents.

Historically they have tried to recreate the essence of a much larger plot or ignored the challenge and put up with a rather uninspiring small terrace and lawned space.

With the pressure on housing and initiatives of central and local government the density of housing has been increasing and with this the size of the average garden reducing.

In our experience we’ve found that the average sized plot on new builds is rarely larger than 120 sqm and often more akin to a courtyard. The overall average for London has reduced to c 163sqm. So this puts greater pressure on homeowners and garden designers to be more thoughtful and creative in the solutions they strive for.

Small wonders: It is a global challenge. Homeowners in cities like Sydney have perfected the art of utilising every square inch of space to create dramatic gardens that tick all the boxes. Talking to George, our Head of Landscaping (just returned from Australia) Sydney residents cherish their little piece of green, but here it also has to provide all the accoutrements of a hard working outdoor room.

Not unlike the UK, commuters in Sydney also have little time to maintain their plots so features like water irrigation are designed into the garden from the start. Dense semi-mature planting and heavy mulching also helps minimise the weeds.

Look at your lifestyle: For us a starting point is always understanding the lifestyle of the customer, how they have set up or refurbished their home, what’s important to them and the must haves and wish list for their outdoor space. An important consideration is always the budget. Designer Andy Steadman makes the point that in smaller gardens the cost is usually disproportionately higher than in larger spaces. Well that’s because you are trying to build more features into a confined space, and the proportion of hard versus soft landscaping is higher.

Seek inspiration: We have just recently been working on a project in the centre of Tunbridge Wells where the space is just under 100sqm. It’s a nice terraced house with a part walled garden that was mainly laid to lawn and a terrace you’d find it hard to fit a table and chairs on. The customer wanted a nice view from the kitchen/living space on his lower ground floor, he appreciates art and nice things and has an eclectic appreciation of things, whether they are modern, or classical. He and his family also wanted to be able to sit in the garden, both to entertain and escape from the hustle and bustle of town living. On his wish list were such things as a nice table and chairs, garden lighting, a water feature and a bench. He also wanted a low maintenance planting solution.


Decide what you want in your space and keep the design bold and simple”


So we set about redesigning the plot. The finished design incorporated a new limestone paved terrace with contrasting sett borders in black limestone. This leads onto a gravelled courtyard bordered by metal edging, with a central water feature created for us by Capital Garden Products finished in a distressed copper. Facing this is an arbour with a bespoke curved mirror designed by us and beautifully created by Aldgate Home also finished in distressed copper. Apart from being rather attractive the mirror also bounces back light into the garden and creates new perspectives. A very individual bench was sourced by the team and painted in a dramatic turquoise finish.

To help give the garden a greater sense of seclusion and also unify the space a white trellising was fitted along three boundaries. We also planned in ground lighting at key positions, plus wall lights and down lights under the arbour.

Completing the picture we sourced a beautiful set of garden furniture from the Heveningham Collection in black powder coated iron with contrasting cushions and a granite top.

Do your research: In John Brookes 2006 book he talks about the importance of enjoying the garden from both the inside and outside of your house. He suggests the principles of design in the small garden are very similar to those of interior designers.

So when space is at a premium, there needs to be a greater appreciation and synergy between the house and the garden, as this is after all an extra room that needs to blend seemlessly.


Whats going on in the garden this January:

  • Check out the websites and plan your summer flowering bulbs
  • Have a good look through the seed catalogues and order your seeds for the vegetable garden
  • If we get a mild spell plant new fruit bushes
  • Preparation of the vegetable garden, dig over the soil, remove weeds and leave for the weather to break down the soil prior to sowing
  • There’s still time to plant bare root hedging
  • Prune your fruit trees before the sap starts to rise
  • If you haven’t already tackled it this is the time to prune roses
  • Dig in well rotted compost or add fertiliser to beds

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