A front and rear compact family garden with roof terrace in central Dorking

This was an atypical suburban garden for a professional couple with one young child and another on the way. The clients were building an extension to the rear and side of their 4 bedroom semi in Dorking, and it made sense to redesign the landscape at the same time so that it would work perfectly for them as a family garden, giving them a completely new front and rear garden.

The Brief

The house was on an originally steeply sloping site that had been levelled in the 1960’s so that the rear garden was now level with the roof of the double garage at the end of the garden. There were high brick retaining walls to contain the large level changes but these were cracked and damaged by the roots of trees that had been planted as a hedge many years previously. The house remodelling allowed for a completely remodelled garden, and the clients wanted to fit children’s play, outdoor seating and dining, a firepit area, and attractive planting, into this compact space, whilst making it flow seamlessly from the new open plan kitchen/dining area. The front garden was conceived as a separate nature garden and the side alley was re-worked for a herb bed, log storage and bin store.

The Design

The design solution was to remove the problematic trees, allowing the rear pedestrian access to be completely re-routed via a new set of steps which rise around 3m straight from the garage forecourt to ground floor level of the house, thereby enlarging the rear garden and allowing replanting with more suitable trees. The garage roof was re-modelled as a large stone-paved roof terrace, to provide space for dining, relaxing and a firepit, as well as much needed space for children’s play. Existing brickwork was kept where possible and the ugly concrete screen walls replaced with blockwork finished in through-colour render – a permanent finish that does not require regular re-painting.

The rear garden was gated to make it secure as a children’s space, whilst refuse and recycling were moved to the new side garden area, which also has space for a small kitchen/herb bed. The front garden was also completely remodelled, with overgrown hedges and another unsuitable tree removed, to make way for new shrub and perennial planting and a pond for wildlife and supervised children’s access. The removal of unsuitable conifers allowed the planting of native silver birch, to give far greater seasonal interest, dappled rather than dense shade, and better light levels in the winter months.

Seven years on, the garden is now used by three children and a dog, prompting a change to artificial turf, but is otherwise still going strong. It has been used on many occasions for parties, which work perfectly with the huge full width bi-fold doors at the rear of the open-plan lounge-kitchen-diner.




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