Transforming a family garden

With a large expanse of lawn to the side and rear of their house, Lisa and Neil Quarendon wanted to transform their outdoor space with a grown-up entertaining area and pool.

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The problem

‘When we bought this house as a new-build, we were concerned that the garden might be too small. It’s actually 10m wide, but with all the children’s toys and bikes, we weren’t sure there would be much space left for us to sit and relax. On the plus side, it’s southwest facing, so we get the sun for most of the day. Typically with a new-build, the whole area had simply been laid as lawn, so while the children were small that was ideal. But a couple of years ago, we decided it was time to make it more useable for all of us and to create zones for us and the children.’

Fact file

The owners: Lisa Quarendon and her husband Neil, who run a headhunting business, live here with their two children, Ashleigh, 13, and Harry, 11

What we did

‘We made a wish list and cut ideas out of magazines. Our aim was to create a garden that could be treated as another room of the house – a place used for entertaining family and friends. At the time we were also having work done on the house, including a kitchen extension with glass doors leading out onto the garden. Our project manager for the work, Ed Cartwright, also specialised in designing modern gardens and pools, so it seemed the ideal time to tackle the outdoor space.

‘We told Ed what we wanted and he was able to interpret and refine our ideas. The most exciting part of the design was the pool. The children had always wanted one, but we’d heard they take a lot of work to maintain. We researched more thoroughly, though, and decided to go ahead. We also wanted different areas for lounging and eating – I’d seen a sunken seating area in a magazine and liked that idea. Decking round the pool also seemed practical, to help define the zones.

‘Work started with the pool. We chose a simple design measuring 4×8.5m, which fits perfectly in the space to the side of the house. It was fascinating to watch the process. The builders dug a hole much deeper and wider than the pool, then poured in the concrete for the base. They next created a foam-and-metal frame, and fitted a ready-made liner on top of that. The pool is heated by a pump that captures heat from the air and transfers it to the water; it’s an efficient and environmentally friendly system.

‘For the large area of decking round the pool, we chose tatajuba, which is a tropical hardwood from Brazil that resembles teak. The same wood was used for a zone in front of the foldingsliding doors leading into the house. This is at the same level as the kitchen floor so the two spaces flow seamlessly into one another.

‘With mainly wood being used for all the decking, Ed suggested having garden paths in stone, as a contrast. We looked at reconstituted stone and also polished concrete, but they were not quite right. In the end, we chose polished ivory-coloured sandstone and it looks great. It also links nicely with the rendered wall that was built to border one side of the garden. The wall makes a nice change from the wooden fence and really brightens up that space, which is our relaxation zone.

‘The sunken dining area was dug out of the lawn and finished with a stone edge. It’s surprising how sheltered it is when we’re sat out there eating, even if there’s a bit of a breeze. We did invest in a gas patio heater just in case.

‘The work took eight weeks in total and I’m now gradually adding to the planting. I’m using evergreens, for all-year- round interest. So far, I’ve added an olive tree, a fig tree, a shrub called fatsia and, in a corner, bamboo – I far prefer shades of green over colours.

‘The new garden has been a real success and of course the children love the pool. Despite our reservations, it’s actually quite easy to maintain. We just have to test the water with litmus paper each week to determine the pH level, then adjust it accordingly. The biggest job is clearing the leaves. The garden really works for us as a family; there’s something for everyone.’

Costs

Labour£1,500
Decking£3,800
Pool (including heating system & all accessories)£33,000
Planting£500
Sunken area (including all materials)£2,800
TOTAL£41,600