According to Zahra Rahgozar – owner of landscaping and interior design company Matinio – this laid-back Arabian Ranches garden wasn’t always so pleasing to the eye but, she says, its transformation was appropriately organic. “The space was part of the previously leased-out villa and was in a state when I first saw it,” Zahra says. “The new owners, who are really down-to-earth-people, met with me to discuss their potential new landscape but we ran out of inspiration and decided to take a walk through the neighbourhood for fresh ideas. When we got back we sat down on camper chairs around a picnic table – construction workers drilling the villa around us – and mapped out a new garden on the back of a scrap of paper. It may sound corny, but the design came to us so naturally that it’s almost as if it was meant to be.”
Describing the landscape as an “abstract space crafted from natural forms with a Moroccan twist,” Zahra and her open-minded clients wanted it to be a combination of casual sophistication and modern practicality, and suitable for a busy family. “My clients were very hands-on with this project,” she says. “They had lived with and cared for many gardens in the past and with this being their own villa that they had purchased, they wanted to make sure everything was perfect. Because the space was basically dead when we first started working on it, it took about six months to complete from start to finish. We worked with Elton Cummins and Ahmed Sadek from Better Gardens who did a fantastic job of constructing it.”
Zahra explains that the generous outdoor area consists of two parts: “The first is a section that I would describe as an informal recreational area. It features a large lawn for my clients’ kids to play on, a small putting green, a hammock, large rectangular pool with sun deck and a cosy, kidney-shaped Cape Reed dining and shisha area. My clients love to entertain, so I also designed a small pergola with a gas barbecue, sink for the preparation of shisha and storage cabinets. We brought a Moroccan look to the space with lanterns, lamps and plant pots in the courtyard.”
The second part of the garden is made up of several smaller, more enclosed sections along the side of the villa. “I designed a desert-style gravel garden here, selecting naturally drought-tolerant plants that are not only practical but suit the architectural style of the villa’s exterior,” Zahra says. “Rough concrete paving blocks create a beautiful path to the pool. This section of the outdoor space is very low maintenance and works well with the UAE weather.”
Keeping the climate in mind, Zahra also added water features to the garden. “One of them – which stands at the front door – was an old planter box converted to a fountain-like water feature by adding three nozzles, the second was crafted from three old pot plants clad in stone and blue mosaic and is situated outside the study and the third is a curtain-wall water feature made from two existing arches in the courtyard area” she says. “These water features complement the garden’s rich, warm tones and create a cooling and calming effect.”
When it came to the actual construction of the space, Zahra and Better Gardens opted for hardy yet natural materials throughout. Beige sandstone was used for paving, while teak limestone was utilised for cladding, copping and borders, glass mosaic and black granite for the pool and kwila and red meranti wood for the pergola and decking. “For foliage, we selected a wide range of plants, shrubs and trees including royal palms, foxtail palms, carpinteria palms, areca palms, fruit trees including citrus, papaya, mango and banana, traveller’s palm, cycus, bird of paradise flowers, olive trees, frangipani, bougainvillea, jasmine, a selection of ground covers and date palms, which we placed around the straight edge of the pool to complement its linear look,” Zahra explains.
“My clients are very happy with the space. Pairing natural shapes, like curves and arcs, with straight, contemporary lines and then warming it all up with Moroccan flair, the design caters to everyone’s tastes – as any family garden should,” she concludes.