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A Study in Serenity: Designer Rose Uniacke’s Tranquil Terrace Garden

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A Study in Serenity: Designer Rose Uniacke’s Tranquil Terrace Garden

February 21, 2019

The ivy-clad brick house that interior design Rose Uniacke and her film producer husband, David Heyman, bought in central London a few years back came with a pedigree.

Built in 1861 by James Rannie Swinton, a Scottish high-society portrait painter, the three-story Georgian Revival-style mansion had a glass-roofed conservatory where paintings had once been on display. For 19th-century clients who commissioned a portrait, the sitting took place in an adjoining room that was Swinton’s studio.

By the time Uniacke and Heyman bought the house in 2007, the building had been divided into apartments, complete with fire-door partitions. For Uniacke, who has an eponymous shop on London’s Pimlico Road, renovating the house took four years.

During the overhaul, Uniacke created two unusual–and extremely charming–gardens. Landscape designer Tom Stuart-Smith took charge of the mechanics, coming up with design solutions and choosing plants that would thrive. You may remember seeing the the glass-roofed conservatory garden in our post Among the Orchids: Designer Rose Uniacke at Home in London (and in greater detail in our Gardenista book). Now, let’s visit an enclosed space on the side of the house which has been transformed into a sunny and sheltered terrace garden.

Photography by Matthew Williams for Gardenista.

French doors in the living room lead to the walled garden. The terrace is paved with old Yorkstone (a type of sandstone quarried in Yorkshire) and flanking the doorway are two evergreen euphorbia shrubs, which resemble rhododendrons. A newish variety, Euphorbia x pasteurii  has fragrant yellow honey-scented flowers in late spring.
Above: French doors in the living room lead to the walled garden. The terrace is paved with old Yorkstone (a type of sandstone quarried in Yorkshire) and flanking the doorway are two evergreen euphorbia shrubs, which resemble rhododendrons. A newish variety, Euphorbia x pasteurii  has fragrant yellow honey-scented flowers in late spring.

To seamlessly integrate the terrace garden into the flow of the interior spaces, adjustments were in order. “The garden was very low and disconnected from the house,” Stuart-Smith said, “so before doing anything we lifted the level by three feet.”

The vintage table–a wooden top set on an old cast-iron base–is where Uniacke and her family eat outdoors in summer.
Above: The vintage table–a wooden top set on an old cast-iron base–is where Uniacke and her family eat outdoors in summer.
 Weathered teak chairs and benches have cushions for extra comfort.
Above: Weathered teak chairs and benches have cushions for extra comfort.
Against the brick wall, Tom planted camellias, southern magnolia, and evergreen loquat (Eriobotrya) trees, to give solid texture and enclose the space with greenery.
Above: Against the brick wall, Tom planted camellias, southern magnolia, and evergreen loquat (Eriobotrya) trees, to give solid texture and enclose the space with greenery.

A mix of different planters and different types of foliage give the terrace garden an informal look.

 A mature olive tree thrives in an accommodating terra cotta pot.
Above: A mature olive tree thrives in an accommodating terra cotta pot.
 The house came with ivy already attached. Here, a mix of wisteria and Virginia creeper green up the space. Many of the smaller pots hold herbs that Uniacke uses when she’s cooking, pinching off a sprig of rosemary to season a stew.
Above: The house came with ivy already attached. Here, a mix of wisteria and Virginia creeper green up the space. Many of the smaller pots hold herbs that Uniacke uses when she’s cooking, pinching off a sprig of rosemary to season a stew.
 The carved stone pedestal?  Uniacke has a passion for rare antiques, and is known for her uncanny ability to discover them. During the course of the renovation, whenever she found a piece she especially liked she’d put it aside for her garden.
Above: The carved stone pedestal?  Uniacke has a passion for rare antiques, and is known for her uncanny ability to discover them. During the course of the renovation, whenever she found a piece she especially liked she’d put it aside for her garden.
Designer Rose Uniacke’s glass-roofed conservatory is home to dozens of potted orchids.
Above: Designer Rose Uniacke’s glass-roofed conservatory is home to dozens of potted orchids.

Tour more of our favorite city gardens for inspiration:

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