Upside Down

Year of completion
Falmouth, Cornwall
Landscape Contractor
Atlantic Landscapes
Thomas Souster Architect
Jamie Hunt & Iain

Old clients of mine, Hilary and Iain, called me in to look at the garden of their new house in Falmouth, miles away from their previous home not only geographically but also in character and setting – from the Chilterns to Cornwall, from part of a historic estate with deep aged worked soils to a contemporary new build with all of the love put into the house build and none into the garden.

The move marked a change in lifestyle, an early retirement following several years of travel work internationally, which in part inspired the move – a yearning to embrace an outdoor coastal lifestyle and a modern way to live.

The garden was viewed as integral to this but didn’t deliver. A disconnected space with walls and fences in all of the wrong places, an exciting brief for me, a blank canvas with nothing of the past to save except for an old Cornish bank to one side that had survived the bulldozers. Four disparate sides of the house, none vast in scale but together potentially offering more than the sum of its parts. We just needed to break down and shift the boundaries and get right into the corners.

Both Hilary and Iain had an idea of areas they would like to better utilise, and this was in their brief, but it was only when we sat down inside in their upstairs dining room that a more radical intervention for this upside down house appeared crucial – ‘you need stairs down to the garden from here’. A new staircase would provide a link between the upstairs living room and the garden. This seemed like a relatively simple conversion, with the small task of design and planning to get past. A design for a spiral staircase, subsequently developed with an architect friend Tom Charles Souster, breezed through planning.

Mark Johnson of Atlantic Landscapes worked tirelessly, building the project from start to finish over 6 months with a steely eye for detail to ensure an excellent build quality. The creative process didn’t end with the design package, Mark continued to enrich the project with suggestions and solutions as the site uncovered its secrets.

Slate clad walls with cedar gates
Limestone stepping stones through gravel

This was a particularly impactful project, maybe because there was so little to work with, but I think more so that the upside down design of the house required us to really think about how to relate everyday living from house to garden. Now, the garden is immediately something that is used without thought, rather than looked down at through the window – this together with a number of new areas for lounging, dining or reading a book has meant the use of the garden has increased tenfold.

It has been nice to go back to visit the client and enjoy a cold beer in their garden. New planting is threading through the garden and rooting in, adapted to the different conditions and ready to entertain through its first full four seasons ahead and many years to come.

Front garden design
Patio surrounded by lush planting
Western red cedar slatted fence
Outdoor shower
Coastal exotic planting in Cornwall

“Jamie did a fantastic job completely redesigning our entire garden. He presented initial design ideas and a “look book” , subsequently developing fully detailed plans and specification, and sourced an exceptional landscape gardener to implement the hard landscaping. Jamie personally sourced and planted a range of flowers, shrubs and trees to create the Cornish-beach-lifestyle garden that we had envisaged.

Since the completion of the project Jamie has returned on several occasions to check on progress. Twelve months later the new garden is already starting to mature and we are thrilled with what has been achieved. We now live in our garden in the warmer months and the work has positively impacted the value of the property quite significantly. Friends, neighbours and family have all commented on what a wonderful and professional job both Jamie and his landscaper have done. One of our grown-up children even commented “it’s a game changer!” We would recommend Jamie and his team unreservedly.”

Iain & Hilary
Spiral staircase to balcony
Steel garden trellis supports Akebia vine on wall
Lighting and fire pit illuminate the garden in the evening