Homeowner Richard Markey says his favourite spot to relax is in the Jacuzzi or on one of the daybeds next to the pool. Image Credit: Stefan Lindeque/ANM

From the outdoor television and entertainment system in the sunken seating area, to the laid-back yet luxe furniture dotted beneath cleverly positioned gazebos, this 500-square-metre Arabian Ranches garden was built with all-year-round family entertaining in mind.

“We use the garden most days of the year, if only for the kids to jump in the pool to cool down after school or for me to wake up after a long night flight,” 
says homeowner and pilot Richard Markey, who lives here with his wife Christine and their two young sons, Tom and Billy.

Built by Desert Landscape, the idea behind the design was “that it be a functional extension of the home’s interior,” says Dewald Engelbrecht, project manager at Desert Landscape.

“It was previously a rental, so the garden was just a bit of lawn and paving. We worked closely with Richard and Christine on the design and they made it clear from the start that they wanted a space that felt like an extension of their home,” Engelbrecht says.

Having lived outside of their home countries of Ireland and Sweden for many years, Richard and Christine’s garden reflects the influence their travels have had on them, exuding a distinctly Mediterranean feel with a touch of African influence.

“Christine chose most of the outdoor furniture although Desert Landscape did the sunken seating areas,” Richard says. “While we’re fortunate enough to travel regularly, most of the pieces are from Dubai-based stores like Ambar and Exotic Grove Furniture.

With all the sand in Dubai it was important for us to inject a little colour into the space. It’s a really cheery place to relax, no matter the time of year.” 

There are three different seating areas in the garden, which took three months to build from start to finish, and each has a specific purpose.

“The more formal dining area sits beneath the main thatched canopy alongside the outdoor kitchen, while the sunken seating area next to this is a more relaxing space with a beautiful view of the overflow pool,” Dewald says.

“There’s an outdoor television here – it’s great for watching big sports matches in the cooler months. The third seating area is on the opposite side of the pool in the form of a smaller gazebo with a timber deck that’s slightly raised where Richard and his family can all hang out by the pool. There’s also a separate spa area but that’s not strictly a part of the landscaping,” he says. 

The landscape’s plants include Ixora chinensis, Jasminum grandiflorum, Adenium obesum (desert rose), Ficus Hawaii, Washingtonia robusta and more.

“Desert Landscaping left the planting decisions up to my wife and I,” Richard explains. “We wanted to keep the plants really simple and restricted them to ones that would last all year round so we stuck to mostly desert varieties. We love the shape of the Washingtonia Palms, the scent of the frangipani blooms and the colour of the desert rose.” 

As for the garden’s core visual element, Dewald says he thinks there’s more than just one. “The sunken seating area, a classic Desert Landscape design that was inspired by the one that we did at Bab Al Shams Desert Resort and Spa, is one of them,” he says.

“Not only is it cosy, it’s also practical in that – due to regulations that prohibit most UAE developments from having their floor levels raised – sinking floors creates stylish, demarcated areas. 

“The second element is the overflow swimming pool. Because the property is very narrow, it was difficult for us to fit the pool – finished with Turkish tiles – in the space.

By experimenting with its shape in the design phase, we were able to make it fit and still save a little space around it, although we did have to get permission to construct the small gazebo closer to the boundary walls.

"The third element is the landscape’s lighting. In my opinion there’s nothing worse than an under- or over-lit garden and I believe that by lighting focal trees and plants you can create great illuminative balance.

"All the lighting is zoned so that Richard and Christine have the option of turning on only areas in use. Also, every section is on a dimmer switch, which is great for creating specific moods for big parties or more intimate dinners.”