Contemporary Garden Ideas for London Gardens Large or Small

The current crop of garden designers and outside specialists are full of creative ideas on how to make the most of your outdoor space, whether it’s a large leafy garden or a compact roof terrace…

Story: Kara O’Reilly
Lead image: Marzenna Gaines / krakowgardendesign / Pixabay) 

1 Natural swimming pond (large garden) 
If you have the room for a swimming pool, then consider installing a natural swimming pond instead, as designer Jane Brockbank did in this family garden. It has the effect of blending seamlessly with the surrounding garden and is a more subtle addition to the space than a regulation tiled pool. It also allows for lots of naturalistic planting around its perimeter. Fees on request.

2 Cool lighting (large or small garden)
Now we are all up on using our gardens as outdoor rooms, lighting becomes more important. While specialist garden lighting has come on in leaps and bounds, why not approach it the way you would with your interior and invest in a bold design piece? Original 1227 giant outdoor floor light (available in 12 colours), currently reduced from £3,300 to £2,64,

3 Clever roof terraces (small garden)
Even if your only outdoor space is a small roof terrace, clever planning and planting can create dramatic results. In-built seating that matches the decking can make an area look larger, while raised beds and grasses planted around the perimeter offer more privacy, and a living wall can disguise a multitude of sins. Adolfo Harrison, who has studios in both east and west London, is a master of compact urban gardens.

4 Fire pits (large garden)
Make an architectural fire pit the centrepiece of your outdoor seating area. This minimalist, modern, rectangular design is hand-made from material-of-the-moment, Corten, which develops a striking rust-coloured layer that protects it from corroding. Robata Corten fire pit, £6,200,

5 Low maintenance decking (large or small garden)
If your outdoor area is small, then it’s sensible to think practically about how you are really going to use it. Designers Harrington Porter created this low-maintenance courtyard garden with in-built seating and pared-back planting for a client that wanted a seamless flow from indoor to out. Note how visual interest has been added with the mix of decking and paving. Projects from £12,000.

6 Outdoor kitchen (large garden)
Outdoor cooking has come a long way since we all enjoyed charred burgers on a basic BBQ. Fireplace specialist Chesney’s crafted this totally bespoke outdoor kitchen created from a made-to-measure angled stone unit and complementary worktop, with limestone flooring chosen to match the other hard landscaping in the garden. Price on application.

7 The patio version 2.0 (large or small garden)
Garden paving has somewhat evolved from the bog-standard patio outside the back door of the last century. Garden designers and paving suppliers are now using it in imaginative ways to introduce colour, zone different parts of a garden – creating lounging or dining areas – or making a feature of practical paths by incorporating planting with paving as this scheme shows. Mars Grey porcelain pavers, from £72 per sq m,

8 Suave minimalism (large or small garden)
The owner of this home wanted her minimalist interior style to seamlessly continue out into her small town garden. Designer Charlotte Rowe achieved this by using striking dark materials for all the hard landscaping, including stained oak decking, deep grey granite slabs and black polished pebbles. She then limited the planting palette to blacks and purples, with highlights of cream and lime. The result is a dramatic, elegantly modern look. Similar projects, from £35,000.

9 Lush and lovely (larger garden)
Modular turned a shady, damp garden into an airy, practical entertaining space, with plenty of lush, foliage planting that suited the slightly challenging conditions. Note the contemporary horizontal slatted fencing and soft grey natural stone paving. The unusual central bed adds visual interest, as well as demarcating the different spaces in the garden. Fees on request.

10 Shelter from the storm (large or small garden)
Make the most of your patio or terrace all year round with a veranda or retractable awning from An awning gives you controllable protection from the heat and rainfall – a necessity with Britain’s changeable climate! For something more permanent, a Veranda is a great way to create more space to entertain your friends and family. When the sun goes in, you don’t have to – with the touch of a button you have instant heat and adjustable lighting.

11 The tiny balcony
Apartment living is very much part and parcel of city life, but you can still create your own tiny oasis. Taking inspiration from one of our favourite smart-space champions – IKEA – transform your balcony into a lush private escape with furniture that doubles up as storage and as many plants as you can get in there. Shady balcony? Hunt-out shade loving plants, or go for fake plants, which look almost as good as the real thing these days. ÄPPLARÖ outdoor storage bench, £45 from and RUNNEN floor decking £20/0.81 sq m from