An urban garden design in a New York townhouse

Outdoor living area with concrete details and a wooden bench
ARTICLE Clare Chapman PHOTOGRAPHY Irene Kalina-Jones  

When the current owners took possession of this townhouse, it was traditional inside and out. That changed swiftly in favour of a clean, contemporary aesthetic.

The interior was completely redesigned and decorated, with the landscape created as an extension of the interior styling. 

The four-floor home is classified under historic preservation rules which meant the front of the property needed to be kept very traditional so it was the rear of the property where the owners could unleash their creativity with a contemporary landscape design. 

With the kitchen and dining area opening out onto the back garden, it was central to the design to ensure an easy flow into the outside entertaining area. “We tried to follow the modern aesthetic of the house with clean horizontal lines, contrasting textures and strong architectural elements,” landscape designer Edward Jones of Outside Space NYC says.

An outdoor room with concrete flower pots and a table and chairs

Transformed from a traditional mature garden that was dimly lit under large trees, the space was cleared and opened up to create a well-lit entertaining sanctuary. With various elements packed into the design, the main constraint was around fitting each element into the relatively small area - 18ft x 50ft - without inhibiting an easy flow.

“We also had to consider the access to the space from a construction point-of-view,” Jones says. “As with many urban environments in this style, we only had access to the outside area through the front door so any materials we used had to be brought in through the home.”

For the owners, central to this project was the ability to entertain outside and what was achieved is a sleek yet unassuming landscape as functional as it is beautiful. From the moment you enter the space from the kitchen, it is clear that is an area geared for long nights under the stars. The area closest to the house incorporates a custom-made barbeque enclosure with a polished concrete wet bar and cedar cabinets.

Outdoor kitchen with timber and benches and concrete plant boxes

Materials were chosen for their pared back, natural textures. “The cedar will fade over time and blend with the polished concrete really well. We used polished concrete on lots of the surfaces for its great textural quality and warmth while it also has a modern appeal.” Ipe was chosen for the wooden structures for its dense qualities and strong dark colour that contrasts with the lighter concrete and stone.

An evergreen hedge of hollies separates the cooking area from the middle dining space, which is anchored with a dining table and a polished concrete planter and floating L-shaped Ipe bench. Grove bamboo lines the fence adding height and greenery, with the horizontal boards of the fence elongating the compact space. 

“The main focus is at the rear of the garden - in the third part of the space - with what was a broken concrete wall we repaired with polished concrete and transformed into a wide waterfall that cascades down into a pool below,” Jones says. Two polished concrete planters on each side frame the pond while additional seating and a fire pit complete this carefully crafted entertaining oasis.

Moving from the cooking to the dining area and on to the relaxation space in front of the waterfall, it is clear that this is a design that offers not only functionality but a range of flexible options to relax in and move through, while the subtle symmetry in the different elements and raw elemental materials create an exciting and functional space.

Key details 

Location: Brooklyn, New York
Project budget: $63,000 USD
Timeframe: 9 Months
Client brief: Big on entertainment, the main requirements were to have an outdoor kitchen, cabinets, BBQ, dining area, fire pit and lots of seating with a water feature. 

Interested in a Zones Landscaping Specialists case study? Read about this Functional design for outdoor entertaining.   

This article by Clare Chapman featured on page 86 of Issue 021 of Renovate Magazine. New Zealand's first and only magazine solely dedicated to home renovations. This is not a Zones Landscaping Specialists case study. 

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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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