Understated Elegance. Natural Stone

Using high quality bespoke natural stone allows you to achieve so much more with your garden design whether your brief is contemporary garden or traditional garden.

The garden design brief for this fantastic Cobham, Surrey, home was to bring the garden up to the very high spec of the house refurbishment and to create an outdoor space that had the same kind of wow factor.

The clients were willing to spend to achieve this look of timeless but still contemporary elegance and the budget of £120,000 enabled me to buy in the best materials and the right kind of planting.

At 20m x 20m this is actually a small garden and one that was full of hard edges and angles. There was an imposing stone wall with iron railings that not only split the space but created a gloomy feeling of oppressiveness and the space was also entirely overlooked by neighbours. The golden rule when designing for a modest space is to keep the design unfussy and uncomplicated and you can see from our pictures of the finished garden that we achieved this by opting for a design that, as it turned out, was about 60 per cent hard landscaping and thus clean and simple lines for the eye to follow.

Using bespoke London Stone allows me to do so much more when I am designing these smaller spaces and really, it all comes down to the high quality and design detailing of the stone itself. For example, all the coping is 40mm thick (almost twice the standard sizing) and there are built-in drip grooves that help stop water running off down the wall and causing maintenance problems.

Sticking with the idea of keeping things simple then allows me to explore smaller details in the overall design and I have done that here with both the paving patterns and the underlying shapes we have incorporated. I knew from the client’s preferences based on the mood boards I showed them at the start of the project that we would probably be heading for a more contemporary direction and this works because it gives us a design ‘follow through’ from the inside of the house (contemporary) to the outdoor space.

I’ve used the planting here to soften the edges of the design, to lure the eye away from some of the harder edges inherent in this garden space and to create some very successful screening – and with that a greater sense of privacy – so the space is no longer heavily overlooked and that first feeling of oppressiveness and gloom has gone.

I am pleased with this design. It is a challenge for a garden designer to express themselves, and the clients, in what is a relatively small space and of course there are always things you think you could have improved but overall, I think we’ve made excellent design use of a modest space and that our choice of landscaping materials give this garden a glossy and timeless sheen that the clients love.

Additional notes:

The key plants I used to soften the landscaping of this design were:

Amalanchier lamarckii multistemed 3 breaks

Ilex crenata domes

Astrantia major ‘Ruby Wedding’

Achillea ‘Walther Funcke’

Salvia x sylvestris ‘Mainacht’

Sedum Xenox


The bespoke stone I selected for this garden was:

Buff Sandstone with a variation of finishes whether it be 40mm coping stones to walls, with Chamfered front edges & drip beads to oversized 1.2m x 1.2m York Stone Entrance platform to Main entrance.


CHRIS JAMES, General Manager and Senior Garden Designer with the Graduate Landscapes design studio.