Bespoke seating transformed this concrete yard into a Malibu-inspired haven

Smart planting and a bespoke built-in bench have helped bring a dash of Malibu to a south London garden in this garden makeover

patio with wooden built in seating
(Image credit: Isobel Thomson Cook / @228locationhouse)

The best garden design is one that makes you feel relaxed and happy, and this Malibu inspired garden makeover epitomizes this sentiment. It summons up memories of a holiday in the sun for these lucky homeowners.

'We stayed at the Surfrider Hotel in Malibu a few years ago, and knew we wanted to recreate a bit of that feel in our London garden,' explains Isobel Thomson Cook. The Instagrammer, inspired by the garden design ideas of her holiday getaway, transformed her dull concrete garden into a luxury retreat with a stylish bespoke built-in seating area.

Isobel turned her attention to her garden renovation over the last couple of years, documenting the transformation on her Instagram account @228locationhouse. When Isobel and her partner moved into their home, the garden was covered in patio tiles with brick wall borders.

garden before makeover

Before the garden renovation

(Image credit: Isobel Thomson Cook / @228locationhouse)

'We always wanted the garden to be soft, slightly wild, full of flowers and interest. Having lived with it for a while we also knew where the sun went, so wanted to have seating/entertaining spaces that we could enjoy throughout the day,' says Isobel.

Luckily, despite the old patio slabs, the garden also came with some beautiful established trees which formed a great base for the new design. The couple started by lifting up all the patio tiles and stripping the garden back to dust and sand. They worked with garden designer Emily Hillier to plan and create their dream patio area and garden using raised minimalist patio ideas, raised planters and clever built-in seating.

'Given budget constraints, we took on as much of the manual work ourselves as we could (with amazing family and friend support!). This enabled us to cut back the very overgrown garden and dig out the area that would become the main patio and raised planters.'

built in garden seating on patio

(Image credit: Isobel Thomson Cook / @228locationhouse)

'We had amazing landscapers to finish the prep work, and do the hard landscaping for the garden such as the raised planters, the patio, steps, and later on, laying the grass.'

'This year we added the seating area at the back of the garden, levelling the space ourselves, to create a sunny spot to enjoy throughout the day.'

The patio's bespoke bench seating that was introduced this year is the star of the show. While DIY-ing can help keep costs down, to create that luxury finish the couple decided to invest in a custom piece designed and created by carpenter Ross Reed. This gorgeous outdoor seating idea is the perfect way to squeeze in extra seating without cluttering the patio.

built in wooden seating

(Image credit: Isobel Thomson Cook / @228locationhouse)

Overall the project cost around £20,000 to complete. The last two years have been a real crash course in garden renovations for Isobel. If you're currently in the process of renovating a property, Isobel advises against leaving your garden landscaping ideas until last.

'Try to include the garden in your main renovation project - especially if like us, you live in a terraced house,' she says. 'We have taken so many wheelbarrows, garden waste bags, plants, tree branches, soil and more through our house - I really wouldn't advise it!'

'We were able to get alternate access to bring in all the materials for the hard landscaping, otherwise, we would have been in a really sticky situation!'

The final garden result is a sleek and minimalist space, oozing Malibu cool. 

Rebecca Knight

Rebecca has worked as a homes and interiors journalist for over four years, and is currently the Deputy Editor on Ideal Home online. Previously, she was the News Editor across the Future homes and gardens brands, including She lives in a rented flat in South London where she makes the most of window boxes to create small container gardens. Inside she has a jungle of houseplants in nearly every room which she does her best to keep up with regular watering and repotting.