Family-friendly urban gardens: how to make the most of a small space

Urban gardens, often on the small side, can still keep all members of the family happy

Garden with paving stones and wild plants
Garden by Angus Thompson Design
(Image credit: Rachel Warne)

Urban gardens, for those lucky enough to have them, are usually on the small side, meaning compromises must be reached on how the space is best used. Now, innovative companies are rethinking what is possible with landscaping solutions, thoughtful re-uses of outhouses, and clever tricks to hide children’s play equipment, creating urban gardens that everyone can enjoy.

Simple garden sets for urban garden TLC

trowel and spade

(Image credit: press)

At the coldest point of the year, motivation to show your garden some love can be low, but put the work in now and you'll reap the rewards later. The Stem, one of our favourite digital stops for hardy house plants, also has a range of handy tools. We love the clean simplicity of this gently curved set from Sophie Conran, with beech handles comfortably moulding to the shape of the hand, making gardening a pleasure.

The design furniture increasing biodiversity

yellow design furniture

(Image credit: press)

Vestre Habitats have collaborated with Arde and Rethink Studio on a range of design furniture which aims to increase biodiversity in outdoor urban environments. The pieces don't impede the natural cycles of processes such as the decomposition of dead wood, and create a habitat where fungi, insects, beetles and birds can thrive.

The space-saving play equipment for children

children's wooden easel with wind chimes hanging off

(Image credit: press)

Children's play equipment doesn't be unsightly or enormous; on the contrary, it can be both be compact and elegant. Plum Play thoughtfully design children's outdoor toys from sustainable wood for toys which will endure. Children will love this pretty easel, and parents will love the small size and handy storage for brushes and paints.

The sustainable plant pots for elegant patios

Plant pots in wooden bases

(Image credit: press)

London-based Mexican designer Arturo Soto creates beautiful pots and pedestals for bonsai trees, using gleaming recycled wood. Bonsais can be easily removed from their walnut and ply homes, making watering them effortless. Soto's brand, Memories of green, subscribes to a zero waste policy from his woodturning studio in Deptford's Cockpit Arts.

The portable greenhouse for the green-fingered

cast iron greenhouse with plants in it

(Image credit: press)

Garden too small for a greenhouse? Try a portable one which offers no need to compromise on design. The Bramber has been crafted by designer David Le Versha, who brings an expertise in the construction of Victorian-inspired iron objects to a beautifully formed portable greenhouse. Formed from stainless steel and aluminium, each detail is carefully considered to ensure easy usability. The glass lid can be kept open in all positions, and two handles mean the greenhouse can be rolled like a wheelbarrow depending on whether your plants require sun or shade. Water them by simply raising the tilting windows.

Hidden trampolines to thrill children (and parents)

Trampoline in ground with grass half covering it

(Image credit: press)

Most parents living with small urban gardens will know there comes a point when you must decide if you are willing to compromise precious outdoor space on unsightly trampolines. Giving the children years of joy, yes, but potentially kissing goodbye to an evening G&T in the sun – it’s a tough decision we may not have to make. Sunken Trampolines creates safe trampolines that are flush with the ground for safety purposes, but can also be hidden with a lid to match your grass – letting the space double as the perfect spot for a barbecue. ‘Both the trampoline and the lid can be made to suit the size available,’ says Sunken Trampolines’ director Angus Macwatt. ‘Putting them in the ground dramatically decreases the visual size of the trampoline. Many clients are amazed at how the large trampoline just disappears once it has been installed. Any garden can be transformed with a Sunken Trampoline no matter how small a space.’

The compact urban garden (that still has space for everyone)

Small garden with seating area and wild flowers

(Image credit: Rachel Warne)

Angus Thompson Design’s award-winning urban garden proves space restrictions don’t need to mean a compromise. ‘Like many town gardens, this relatively small space had to fulfil multiple roles: family garden, access to work studio, entertaining space, and place to unwind amongst beautiful, romantic planting,’ say the designers of the Oxford garden. Embracing a juxtaposition of textures – stone, glass and wood – gives the garden a wilder aesthetic that is often lost in a city space. ‘Planted to create a lush woodland-edge feel, we used cow parsley, ferns and foxgloves giving way to astrantias and late season aster divaricates in summer, creating a pleasing indulgence against the crisp, hard detailing,’ they add.

Urban gardens offering space for grown-up children

Family-friendly urban gardens: how to make the most of a small space

(Image credit: press)

A bungalow annexe dating from the 1970s gets a sleek and useful update in this Kingston-upon-Thames garden by architect Stephen Coates. He and his wife have grown-up children, and wanted space for them to visit but without having unused and empty rooms for the rest of the time. The new annexe, doubling as a garden study, provides the ideal solution – created from prefabricated structural insulated panels and clad in Siberian Larch, it makes the most of a small garden space.

Hannah Silver is the Art, Culture, Watches & Jewellery Editor of Wallpaper*. Since joining in 2019, she has overseen offbeat design trends and in-depth profiles, and written extensively across the worlds of culture and luxury. She enjoys meeting artists and designers, viewing exhibitions and conducting interviews on her frequent travels.