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Patio paradise

Patio paradise


Designer Anna Helps took on a complex, high-end project in Sussex


For many designers, when the client requests a patio in excess of 465sq m, the natural reaction would be to question the need for such a large area of hard landscaping. However, when I started work on this project in rural West Sussex, I could see this was exactly what was needed.

The house was long and low, with around 40m of frontage. The client had a beautiful wide garden with the South Downs as a backdrop, but they had no immediate space to enjoy close to the house. They requested an area they could use and entertain in all year round, and I used the client’s love of Art Deco as inspiration for the design shapes.



The next design challenge was how to incorporate an expansive, contemporary patio into the wider landscape. The design lines of each section led out from the house, but the design also had to work on an east-to-west axis, connecting the dining area to a sunbathing terrace at the opposite end – not an easy thing to achieve. For such a large area, porcelain was the obvious choice of paving material to create a stunning patio. I broke this up through the use of black spilt pebble mesh to highlight key design features and at thresholds when moving from one area of the patio to another.

The design also featured a pebble mesh circular seating area, and an elevated dining platform with an adjacent outdoor kitchen, for use as entertaining spaces. These were both covered by grey Renson pergolas that link the two areas and provide cover in all weathers.

Another key element of the design was the knapped flint walls; some were freestanding elements giving vertical interest throughout the year, while others formed central backdrops in key sections. I love the look of the flint, which is a beautifully soft element both in summer and winter and helped to link the design to its wider setting in the Sussex landscape.



I chose the planting palette to withstand periods without excessive watering, with Mediterranean plants and grasses. A strong evergreen element was also important, as the patio is on display and in use all year round, so needs to offer interest and attractiveness at all times. I chose Malus, Amelanchiers, Prunus, Crataegus and Carpinus as trees that looked at home within the wider setting, with Taxus and Prunus lusitanica hedging providing strong evergreen backdrops as well as acting as windbreaks.

This was a complex project to deliver. A close relationship with the landscaper, Arun Landscapes, ensured that any query or problem was resolved promptly, and I visited the site on a weekly basis to have a catch up with the team. A great collaborative effort resulted in a fantastic garden for the client.


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