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  • By Andrew Christopher Dunnee

It’s a matter of trust.

This article featured in August's edition of Ireland's Homes Interiors and Living Magazine.

Often my clients furnish me with a long list of requirements, features and concepts that they hope to include in their outdoor space. My job as a professional designer is not only to meet their expectations but to exceed it. However often that involves breaking the bad news that their expectations are exceeding their budget or that what they had in mind for their dream garden, which might have worked at the hotel in Barbados just won’t work here in Ireland. What ensues is a series of meetings, site visits, drawings and models where I attempt to convince my client that what I come up with for the outdoor space will far out strip their expectations and still come in on budget. However sometimes a client comes along who doesn’t know exactly what they want, only that they want a beautiful outdoor space to enjoy with their family and friends and they trust me to come up with something special.

In the case of this large garden in county Louth, the only brief I got from my client was that they wanted an alternative use for a disused tennis court. The tennis court had served the family well over the years but as the brood grew up and moved on they were left with a large expanse of moss covered, decaying asphalt right next to the house. I had already worked with this client before producing a beautiful courtyard garden with formal pond on another part of the site, so they were happy to allow me to indulge my love for design and create something a little unexpected.

The only item on their wish list was that the wanted to try growing their own vegetables in a small way without having to stare at an unsightly vegetable plot for nine months of the year. After three months of planning, the final design was composed of a contemporary sleek outdoor living space, all contained within the confines of a more traditional walled garden.

My aim was to maximize the space and create a garden where you could grow, cook and enjoy your food all within a beautiful secluded setting.

The first design principle employed to make a space appear larger than it really is, is to draw the eye away from the obvious views (front to back, side to side). Instead you try to create a journey through the space that distracts you from reality so you can get lost in your surroundings. To achieve this we turned everything within the garden at forty-five degrees to its boundary walls. This means to travel from one end of the garden to the other you had to zig zag across the garden, allowing me to control everything you saw, and experienced along the way.

As you enter the garden through the custom made wrought iron gate you are presented with a lush garden and two options as to where to go. To your right fruit and vegetables are grown in a small Victorian style glass house with raised vegetable beds housed outside made from rusted steel.

To your left you are led through the more ornamental side of the garden via a series of stepping stones and staggered teak boardwalks through a mature yew hedge to reveal the outdoor dining area and garden pavilion. At the center of the garden a large granite patio forms the perfect entertaining area complete with water feature and sculptures set among the planting.

However it is the contemporary Garden pavilion that really draws the eye. This open structure houses a beautiful outdoor kitchen which includes built in Barbecue, sink, sockets and white quartz top and bar seating for five people.

This creates a very social space allowing you to chat to your guests while you throw another snag on the Barbie. At the heart of the pavilion is a large L shaped sofa that faces a log burning stove set into a stone wall to keep you warm at night while you settle back to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Crucial to the success of any garden is atmosphere. It is an assault on the senses, beautiful detailing, interesting features, well thought out planting schemes will all help to achieve it, but the illusive “atmosphere” of a space can never really be described, it can only be experienced. As a designer I go to extreme lengths to communicate my concepts to the clients to ensure that they know what they are getting before the contractors start digging. We provide detailed drawings and CGI animations of the finished proposal, however as each garden is a one off and there is little to compare it to then trust will inevitably be a factor. It is a part of my job that I take very seriously, but as with many of the best things in life even with all the facts in hand, it often takes that little pinch of trust to turn dreams into reality.

This garden was awarded Ireland’s best Private garden by the association of landscaping contractors of Ireland.

Established in 1999, Andrew Christopher Garden Designs is a multi-award winning design practice based in the north east of Ireland. We specialize in the design and construction of high quality unique gardens with an emphasis on style and beauty. To find out more visit

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