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A Fresh Courtyard Garden In Paddington With Californian Vibes

Gardens

This project is a lesson in turning a small outdoor space into a fresh and elegant retreat – without the need for a lawn, or traditional flowering plants.

Originally a tired rear courtyard, Garden Life has introduced a textured and climate-appropriate design scheme in this Sydney garden. The result is a low-maintenance yet beautiful garden that mirrors the sophistication of its accompanying 1800s Paddington house, and also brings a touch of sunny Californian vibes!  

21st May, 2020

Garden Life is the studio behind this courtyard makeover in Paddington. Photo – Nicholas Watt

A traditionally hand-thrown terracotta planter imported from Morocco. Photo – Nicholas Watt

Herringbone granite tiles have been installed, replacing the previous terracotta pavers installed 30 years earlier. Photo – Nicholas Watt

Wide boards on the boundary walls complement the house, while creating the feeling of a larger space . Photo – Nicholas Watt

‘Paddington terraces are not huge houses, and the clients wanted to be able to use the outdoor space for entertaining and outdoor dining,’ says designer Richard Unsworth. Photo – Nicholas Watt

The garden is mostly made up of succulents and other drought tolerant plants. Photo – Nicholas Watt

A built-in seating area. Photo – Nicholas Watt

The entire garden sits beneath the property’s exisiting, overhanging frangipani trees. Photo – Nicholas Watt

Amelia Barnes
Thursday 21st May 2020

‘The house interior is white, minimal and pared back, so the garden needed to flow out and reflect this.’ – Richard Unsworth

When designing a garden in a confined space, owner of Garden Life Richard Unsworth says simplicity is key. ‘Don’t over design,’ he says. ‘Keep the variety of finishes to a minimum and make the planting the main attraction.’ 

This philosophy underpins this garden accompanying a late 1800s terrace in Paddington. ‘Paddington terraces are not huge houses, and the clients wanted to be able to use the outdoor space for entertaining and outdoor dining,’ Richard explains. It was his job to update the outdoor space thoughtfully, and create the illusion of more space. 

This project saw nearly all existing elements removed, with fresh timber cladding, render, paintwork, and new herringbone granite tiles replacing terracotta pavers installed 30 years earlier. The addition of contrasting wide boards on the boundary walls complement the house, while providing the feeling of a larger space. ‘The house interior is white, minimal and pared back, so the garden needed to flow out and reflect this, says Richard. Quercus Gardens were responsible for this construction process. 

Combinations of unusual, contrasting succulents and other drought tolerant plants feature in the planting scheme, providing visual interest and colour year-round. All these elements sit beneath the property’s overhanging frangipani trees, which offer gravitas and a sense of maturity.

Richard’s favourite element of the project is the huge terracotta planter that adds a dramatic element to the space. ‘At night we light the space with a simple yet effective scheme that washes over the flooring and steps and makes a feature of the large pot and frangipani tree,’ he says. 

By updating the existing material palette and planting scheme, Garden Life has created the perfect low maintenance garden space that punches way above its size! 

Click play below to view a short video tour of this project! You can see more Garden Life design projects here. 

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The Design Files acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files – we would love to hear from you.

Please email us here.