Inside-outside town garden

Shona Brown used her favourite painting as the inspiration for her vibrant, colourful design, which maximises space and impact

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‘When the interior of the house was finished, the garden didn’t fit in with it anymore,’ recalls Shona. ‘I wanted it to function as another room, to have the inside outside, so that there was a sense of continuity. What was there was a mess. It had a shed, a concrete rockery and a lawn, but I don’t enjoy cutting grass, so that had to go.’

Shona had strong ideas about style, too. ‘I wanted the same colours as inside the house,’ she says, ‘with browns and creams, and the same flagstones running from the kitchen into the garden.’ The orange colour and the look of the garden, including the planting, were influenced by a favourite painting Shona owns by the artist Lee Tyler, which features a swirling abstract pattern with a glossy surface.

Fact file

  • brown-garden-ownerThe owner: Shona Brown, who is a manager at a local NHS Health Trust
  • The property: A two-bedroom, Victorian mid-terraced house, with a garden measuring 10x5m
  • The location: Walthamstow, north-east London
  • What she spent: Shona’s garden project cost around £27,000

Professional design

Shona felt that specialist skills were needed to ensure that every inch of the small plot was put to best use. She found Katrina and Matt Kieffer-Wells of Earth Designs online. ‘Katrina sketched

Shona was initially sceptical about the chain curtain, but finds that it creates a translucent boundary to help divide the garden visually

Patio area

A patio area features a dining table, bench seating and a raised bed to one side. This is framed by a feature wall made from railway sleepers, sawn into blocks and stained to achieve an eye-catching pattern. A row of tall orange pots planted with simple box balls creates a focal point when entering the garden.

Designer Katrina used a diagonal motif to make the narrow space appear wider and larger. There is a change of level up to the pergola, which forms a secluded space and provides screening for the third section of the garden, separating the areas into ‘rooms’.

The chain curtaining that hangs from the pergola creates these distinct areas, but is almost transparent, so the garden beyond is not obscured.


Orange planters give the garden colour during the winter months

Maximising sunlight

Shona has a south-facing garden that is often a suntrap, so Katrina made good use of this in her design. A black slate path zigzags towards a platform where a large daybed is perfectly positioned to make the most of the sun. Sawn sleepers form a raised bed around the platform, stained in the same shades as used around the patio area to help unify the entire garden.


Planting in raised beds around the garden’s dining area was chosen by Shona to harmonise with the colour scheme of oranges, browns and warm tones

Natural materials

Shona is keen on natural materials and colours, so slate, fossil, sandstone and wood all feature, but it is the garden’s dynamic angles and bursts of bright colour that give it a contemporary feel. Plants have been chosen for their dramatic colouring, predominantly in black and white with orange accents.

Shona loves her new outdoor living space. ‘It has everything that I’d hoped for — I can relax and read the paper in my favourite spot and soak up the sun,’ she says. ‘In the evenings, the garden takes on a different feel with the use of feature uplighting, so I can enjoy spending time here late into the evening.’


This strongly structural aspect of the garden provides height, effectively extending the space. Shona looked into black plants to use to offset the orange theme, including phormium, pictured

Project notes

Take inspiration from Shona’s colourful and contrasting scheme

What I’ve learnt

‘Get an experienced person in to help you. Once I did that, the whole process became relatively straightforward.’

My top tip

‘Use planters to give colour in the winter. Combine evergreen plants with bright, colourful planters to add drama to the garden and tick the box for year-round interest.’

I couldn’t live without…

‘…my walking-stick weed puller, as weeding and watering is all I really have to do. The device is spring-loaded and it makes the dandelions just fly out of the ground.’

My inspirational reads

‘I look at the garden sections in the Sunday newspapers, and I read up in plant guides about any orange- and white-flowering plants that might suit my garden. I would recommend reading The Essential Garden Book by Terence Conran and Dan Pearson (£25, Abe Books).’

If I could do things differently…

‘…I’d think more about how the space would work in winter. A firepit would be nice. The dining chairs are rather heavy, but go with the overall look.’

My favourite spot

‘I really enjoy sitting at the bench by the table and reading a good book. It’s a sunny spot throughout nearly the whole of the day.’

My best purchase

‘The tall, vibrant orange planters are pretty cool, and people do comment on them. They draw your attention when you go outside.’

My go-to websites

‘I was dubious about the chain curtains at first, but they really tie the scheme together. They came from and the colourful planters are from’

The costs

Sandstone and slate£3,991
Preparation and clearance£3,651
Railway-sleeper seating£3,104
Railway-sleeper screens£2,801
Raised bed£1,199
Sundries, including shed£632