These are the gardens to an 18th century, Grade II listed building in Chigwell, Essex, comprising a former stable block plus later additions, which have been stunningly converted into a beautiful family home.
The front of the house - (scroll down for the rest of the garden areas)
Brief for the front drive & planting beds
The owners had spent a long time renovating and extending the house and wanted to bring the outside gardens up to those same high standards. The gardens needed to be practical to use for both family and visitors, and that called for a complete re-design of all areas.
The front garden gives the first impression of the property and as such needed to provide a real ‘wow’ factor, whilst retaining the understated elegance of the Georgian façade.
Solution for the front drive & planting beds
The resin bound aggregate that we used for the driveway has the look of gravel, but has a solid surface, making it much more practical. It is also porous and therefore complies with SUDS laws.
The owners didn’t need quite as much space for parking as was there originally and this allowed us to increase the size of the planting beds to provide both a more pleasing welcome to the property and also more interesting views from the windows of the house. We kept the parking area nearest to the gates rather than in front of the house.
To emphasise the main entrance we constructed new paving and steps leading up to the front door. Our clients preferred a rectangular pattern instead of the original curves and this is reflected in the shape of the planting beds facing the house.
To complement the symmetrical window arrangement and to break up the expanse of brickwork, we planted some tall Pencil Cypresses along the front of the house between the windows. We also placed a couple of Box spheres in large, antique-style urns either side of the front door for emphasis.
Opposite the front door there is a focal point in the form of an Armillary Sphere Sundial surrounded by Lavender planting. The bed is mulched with gravel and edged with a small, formal box hedge.
Brief for the Cobbled Courtyard
On the side of the house nearest to the entrance gates is the garage which the owners didn’t intend to use for cars as it is right underneath their daughter’s bedroom, but wanted to keep that option open for the future.
Solution for the Cobbled Courtyard
We created a simple courtyard treatment to the space, using traditional cobbles and added more interesting planting to the bed under the wall. The area outside the dining room window was given quite a formal treatment to create a focal point which can also be up-lit for night-time interest, with a new sundial surrounded by formal planting. The existing railing that screens the utilities cupboard was retained and tidied up.
The original shed and steps were removed and in their place we put a log store and bin storage.
Brief for the BBQ area
Our clients wanted to include a BBQ in the area to the back of the house next to the garage as this is a good location being shady, and the smoke is kept away from the house, but the chef can still see out into the garden and be sociable with guests.
Solution for the BBQ area
Whilst the owners didn’t need a complete outdoor kitchen here we incorporated a beautiful Redwood stone structure with BBQ and sink, together with work surfaces and shelving for practicality. Our clients liked the idea of incorporating some elements of an outdoor kitchen and this is matched with and linked to the Folly Garden Room which is placed at an angle so as to provide views across the garden as well as back to the house.
We removed the existing Yew tree to make all this possible and the new Folly feature provides an additional place to sit/entertain outside when the weather is not so good, and with the addition of a fireplace, it can even be used in winter. It also provides a stunning focal point from inside the house.
Brief for the rear garden
The rear garden had enormous potential as a really exciting family space, with scope for many different areas to be used for entertaining, relaxation and play.
Our clients wanted to re-use as much of the original Yorkstone as possible as it is in keeping with the age of the house and they wanted to use it to create a patio that flows around the house, linking all the different areas together, including the patio outside the lounge room doors.
Originally the various features and areas felt a little disjointed and were therefore underused, so bringing everything together as an integrated whole was very important to the family.
Solution for the rear garden
The original brick structure to the back of the house was removed but we retained the structure to the side – removing the top of the pillars, seating and barbecue and re-inventing the area to create an inviting curved seating with a sunken fire pit.
The main seating area is outside the kitchen for practicality and this is on one level of paving, extending out as far as the low brick walls/raised beds. The family have a table large enough to seat ten people and this area gives them enough space to do this, and to entertain family and friends, whilst still leaving space to move around comfortably.
From this level there is a step down onto another level of paving, leading round to the back of the house and curving round to a path around the lawn. For fun, we included a ‘disco’ floor in one of the less used areas of patio by incorporating colour-changing lights set into the paving.
We retained the large lawn area, but replaced the grass as it was very uneven and prone to ants’ nests.
The overall theme is curvy and soft, in contrast to the more formal feel of the front, and the new lawn has a curvaceous shape. The lawn is surrounded by planting beds that contain traditional, ‘blousy’ planting with a romantic country garden feel. However, as the owners spend a lot of time away, all planting is fairly low-maintenance, so we opted for a mix of shrubs and perennials for easy care. Our clients were not particular about the colours of the blooms, but wanted to include some perfumed planting and spaces for herbs and vegetable growing. They are keen on Lavender, which we included and they wanted us to include some wildflower meadow planting.
As children and dogs use the garden, all planting is non-toxic.
Children's play area
New Play Area
In the area to the side of the rear lawn, partially screened off from the rest of the garden by planting, we created a ‘secret’ play area for the children. It was cleared to reveal the space large enough to accommodate a substantial play structure, a play house, a sunken trampoline and a large structure of the Olympic mascot, Mandeville. The play structure is made from timber and includes as many exciting features as we could fit in, such as a tower, slide, swings, climbing wall/net, monkey bars, etc. As a safe and practical surface beneath we put down artificial turf.
The path to the play area encircles the lawn, providing a continuous cycle route for the children, and is constructed using ‘hoggin’, which is a material often used for paths in parks and tends to be more forgiving than paving should the children fall.
The approach to the play area is made more enticing for the children with a wild woodland theme to the planting, creating something of an enchanted forest feel to their secret space.
The area outside the lounge doors was re-paved with the reclaimed Yorkstone and the planting beds were enlivened to provide year–round interest to the view from the windows.
Finally, a new lighting system adds an exciting dimension to all the gardens, making them not only useable on summer evenings, but also visually accessible in the winter months. With inset lighting to the paving and steps and up-lighting to trees, focal points and structural planting, the effects can be dramatic. However, with the use of different circuits, a more subtle feel can be achieved, according to the mood and occasion. For the lighting we used LEDs that do not heat up so are very safe and can’t burn children, pets or plants, and they are much more economical than standard fittings. Also, the system is on a remote control for ease of use, is controllable from ipads, iphones and smartphones from anywhere in the world, and, the installation being wireless, did not need to disrupt the internal decoration with new wiring and switches.
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