Dominic Walker and partner Lizzie bought their Cheshire home in February 2020, and, even before the pandemic persuaded many people to look at and reimagine their outdoor space, a key motive for the Walker purchase was always the garden’s potential.
“It’s a 1930s semi-detached house with a long and thin garden. We both love hosting and entertaining and being outdoors, so wanted to create a garden space for us to do just that,” says Dominic Walker, while also dreaming of a sports bar and grill at the foot of the garden.
When a Chester-based company shouts: ‘Realise your dream garden’ on its website homepage, it pays to get in touch, especially when that business, Walker Landscape & Design, is run by Dominic’s brother, Ben Walker, and Ben’s wife, Grace.
“The design process was incredibly collaborative. We had plenty of time in lockdown to map out what we wanted, but my brother really helped finesse the detail and provide some good ideas, making us think of the practicalities,” said Dominic Walker.
Dominic had a budget and, for the most part, stuck to it; well aware how easy it is to get carried away with any renovation project.
“We just kept bringing it back to our non-negotiables. I think people can be surprised at the cost of landscaping work – I know I was – but we’ve essentially had a large outdoor extension.”
Dominic Walker is passionate about outdoor cooking, so the kitchen space was central to the design.
“I have a dual-fuel barbecue, a Weber Smokey Mountain and an Ooni Fyra pizza oven. I love to light up the smoker early in the morning to throw a brisket on, while the pizza oven sits centre stage; our nieces and nephews love it.”
Walker has porcelain worktops on the L-shaped outdoor kitchen, providing surface areas for food preparation and serving, while the garden building is flexible enough to cater for anything from working out to watching sport.
“Heat was an important factor in the design. We wanted space we could use all year round and the heater in the bar, hot tub and firepit gives us those spaces. The firepit is mains powered and was designed and built bespoke to fit the space.”
It wasn’t entirely straightforward, with delays in the supply chain and the delivery of materials suffered by so many over the last 18 months.
“I think what surprised me most was the amount that goes in and out. I didn’t think there would be much to clear in our garden until there was a 6ft high pile of earth on the driveway and the amount of hardcore that was delivered was staggering!”
Walker was delighted about how quickly the garden went from building site to finished product and he loves nothing more than being behind the bar or cooking, enjoying the view and the outdoor space created.
“The next step is to get a proper outdoor fridge and beer pump installed. Lizzie loves the garden building and has given up her gym membership, as she doesn’t need it anymore.”
A modern timber frame structure was built on the existing concrete of the old garden building, insulating walls and fitted with aluminium bi-fold doors and windows. There was cedar cladding to
the front elevation and the inside bar area, as well as composite cladding to the side and rear walls.
“The bar was built from treated timber and clad with vertical timbers, with a rubber roof and guttering,” says Ben Walker.
The worktops for the outdoor kitchen were built from concrete blockwork and porcelain tiles with black cladding, with a recess created for the barbecue and smoker and a timber-clad screen to hide the back of the barbecue.
“There is porcelain paving throughout the design, with a raised patio, pathways and lounge area,” says Walker, with a sub-base, tiles primed and laid, and all paving grouted.
The fire pit is mains powered and porcelain clad, with concrete block work, tiled onsite and grouted, a raised composite deck and a 6m-long, 2m-high black bamboo hedge.
Walker Landscape & Design has carved a successful and sought-after niche with its ability to create bespoke outdoor dining and entertaining areas. It is not just about the cooking, but how the BBQ equipment is complemented by the rest of the space, be it with feature walls, tiles, patios, terraces, or soft planting to contrast with hard surfaces, as well as the importance of utilities, drainage, ease of cleaning and maintenance.
“We pride ourselves on our finishing touches, but also our project management and overall service from initial project design through to handover,” says Ben Walker.
One recent high-end project included a gas-powered fire pit built into a sunken seating area, a Grillo outdoor kitchen and dining table connected to mains gas, water and electric, a sunken hot tub and a recessed outdoor television.
“The client, used to travelling the world with work, suddenly found himself at home in need of an outdoor space suitable for entertaining friends and family,” says Grace Walker. “This, twinned with maximising the benefit of the existing large sliding doors to create a better flow between inside and out, became the core of the design.”
Extending the living space outside is something we’re seeing more of, regardless of budget, with outdoor living – across eating, entertaining, working and relaxing – increasingly popular across residential projects, large and small.
You imagine it was quite a party when the Walker garden was complete – fire, food and fraternal gratitude.
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