Transforming a neglected roof terrace into an outdoor room

Neale Shedden has redesigned a gloomy courtyard and neglected roof terrace into relaxed outdoor rooms filled with bright colours and a variety of plants.

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Neale Shedden has redesigned a gloomy courtyard and neglected roof terrace. Neale’s 16th century home in Scotland now features two relaxed outdoor rooms with bright furnishings and an assortment of plants.

Neale SheddenFact file

The owner: Neale Shedden (pictured right), who runs an antique pottery business
The property: A three-bedroom B-listed house dating from the 16th century
The location: Inveresk Village, Midlothian, Scotland
What he spent: Neale’s garden and roof terrace project cost around £3,200

‘Although snow may look picturesque, I lost 70 per cent of the planting in my courtyard garden 18 months ago,’ Neale recalls of the harsh winter of 2010. ‘It was -10°C. I had well-established palm trees, but the snow was so thick the weight broke the branches. I knew I’d have to start again in the spring.’

As the colour yellow had never been a feature of his garden before, he decided to experiment when he tackled the replanting.

‘I wanted to combine yellow and white, thinking yellow would look fresh against all the greenery,’ he explains. ‘I like white – but an all-white garden can look quite bland.’

When Neale bought his home, Linden House, in the mid-1990s the B-listed property had been a homeopathic healing centre until the early 1990s. It stood empty until he moved in.

As well as redesigning the house’s institutional-style interior, he decided to reconfigure the courtyard garden leading from the kitchen-diner, and the roof terrace that’s accessed from a first floor sitting room.

Both spaces, he realised, would make fantastic compact gardens. The narrow courtyard garden is enclosed by high stone walls covered with ivy that provides a shady, green backdrop, while the roof terrace is sheltered by the roof on two sides and faces south, creating a perfect sun trap.

The roof terrace is a vibrant space that Neale has designed purely for entertaining, as he explains: ‘I used to visit Barcelona quite regularly and would escape from the tourist trail by travelling out to the countryside, which was where I saw wonderful hot colours put together.’

He painted the flooring a light putty shade to reflect the sun and added colour with an array of planters filled with bright flowers, such as marigolds and dahlias.

‘I love bold juxtapositions of colour – I have experimented with clashing oranges, reds and blues, as opposed to my yellow and white themed courtyard,’ he says.

Neale has created a room-like feel on the roof terrace with an inspired choice of furniture and accessories.

‘This space is perfect for relaxing with friends on a sunny day, and as it’s sheltered I can even sit outside in October,’ he says.

He added a few bold pieces for impact after he spotted some 1960s-style macramé tub chairs for sale.

‘When I got them to the car, I realised they wouldn’t fit in, so one of them had to travel home on the roof,’ he smiles.

Neale starts the day in the courtyard garden. ‘I sit out here opening letters in the morning and figuring out what to do that day,’ says Neale. ‘It is also an extension of the kitchen-diner – a natural space for guests to mingle outside and chat over a drink.’

In addition to restricting the colour palette to mainly white, yellow and green, he decided to add some sculptural interest.

‘This garden isn’t just about the plants, it’s about other elements too – from the angular planters to the more decorative pieces,’ he explains. ‘I chose certain plants for their sculptural effect too.’

Neale started with a ground covering of simple slate chippings in the courtyard, which take on an attractive purplish shade in the rain that contrasts well with the accents of yellow and white in the garden. He created two defined spaces to sit: the first outside the kitchen, with a second terrace halfway up the garden.

A collection of interesting-looking planters are scattered about the space. He was very inventive with his sourcing.

‘I’ve re-used, reclaimed or reinvented many pieces in this garden,’ he explains. ‘I painted an old water cistern, adding sand to the paint to give it a rough texture, then there’s a metal bin I found in a skip and use as a planter. I made a glass plinth from a fish tank that belonged to a friend. It really is about visualising how something can be used differently.’

Only a third of the garden is devoted to flowering plants as Neale wanted an easy-to-maintain space.

‘I also wanted to integrate vegetables, without taking up space with a vegetable patch,’ he explains, ‘so I grow Swiss chard in one planter, while another pot is used for my rhubarb, for example.’

Lighting is essential for his courtyard garden in the evening. He has kept it simple, using a variety of lanterns with candles and tealights, including the glass lanterns hanging from the ivy-clad wall.

‘On a summer evening this shaded garden is both cool and magical – a soothing retreat at the end of the day,’ he says.

Neale is understandably proud of his two outdoor spaces, especially as he has done all the work himself.

‘I enjoy creative DIY and gardening,’ he says. ‘When I’m enjoying a cocktail here, I feel I’ve earned what I have put in.’

The costs

Slate chippings£6 per bag