Inspirational Australian-style contemporary garden in London, with kitchen-diner and seating areas

Inspired by the laid-back, outdoor living of their native Sydney, this couple have turned their south London garden into a series of rooms
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  • This city garden has been totally transformed by the Australian owner, who lives here with her husband and their two daughters. The couple bought their house in south London in 2014. Its 288sqm garden has a patio and seating at one end, an outdoor kitchen beneath a pergola at the other, plus a lounge area with a fire pit, and a large lawn with borders.

    ‘It’s so private and peaceful, I forget I’m in the middle of a city. When I dreamt up this garden idea, I had my summer hat on,’ says the owner, who moved from Sydney to London 16 years ago.

    ‘My husband, kept saying, “It’s not Australia; we don’t have the weather for the indoor-outdoor living thing.” But in summer we have breakfast on the patio, then retreat under the pergola when it gets hot in the afternoon. And if it’s a chilly evening, we stoke up the fire pit. ‘It really is a slice of Oz in south London.’

    Australian-style garden makeover

    Wooden pergola covering an outdoor seating area

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Colin Poole

    When the couple first moved in, the garden had shabby shrubs and a dated patio. ‘I wanted a big pergola and a barbecue for entertaining,’ explains the owner. She enlisted garden designer Shelley Hugh-Jones ( to bring her Antipodean vision to life, complete with lush greenery and ferns to remind her of home.

    ‘Shelley helped with cost-cutting garden ideas, like buying young rather than mature plants, and only using pricey batten fencing where it’s on show, then using cheaper wood panels behind hedges,’ says the owner.

    Blurring the boundaries

    View of a contemporary garden through bifold doors

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Colin Poole

    The garden is an extension of the indoor space so it has ‘walls’ and ‘floors’, with concrete flooring flowing seamlessly from the kitchen onto the patio. Full-width bifold doors open onto the garden, connecting the indoor and outdoor spaces.

    The couple have used the same concrete flooring inside and out for a seamless outdoor living idea. A glass balustrade on the right neatly screens steps leading to the basement.

    Stylish outdoor seating area

    Built in outdoor seating ideas and firepit ideas

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Colin Poole

    The fire pit and its seating are built from rendered blockwork, while the pergola creates a ‘dining room’, complete with pendant light. ‘Illuminating the garden makes it usable at any time,’ says the owner of the Ggarden lighting idea

    Soft sheepskins on the wooden benches bring a touch of Danish hygge cosiness to the fire pit area, making it a comfortable place to linger 

    Structured planting

    Small urban garden ideas

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Colin Poole

    The plant choices are designed to give low maintenance structure as well as seasonal interest. Japanese Banana Plant – Musa acuminate ‘Basjoo’ is great as a dynamic stand-alone plant. Wood Ferns (deciduous dryopteris) is ideal to add texture as a contemporary hanging basket option.

    The graphic round shape of allium heads, make this a great flower for borders of more structured garden landscaping.

    Perking up a staircase

    grey step planter ideas for gardens

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Colin Poole

    Well thought out, clever details are what elevates the design of this garden landscaping idea. Such as the trough planters which line the stairway down to the basement. The plants will eventually grow to form a striking slope of greenery, an imaginative Sloping garden idea.

    Alfresco dining

    alfresco dining ideas

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Colin Poole

    A wooden pergola and lush greenery enclose the dining/cooking space. In time, this area will become even more private, as the couple are training roses and jasmine to grow up the fences, supported by wires. Easy climbing plant ideas help to elevate planting by creating a vertical garden, which offers privacy to a patio area.

    The inviting outdoor space is just what the owners wanted. ‘The only thing I’m missing is a veggie patch,’ she says, ‘but I’m sure I’ll be able to find a corner for it.’

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