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Family Garden Design in Hackney East London

Designed by Katrina Kieffer-Wells. The clients bought their house about a year before they commissioned the garden design, with a high-spec interior that was finished and ready to live in. However the garden was in an overgrown state – charming in a ramshackle way, but rather impractical. 

Entire Garden with existing Eucalyptus

The clients were expecting their first baby and also had a new puppy, so the space needed to be made suitable for all members of the family. It contained 3 mature trees – a gnarled Eucalyptus which arcs over the back gate, a large silver birch close to the house and a Sorbus on the other side boundary. 

Garden to house view

The client wanted to retain the eucalyptus and birch in the final design. The biggest issue to overcome were changes in level in the existing space. The client wanted to make the transition from house to garden much easier and more comfortable. However to a certain extent the position of the trees and possible root network would dictate the finished level of any raised beds and limit the scope of excavation for the lower garden.

Dining area and bbq space

The area directly adjoining the French doors was laid with patio using a combination of the existing York stone and red brick, interspersed with Japanese black pebbles and mossy ground cover plants. A single chair, using a strong architectural form or colour, helps to give definition to this section of the space. The area also houses the client’s bbq on the right hand side. The patio leads between two rendered raised beds (the one on the left accommodating the existing silver birch) to open out onto an area of artificial lawn.
L shaped planter with soft planting


To the right of this area, set within the raised beds, was an L-shaped decking bench, which will allow for formal dining. A wire gabion wall, filled with a selection of red brick, slate tiles, and wine bottles, forms the backdrop to the garden. This decorative wall also serves to mask a bike store from the main garden. In the bottom left of the garden is a raised decked platform area that serves several functions.

Gabion screening

A butyl lined sunken pit beneath the platform can be used for sand, play balls or water, providing plenty of opportunity for child play in the space. This pit is covered by a removable decking lid, allowing the client to turn the structure into a lounge space for all the family. Waterproof boxes hidden beneath the platform and accessed by hinged sections of decking around the side allow the client to store weatherproof cushions. Further interest was provided by a timber arch constructed towards the back of the garden, creating a frame for the rear of the space which will also allow the installation of a swing suitable for both adults and children.

Soft planting of ferns and Heuchera

Planting in the space was in elegant tones of white and green, helping to illuminate this shady space whilst retaining a romantic woodland feel. Leafy greens in a variety of shades provide interest throughout the year, while colour can be added by painting the raised beds.

Lighting accentuates architectural forms, with uplighters for the trees, decking lights for the platform and angled adjustable light for the gabion wall.

Plant List

Acanthus spinosus
Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote'
Trachelospermum jasminoides
Sarcococca confusa
Ajuga reptans 'Catlin's Giant'
Pittosporum tobira 'Nanum'
Parthenocissus henryana
Pachysandra terminalis 'Green Carpet'
Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost'
Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'
Luzula nivea
Astelia chathamica 'Silver Spear'
Carex testacea 'Old Gold'


Photos by Marcus Harpur

Designed by Katrina Kieffer

Other gardens by this designer