(image credit – Yellowdoor Architecture)

Are you having an extension to your property, big renovation or even building a house? Will the works destroy whatever garden you have or change the layout so it requires to be re-designed?

Tip 1: Planning

If you are planning a renovation, it is important to think of the garden at the same time, don’t leave it until the build is finished, even if you don’t get round to the execution for a while.

The building works will also most likely damage a large part of the garden so it’s worth planning and budgeting for your garden as part of the build. Afterall so many of us aspire to have an open plan kitchen/diner, opening out into the garden with an outdoor dining/entertaining space. Don’t leave yourself in a situation where you cannot afford to finish, who wants a muddy mess to look at instead of the beautiful, decked terrace the kitchen was supposed to open out on to!

Tip 2: Access

Too often I am invited into a build project, after the build is completed to discover there isn’t enough or any side-access. Your new extension may limit access to your garden for your future plans.

You will need at least a 90cm access gap to manoeuvre machinery in and out, without this the project will need to be executed by hand which will really increase the cost. (Oh and unlike gates, posts and downpipes, soil-stacks can’t be removed even temporarily, so if they eat into the access space it will be an issue)

Tip 3: Topsoil

Ask your builder to scrape of the topsoil, the nice, usually dark earthy bit at the top and save this in a pile somewhere on site. After which ensure that you have a plan for the subsoil which is dug out and make sure it’s not dumped on top of the topsoil. Sub-soil isn’t good for most plants often having poor structure and nutrition.

It might be worth commissioning a garden designer before the build starts to work on a clever design solution to use the subsoil and help ensure the garden aspects are project managed correctly.

How many of us have watched Grand Designs only to get to the reveal of a beautifully finished house with a quagmire of a garden and no budget for landscaping. The damage to soil structure, from the heavy machinery works, in wet weather will take years to recover.

Tip 4: Considered Views

Think about the views from each window into the garden, windows can do a wonderful job of framing views and equally garden views can do a fantastic job of finishing an interior space.

I chose to have one long dark green wall in my open plan lounge, so it flows into the garden space beyond the picture window, pulling your eye out into the garden. 
Modern House image-  from a house I love in Whitstable

When asked to design a garden I always want to see the interiors or visualise the garden space from plans, after all for a big part of the year, most of us don’t go in our gardens that often but we need to enjoy looking out at them all year round. There is a reason pictures often look better with a frame, the same goes for our gardens.

Tip 5: Adding Value

You are probably renovating your home to improve your lifestyle, but you wouldn’t spend the money if it weren’t going to add value to your house too, right?  And this approach should also apply to your garden;

The images above are of a project I undertook a couple of years ago in Camberwell, South East London.

The clients had the most beautiful house, as you can see in the image above left, the garden not so much. Both these images came from the listing the first time they tried to sell. In fact, it’s hard to believe they are for the same property!

We transformed the garden to bring it up to the same spec as the house and they had an asking price offer within a week of re-listing. View the case study.

Finally: Children’s Play

Just like indoors, if you have kids then it’s important you consider their play needs outdoors, and how they will evolve over time. I’ve written a separate blog about this but in essence there are 5 things to bear in mind; safety, zoning, plant choices, gardening as play and play equipment. Read the full article.