Project: Tiny hotel courtyard
Louise Cummins and Caroline De Lane Lea turned a small space into a garden for guests
The Gloucester Place Z Hotel is a Grade II-listed Georgian townhouse, part of the Portman Estate, London. In conjunction with the Estate, Z Hotels undertook a complete upgrade and asked us to design a courtyard adjoining the breakfast room. In this 25m2 space, essentially a roof terrace over a basement, the client wanted a garden filled with planting for guests to relax in.
We were involved from the start of the refurbishment, working with the structural engineer, main building contractor and architect. It was important to tie in with the interior decoration and, as it is viewed through large bi-fold doors, the garden needed to look good throughout the seasons.
When we first visited the space, it was dank, unloved, and overlooked on four sides by surrounding townhouses. It appeared very dark, but with fresh paint, light now reflects into the courtyard, making it more inviting. Three tall standard Betula utilis var. jacquemontii give the instant feel of an established garden. Planted in bespoke dark grey aluminium planters, they counteract the height of the surrounding walls.
They are underplanted with Buxus sempervirens balls, Polystichum setiferum, Pachysandra terminalis and Muehlenbeckia complexa. A multi-stemmed birch creates a focal point when viewed from inside. It also helps to create zones in the space – important to the client. They wanted an informal atmosphere with flexible seating so it can be used by individual guests and also for evening events.
York stone paving was one of the few stipulations in the brief. We used sawn York stone, laid in a coursing pattern for a contemporary feel. A bricked-in window was highlighted with a bespoke decorative aluminium panel from Kyoto Garden Art, lit at night with an internal LED lighting strip. The seating is a combination of recycled aluminium stools and tables by Jennifer Newman Studios, and hardwood benches, built in front of the planters so that the planters form the seat backs.
The birches are up-lit with spike lights, and wall lights add to the evening atmosphere. We tend to work with our own specialist teams for garden construction, but on this project the main builder worked on the paving, built-in furniture and lighting, to our specification. We always carry out planting with our small team, which was key in a space of this size.
The client is delighted with the courtyard garden, which is a popular spot for guests who enjoy time out in this tiny oasis in the heart of London.