My garden: Ben de Lisi's decked out for the Med in Battersea

Gerardo Vidaurre and designer Ben de Lisi’s south London garden has taken on a cool hippy-chic Ibiza vibe.

A backyard in Battersea becomes a colourful, Mediterranean-style retreat within the space of several weeks. Credit for the glamorous transformation goes in most part to Gerardo Vidaurre — partner of fashion and interiors designer Ben de Lisi, former general manager of top London garden centre The Chelsea Gardener and creator of the couple’s far larger garden in Ibiza.
“The previous deck was softwood and it was rotting, so had to be redone,” recalls Vidaurre. “We both wanted something minimal because we’re not here all the time, we didn’t want a lot of watering, and Ben likes things neat.”
Before, there was the usual mundane garden fencing, a trio of miserable olive trees that had outgrown their pots and a deck that was whitewashed annually to improve its appearance and give the space a Mykonos feeling. Now, De Lisi says, it’s more hippy chic, and redolent of the laid-back island life of Ibiza.
Stripey kilims are rolled out on a summer’s day and cushions are flung on the built-in seats that are framed on either side with deep green panels of box. The Brazilian hardwood deck and slatted wood walls make an easy flow from the American walnut flooring in the dining room on the other side of the French windows. Raising the boundaries to the permitted six foot six adds a little more privacy, too.
The courtyard is just 32ft by 14ft wide, and instead of doing the usual design trick of widening the space by laying the deck boards across, the pair wanted to accentuate the length, so had the boards laid down the garden and added a mirror at the bottom, against the built-in shed at the back, to make the space appear to extend further.
They wanted a large dining area that didn’t feel cramped, so added a metre to the old dining space before creating two new steps up to the more relaxed seating area, with a pair of sun loungers that can stay out there all year round.
Vidaurre designed a raised bed at the back on the left, as well as a customised seat on the right that also houses the recycling boxes. The raised bed is now home to the three olive trees, which immediately perked up on planting and, three months on, have dramatically increased their foliage.
“The trees had been in the same pots for about eight years,” says Vidaurre. “Now they are able to get their roots straight into the ground, beneath the deck. They won’t do any damage, because olive trees don’t have a large root system.”
Instead of mulching the compost, Vidaurre planted a living tufted rug of black grass Ophiopogon planiscapus nigrescens, which will thicken up through summer, and added a scattering of poppy seed with the hope of scarlet flowers next year.
Scarlet geraniums in a high-level trough, along the top of the garden shed, contrast well with the slate roof and add another splash of De Lisi’s favourite colour, along with three handsome ceramic Basque containers that hold two agaves and a lilac-flowered Perovskia.
Adding lighting, says Vidaurre, made it possible to extend the time they can spend in the garden, and gives it an entirely different, dramatic feeling after dusk. There are LED lights set within the step risers, unobtrusive lights that subtly wash the walls and uplighters to highlight the olive trees.
“We wanted some kind of wall art because in Ibiza we have sculpture on the walls that works well, but we didn’t know what,” explains De Lisi. “We kept looking and eventually we found several French Sixties sunburst mirrors at The Furniture Cave.” On the opposite wall, an outsize hammered disc hangs low, reflecting light like the mirrors.
“We call it the gong. I bought it at The Chelsea Gardener because it’s like a big copper polka dot, and of course, because it represents sunlight.”
Photographs: Clive Nichols


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