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A room under the stars

12.10.21

Many of us are glad to see the back of a dismally damp, lustreless summer.  Autumn can offer bright, cloudless days and, so long as it’s not too cold, gardens can still double as outdoor rooms.  Landscape architect, Randle Siddeley, with his deserved reputation for transformation, offers design solutions for people wanting their gardens to be extensions of their houses, especially post the pandemic.   Randle can magically convert a garden, even for colder months, into a multi-purpose extra space, from a family gathering area to a tranquil haven for meditation.    

Lighting always plays a key part in ensuring that a garden remains a cheerful, welcoming space as the nights start to draw in and dusk descends all too fast on al fresco entertaining. Randle’s speciality is installing lighting that flows seamlessly from house to garden, creating one big entertainment space full of cheer.   

His advice is to use lighting cleverly so that you discover elements of the garden bit by bit at night.  While a gentle glow near paths is enough, stronger light is needed when there are steps or changes of level.  Lighting focal points directionally create mystery and atmosphere.  A very sculptural tree or open foliage look best when uplit. Fuller trees are made all the lovelier when lit with moonlighters, high within the branches, so that soft light spills downwards and creates dappled patterns.  Dense plantings, like box balls and hedging, look almost architectural and interesting when lit in silhouette.  Arbours overhung by a vine or swathed in clematis or jasmine, take on a soft glow with spot lighters concealed in the foliage.    

Dining areas should be marked off from the rest of the garden with useful objects like big pots or planters and the trick is to have very gentle background lighting, complemented by light focused on the table.  Guests should be able to see what they’re eating without the lighting being intrusive.   So, lanterns over the table should be pleasantly dimmed while additional lighting comes from uplighters within planters around the edges or at the sides. The dining area lighting should be balanced by a lit point of interest a few metres away, a tree or area of planting, while lighting one feature in the distance gives visual focus and provides a talking point. 

In a large Notting Hill garden, Randle created a contemporary pavilion or logia from slatted wood.  Its focal point is a big open fireplace and at night discreet copper fixtures at a high level give the timber slats a theatrical impact. In fact, Randle used dramatic lighting throughout the garden to transform it into a magical evening entertaining space. With clever LED lighting the entire garden becomes like an extra room.  Copper starlighters hang from the trees offering soft points of light, while miniature LED steplights are used to light the steps that link the different garden levels. A dramatic stainless-steel water feature, adjacent to the pavilion, is again uplit with small LED’s.   

Last year Randle transformed part of a Belgravia garden into a cosy jewel-box, giving the impression of a room by erecting a slender iron pergola around the dining area.  This he furnished with heirloom quality American outdoor table and chairs from McKinnon and Harris (every frame guaranteed for a lifetime). His trick was to suspend heat strips from the top of the pergola while planting fragrant flowering creepers around it. This means the space is warm but feels like a natural bower. To reinforce this effect, Randle then built a green wall with barbecue, sink, worktop and fridge, pointing out that even in winter, white wine and vodka need chilling.

https://randlesiddeley.co.uk

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