Gardens - Small Gardens

Plant a dramatic small space garden

William Gilpin
Photography by
Roger Yip

Handy do-it-yourselfers transform a petite plot into an urban oasis

joie-de-vivre4.jpgThe garden, measuring only about 40 square metres, lies beyond double glass doors to the much-used family room, so it made sense to design the outside area as an extension of the interior space. “I’d live in a French chateau if I could,” says Richard, who loves French-European aesthetics. Indeed, symmetry and Gallic tradition are the backbone of the garden’s formality and ornate richness—but there’s joie de vivre, too. “Our outdoor space had to be formal yet relaxed, comfortable and inviting. And it had to have a presence: it had to say wow!” adds Kevin. In fact, the focal point is a one-metre-square pond, also built that first year by Richard, with an imposing goddess fountain rising out of it.

The summer of 2006 saw the completion of the garden. Laying down the paving was the toughest aspect of the job. Heavy soil was dug up to a depth of 15 centimetres, carted away and replaced with the same volume of crushed stone for drainage. Then, rectangular concrete pavers were meticulously laid; Richard had rented a concrete saw to cut the large pieces. Without doubt, it’s the elegant stonework that gives this garden its sophisticated polish. And, on the practical side, nobody (including the dogs) is tracking soil into the house. The pavement is also easy to clean: a brisk hosing drains off to a three-centimetre gap along the perimeter (hidden by the narrow trim on the planter boxes).

joie-de-vivre5.jpgIf you visit after sundown, however, you would say the air of sophistication is in the ethereal lighting effects, instead. Lighting was Kevin’s domain. After concealing proper electrical conduits and outlets, he installed more than three dozen light sources: pond lights, spotlights and electrical fixtures that resemble candles. Hidden stereo speakers softly waft music out into the night, too. And everything is remote-controlled.

This new outdoor living/dining room is a place for both solitary contemplation and convivial entertaining. “It’s a dream come true to have created such a tranquil retreat—our vacation spot in the middle of the suburbs,” says Kevin. And while they’re confident they wouldn’t change anything now that their hard work is done, it was deeply gratifying to be told by one globe-trotting friend, “Coming here for dinner and drinks saves me a plane ticket to the Côte d’Azur.”


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