Modern sanctuary

From blank canvas to family haven

The dream

The family had moved into a new-build, modern property in Bedfordshire with a west-facing garden.  There was a small patio, no planting and most of the space had been turfed over. The back border of the garden was marked by an original Victorian brick wall. The family’s wish list included a generous dining area, a good-sized lawn, a place to grow vegetables and a hammock to relax in.  Room to entertain lots of people was a must, as were spaces for quiet retreat and – as suggested by one daughter – a fire pit.

Our insight

The house already had a connection to the garden thanks to bi-fold doors which open straight from the kitchen/family room into the outside space.  Strengthening that connection was a vital element of the design concept. It was also important to pay homage to the Victorian brick wall running along the back boundary of the garden.  This dated from a time when the new-build plot formed part of the neighbouring property’s large garden.

Overall, we wanted to create a warm, naturalistic feel to the garden – it’s a modern house and the garden reflects that through its strong geometry, but the planting and materials were chosen to soften the effect.

The transformation

A pale grey sandstone terrace flows from the kitchen, while the planters, low walls and laser-cut art of the fire pit are all weathering steel that rusts to warm tones.  Clay pavers leading to the fire pit complement the original brick wall at the rear, while the fire pit seating and raised beds in the vegetable garden are green oak.

The terrace is home to four large ‘floating’ planters while the lawn has four generous quadrant beds.  Both look like mass planting as the year progresses.  To the side of the greenhouse is a meadow from wildflower turf, embellished with spring bulbs and home to the hammock.

The planting is intricately layered, featuring different species and combinations.  Spring sees splashes of orange and yellow, while muted purples and blues follow in summer.  Each terrace bed is home to a multi-stemmed amelanchier, underplanted with spring bulbs. The naturalistic lawn beds include alliums, nepetas, salvias, asters, achilleas and grasses. The perimeter borders are more of a woodland mix.

Following the transformation of the rear garden, the front garden was re-imagined.  It now offers a sense of calm welcome.  A fluid organic design has diffused the garden’s uneven geometry. Different uses of rock – including boulders, sawn boulders and sawn irregular-shaped paving – have added visual interest. This use of natural materials along with a water feature now create a harmonious flow towards the house.  On a practical note, the driveway has been modified to accommodate more vehicles. The original porch was small and rather dingy.  It has been replaced with a larger, lighter one, blending the home’s modern architecture with the older properties nearby. This was designed and crafted in-house.

Over time, several handcrafted features including a bespoke greenhouse, water feature and semi-sunken sanctuary space have been added to the rear garden.  These reflect the family’s changing needs. Since its creation, the garden has been the location for many gatherings of friends and family.  Special memories are being laid down for years to come. The success of the scheme was reinforced in 2022 when BALI presented The Garden Company with a prestigious Special Award for the Best Design and Build project.

As soon as we moved into our new home, we prioritised creating a family garden.  We wanted to establish the garden straightaway so that we could make the most of family time with our children – dining outside, relaxing... read more

As soon as we moved into our new home, we prioritised creating a family garden.  We wanted to establish the garden straightaway so that we could make the most of family time with our children – dining outside, relaxing and entertaining other family and friends. Working with The Garden Company has been a positive experience throughout.

Mrs S, Bedfordshire
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