Potter around a divine urban garden and studio in north London

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  • A flat dwelling couple doubled their living space with this low-maintenance garden designed for relaxing, dining and gathering with friends

    The now owners knew that flat-hunting in London usually involves compromise, but, for them, a garden was a priority. ‘We’d been living in Canada and really enjoyed entertaining and relaxing in our garden there,’ they explain. ‘We wanted outdoor space here, even if it was tiny.’

    Eventually, the couple found a raised ground floor flat, which has this garden accessed by steps from a balcony off the living room. It didn’t look promising – 
a mossy lawn edged with shrubs and overshadowed by trees.

    Inspired? See more of our garden ideas.

    But the couple were prepared to strip it all out and start again to turn it into a multifunctional extra living space. ‘We needed it to be low maintenance and were keen to have a water feature for the lovely sound.’

    A local landscaping company, Belsize Gardens, cleared the space and removed most of the trees to let in light. Its designer also helped them to plan a paved garden, broken up with clusters 
of plants that would add height and texture but require little attention.

    Most of the work was done over a couple of months and, since then, everything has matured to turn the space into a sheltered oasis.


    Image credit: Colin Poole

    The paved garden includes a lounging area with a 
fire pit, a kitchen-dining space and a studio to retreat to in bad weather. Planting is contained in randomly positioned circular beds, while climbers soften the hard surfaces and boost privacy.

    A rusted metal gives the garden a lived-in look, while the planted roof
 makes the studio blend into its surroundings.


    Image credit: Colin Poole

    The seating area has comfy teak loungers 
and a rustic bench that doubles as log storage 
for the fire pit. ‘We wanted to sit outdoors for as long as possible on summer evenings,’ says the owner.

    Big planters
 visually enclose the seating area of the open-plan ‘outdoor room’. 
Ivy will quickly cover 
the surrounding fences, turning this into a calm, green retreat.

    Get the look
    Buy now: Similar Artstone Ella planters, from £22, John Lewis


    Image credit: Colin Poole

    Weathered brick walls and an old cherry tree were integrated into the design, instantly lending the garden an established feel. The garden studio extends the couple’s living area, 
as it’s furnished with comfortable seating and 
a wine fridge.

    Wall toppers
 add height for privacy and update the old brick for a more modern look.


    Image credit: Colin Poole

    Planting wise, they kept things simple, focusing on interesting foliage and white flowers, but with mixed success. The hydrangeas were a hit and now form the backbone of the planting scheme, but the hostas fell victim to slugs.

    ‘It was a learning curve,’ says the owner. ‘We wanted white flowers only, but some turned out to be pink, and I didn’t realise that slugs would flock to eat the hostas! Luckily, the hydrangeas proved to be tough, low-maintenance and look right in both urban and rural gardens. Gorgeous 
blooms, too!’

    Struggling for space? Small garden ideas to make the most of a tiny space


    Image credit: Colin Poole

    A living wall makes a soft, green backdrop for the dining area. ‘We saw the idea online and thought it looked really attractive, lively and fabulous for creating privacy,’ says the owner. ‘Ferns, grasses and periwinkles flourish there, and any gaps that appear are easy to fill with annuals, too.’


    Image credit: Colin Poole

    ‘We’re serious foodies, so building 
a great barbecue area was important,’ says the owner. The metal furniture is w
and suitable for leaving outside 
all year round.

    Get the look
    Buy now: Similar Big Green Egg MiniMax barbecue, £625, John Lewis


    Image credit: Colin Poole

    Enjoy another makeover: Before and after: we turned our garden into an outdoor living room

    In a mostly green garden, low-maintenance grasses make a contrast with leafier plants. They bring height, texture and movement and their pretty seedheads add extra softness to hard landscaping.

    ‘We felt lucky getting this flat,’ says the owner, ‘because finding green space in this area is difficult and the garden is peaceful, private and so easy to keep tidy. We spend as much time out here as we can.’

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