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An elegantly furnished city terrace with views of the London skyline, including the London Eye; designed by Finchatton

City Garden Design Ideas

Inspiration for your personal outdoor space in the city this summer

Linda Holmes
By Linda Holmes, Interiors Director
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It’s that time of year when all minds turn to outdoor living with talking points ranging from landscaped lawns, compact city gardens and luxury garden furniture. A vast patch of green might provide ample space for trying your hand at growing a vegetable patch, maintaining a garden orchard and having flower beds to boot, but small city gardens aren’t to be underestimated, as these space-savvy designs go to show.

Rooftop City Garden Design Ideas | Types of City Gardens | Helen Green Design | Style Guide
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Rooftop City Gardens

Not every city pad has balcony space, but many do have a roof garden to make up for it. Sometimes they’re communal, peppered with various lounge sets so that multiple groups of people of can enjoy the space at the same time. But they can also be 100 per cent private for penthouse dwellers to make their own.

How you decide to fill it depends on how much space is available. A border of box bushes or pleached shrubs usually always work as roof garden ideas because they’re what take it from terrace to garden. They bring in a statement strip of greenery as well as adding structure and privacy.

Baker Outdoor Wall Lantern
Highgate Home
Baker Outdoor Wall Lantern

Firepits and chimineas are a great addition to a roof garden as well because, being positioned up high with not much shelter, the wind speed picks up and extra warmth is a bonus. To make sure they’re used though, choose relaxed seating that’s arranged around your outdoor woodburner.

And if the roof garden is large enough, keep an area free for sun loungers. The height and lack of shelter also swings the other way, creating a perfect sunspot in summer.

Courtyard City Garden Design Ideas | Types of City Gardens | Helen Green Design | Style Guide
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Courtyard City Gardens

Courtyard gardens might be a smaller city garden type, but they aren’t short of ideas. Their smaller footprint should be embraced because, if designed properly, they offer an oasis of calm in the centre of the city.

The best place to begin with courtyard garden ideas is to think of your courtyard like a snug or small living room. So, don’t be scared to choose daring tiles over standard garden paving. Or use a bold outdoor rug or patterned cushions to give a small space impact.

Marble Petal Bowl
More options available
Marble Petal Bowl
From £185

Keep that interior-exterior thought going by bringing out an oversized mirror that will reflect one of the greenest parts of the courtyard so that it’s seen twice. You can do more with your lighting too. A few stylish wall lights in combination with a pendant or chandelier and candles in hurricane lanterns on a small table or by the French doors is plenty.

Furniture is best kept to a minimum to avoid it becoming overcrowded. A smaller sofa or armchair set will suit the proportions well.

And don’t neglect your walls. Think about adding shelving to one courtyard garden wall and fill it with pots of herbs so you have a city version of a herb garden, and add trellises to another so that you can plant vines and climbing roses upwards.

Terrace City Garden Design Ideas | Types of City Gardens | STAFFAN TOLLGARD | Style Guide
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Terrace City Gardens

Terrace gardens are one of the most popular city garden ideas, particularly in period properties where this style of outdoor space was commonplace. It’s not all about history though.

The reason that a terrace is seen so much in city garden design is that it’s low maintenance and suits its surroundings. In the city, pops of green amongst slate flagstones, recycled red brick and concrete is a winning look.

City garden ideas that mix in castellated bedding plants (a clever way to make the most of the space, as multiple layers give the illusion of more room) up the ante on the garden vibe.

Qubik Outdoor Armchair
More options available
Qubik Outdoor Armchair
From £1,950

City homes that have a proper outdoor area become the go-to entertaining destination in spring and summer, so to make sure everybody enjoys using it, prioritise outdoor sofas and coffee tables over a large dining table.

Eating al fresco is always more laidback so you’ll still be able to enjoy mealtimes outside even with the absence of a formal table and chairs setup.

In this Staffan Tollgard city garden, the addition of a swinging rattan egg chair offers a second place to unwind and the contemporary timber cladding used around the whole border gives the impression of the total seclusion.

Townhouse City Garden Design Ideas | Types of City Gardens | Finchatton | Style Guide
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Townhouse City Gardens

A townhouse garden doesn’t always differ too much from a terraced garden design, in that the available space tends to be similar. But paving may not be the way you decide to go with a townhouse.

In this Finchatton garden design, a smooth, pale stone patio area is combined with a large wooden decked dining and entertaining level. It’s part terrace, part elegant outdoor dining room. 

As with every sort of city garden, one of the non-negotiable townhouse garden ideas needs to be well-executed planting. Without it, you lose out considerably on the garden ambiance. While the aim should be to mimic interior rooms in your outdoors, the beauty of a garden is to let things grow and to allow nature to be the real showcase.

Balcony City Garden Design Ideas | Types of City Gardens | STAFFAN TOLLGARD | Style Guide
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Balcony City Gardens

And finally to an important part of many city apartments—the balcony garden. So often, balconies aren’t viewed or treated as gardens, which is quite an oversight. Any domaine that’s part of your home and that gives you the opportunity to take aspects of everyday life outdoors is worthy of the garden title.

Plant herbs, buy hanging planters to maximise the vertical space and choose a small outdoor table and chair set that will act as a dining room and open-air home office for the entire summer season.

Therese Outdoor Armchair
More options available
Coco Wolf
Therese Outdoor Armchair
From £2,700