There are small spaces and small spaces. 

We thought it would be helpful to talk about a real project for this post rather than the general design principles that we use in such spaces. 

There are of coure the recognised tricks of the trade. 

But no small spaces in books of designs are as small as those which you encounter on real design jobs! 

And here we do mean small! 


As part of a design for the whole property our clients asked us to design this: 


Effectively a narrow passageway between an office and a retaining wall, overhung by a steep bank.  


3.1 metres wide at the front narrowing to just 1 metre at the back and 7.8metres long! 

Double doors into the office and utilities were a further encumbrance: 


Our clients had already commissioned metal grilles for either end: 


And our brief was to create a cosy, recreational space where they could take breaks from office life or entertain clients. 

So no challenge really! 

Cornwall is often billed as the UK’s Riviera, but although mild is frequently grey and cool. 

Aside from the very lack of space, the dim, cold, linear nature of the site was an obvious handicap. 

Our immediate thoughts were that: 

stripes broaden, taking floor surfaces up walls increases perceived space and that no one should sit in a row as though waiting for a bus without something to look at! 

Our vision: 

was of a small italian courtyard, lined with warm tinted limestone, a strong but simple floor pattern and at least some integral seating to make for pleasant conversation. 

We also sought to create some distractions from office life in the form of artwork and water and to use foliage to suggest warmer climates: 


Two tones of ‘Porta D’ portuguese limestone, cream and darker cream, will be used to line floor and walls. A diagonal deeper stripe will make the space more dynamic and less linear. 


Two fixed, cantilevered, bronze finished metal seats are mounted on triangular limestone plinths, the middle one of which acts as a low coffee table.  The walls carry  a bronze metalwork panel by a favourite artist and a niche where a fountain dribbles into a small limestone bowl. The mild south west climate allows Trachycarpus palms and the aspidistras that you often see outside italian houses. 

Job done! 

Except that having mentioned to our clients that their house, elsewhere on their property, didn’t face the best view they decided to knock their house down and rebuild. 

A project of this magnitude naturally took precedence over the cosy courtyard.  

So it is a ‘watch this space’ for completion! 

Check out the blogs of our illustrious cousins across the pond for their big thoughts about small spaces: 

Carolyn Gail Choi : Sweet Home and Garden Chicago : Chicao IL  

 Jenny Petersen: J Petersen Garden Design : Austin TX  

Laura Livengood Schaub : Interleafings : San Jose, CA  

Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX 

Shirley Bovshow : Eden Makers : Los Angeles, CA  

Susan Morrison : Blue Planet Garden Blog : East Bay, CA  

 Susan Schlenger : Landscape Design Advice : Hampton, NJ   

Tara Dillard : : Atlanta, GA 

Lesley and Robert