Living In A Box

National Award Winning Garden 2013
Category: “Domestic garden scheme up to £30’000″
Cost: £15,000

The original nature of this garden transformation was to ease the transition between inside and outside living, and thus extend the usable living space for the client to enjoy. The design was to deliver a “wow factor” space that was easily maintained within this problematic location.

The garden was a small rectangular fenced off space, and although peaceful and backing onto mature natural woodland, posed some fairly obvious concerns from the start. Access could only be gained via some external steps and then through the kitchen and living room of the house. It was soon understood, that a design which minimized the trafficking of materials and waste to and from site would benefit the overall efficiency of the project.

It then became apparent, following a brief site survey, that due to some earlier drainage problems, half the garden had been backfilled with dolomite. This influenced the position and nature of some of the beds, but increased the need to ‘Cut and Fill’, and recycle materials already present on site. A large, wooden clad, retaining wall imposed itself at the rear of the small box like shape, and so work needed to be done to harness the existing features and nature of the site.

The Design
To ease the transition between in and out, the first inclusion was a glass covered Gazebo over the double doors entering out into the garden. This offers weather protection and thus extends the period that the garden can feel accessible. Raised boxes were used throughout the design in order to accommodate some of the waste material from the excavation areas of the site. The boxes were designed to be reflective of some of the oak furniture already present in the lounge. To ease the maintenance of the garden a wall mounted water butt was sited on the house wall. This then feeds an irrigation system that via pumps and filters accommodates most of the gardens needs. The irrigation can be operated with remote control or programed to activate for an interval periodically. Lighting was used throughout the garden to increase the connection between inside and out and again extend the potential use of the space. A Steel living wall down one boundary masks an unsightly fence, but also gives some alternative pockets in which to plant, adding height and interest.

Kept to a minimum for quite a busy, small garden, the main materials consist of Steel, sandstone and Cedar. The sandstone was chosen to match the carpeting within the lounge. The steel used for its fascinating transformation as it ages, but also quite a modern appeal whilst reflecting the industrious history of the area. The Cedar was used to blend with fencing and cladding already on site, but also for the way it ages and fades with time.

The planting was a combined effort between client and plantsman. Once the clients Wants had been established, recommendations were made for height and position. The aspect of the site and shortage of direct sunlight were considerable factors in this scheme. Plants were chosen with a focus on foliage, shape and form, with a splash of colour added for interest.

Scheme Specification:

Extend usable living space available
Soften transition between inside and out
Modern wow factor garden using honest and natural materials
Environment aware design
Practical design working in accordance with life style
Planting to be mostly evergreen with foliage giving main interest

Above is a list detailing the main requirements of our client for this scheme. The main emphasis was placed on creating an outdoor extension to the ground floor living space. Another major factor was the regular short periods of absence from the property, and hence a need for an easily maintained space.


The intention of the design was to show what is possible within a small space meeting the ever increasing needs of a busy lifestyle. With space now a premium of new build properties, and homeowners being left with small box like outdoor spaces, it was our goal to show how gardens can be transformed to extend the usable living space within such developments.

The site dynamics and difficulty of access necessitated that we provide some raised structures and seating which were used to provide areas for planting, and hence, parallels were drawn and the title formed for “living in a box!”