Does Your Garden Design Complement Your Architecture

by Peter McAllister

Garden design is very important to many people; however all too often it is treated as a separate entity to house design. Really the two should be looked at as one activity, or at least two activities that closely complement each other. Landscape designers and architects are actually very similar, yet they rarely work together on client’s briefs.

This post will go over certain aspects of garden design and how they can tie in (or not) to a home’s architectural design.

One feature that has become exponentially popular in recent years is garden decking. Decking provides a clean, simple and visually appealing surface which can be directly fixed to the house or stand independently. However, the amount of homes where the installed decking is hideously out of place is actually quite high. Decking is only suited to a particular type of house, when put in the wrong place it can ruin all of the natural beauty of a home.

What type of homes does decking suit?
In general decking suits the following types of homes

  • New build houses with beige or light brickwork.
  • Houses that strongly feature clean lines and right angles.
  • Houses with more than one level, or at least a tall single story.

What are the alternatives for older more rustic houses?

  • Paving that borders onto a lawn.
  • Stone bedding with bordered paths through it.
  • Pathways around a natural shrub and flower garden (no lawn)

There are some situations where decking can suit an older more traditional home. As always there are exceptions to every rule. Most decking is made with light beech type wood, but you can pick up more traditionally constructed decking as well. If you can tie in the colour palette with a dark stain or varnish to compliment your house’s design then go for it. The problem is that finding this sort of construction is rare, and will cost home owners considerably more.

The main focal point in many gardens is a neatly kept lawn. However it doesn’t necessarily have to be. There are so many unique and wonderful architectural designs that seem to “cop out” by going with the status quo back/front lawn.

One of the best alternatives that tend to be underutilised is mosaic style tiling. This can be created with ready made tiles, or alternatively constructed on a bespoke basis. This is a nice way to keep things looking more natural whilst taking a constructed approach. Think of it as a bridge between a lawn and paving slabs.  You don’t need to sacrifice on the natural side of the garden design just because you’re using a constructed surface as the focal point.

A lot of people will border their paving/tiling with bedding plants. Or they will have square plots of soil symmetrically placed throughout the tiled surface for planting. This can allow you to have grass, flowers or even small trees/bushes in amongst your tiled garden. To further tie in this design with your house, try and match constructed garden elements to your house’s secondary colour palette. Most houses have at least two colour palettes, the primary being the main colour and the secondary/tertiary being that of the window frames, eves etc. If you have boxed planters or ceramic pots try and match these in with the secondary colours of your house’s design. It’s surprising how much of a difference small changes like this can make.

Other alternatives to having a lawn based garden include bark, wood chippings and shingle stones. Each of these suits a different type of house design, architecture and outdoor layout. The choice that is right for you will be dependent on a combination of these factors. Therefore it would be ill advised to state hard and fast rules at this point in the article. Most of the time your natural instinct will tell you what will work best. However if you’re unsure you can always create mock ups on a computer to get an idea. This might seem a little complicated, but it’s better than undergoing a whole project only to find out the results don’t work.

Some quick “rules” to observe are that:

  • Shingle type stones generally suit gardens with a dark colour palette and that are minimalist
  • Bark or wood chippings fit well into a traditional style home/garden design
There are so many different aspects of house and garden design that it would be impossible to discuss them all. However the points raised in this article give a good indication of the types of issues that often crop up. The take home message from this piece is that continuing your home’s theme into the garden should be more of a consideration. Don’t simply try and make the garden appealing independently; but make it a real extension of the house.

About the Author

Peter McAllister works for SGM who are a supplier of ground care and gardening equipment/machinery. Check out their garden and landscaping advice blog for more useful articles.

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