Villa Landscape Design In Dubai – The Ultimate Guide

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Today, landscape design is a much sought after service. It involves much more thought than just throwing together a few plants in the space left over after locating the house.

Recently, clients have become more involved in shaping their surrounds. This is mainly because we are beginning to realize the value of nature in our environment.

If you think about it, growing diverse plants in a region with high summer temperatures, very little rainfall and high salt content in groundwater, is quite a challenge.

Even so, Dubai-specific landscape design has evolved to overcome these challenges. Thus, there are some beautiful gardens in this dynamic city.

beautiful landscape design

SOURCE: Recent Milestone Project

So what is landscape design in Dubai all about? In this blog post, we break it down to take you through the basics of landscape design in our unique climate.

We also look at sustainable gardens, which you can enjoy for many years to come.

How Will Your Landscape Design Serve You?

As with any process, landscape design begins with a design brief. This is a summary of what the client wants to see in their landscape.

Purpose And Lifestyle

These go hand in hand.

The landscape brief answers the all-important question – ‘Why are they doing what they are doing?’ In other words, we want to know the main purpose of the garden.

A clear design brief will give us distinct knowledge of a client’s needs and wants, their lifestyle and their budget.

We can then design a landscape that is customized for the client. For example, a landscape for a family with children will have very different requirements than that for a couple with pets.
Families with children who are away at university or live separately will have a different focus for their gardens. They might entertain more and want to invite friends and business acquaintances to enjoy their garden.

So, it is very important to know the purpose of the garden and create from the design brief, before we begin to make any suggestions.

What Is Your Budget For Your Landscape Design?

Once you set the client brief, we then work to establish a budget.

How comfortable is the client with this budget? Is there room for flexibility?

Often, clients have no idea of what their landscape design will cost. It is our job to give them a clear picture of the costs involved to avoid any problems further on.

In general, for simple landscape design, you are looking at a cost of AED 600 per square meter of the development area. This is for gardens that do not have too many features.

The budget can be as high as AED 1400 per square meter for gardens that are feature-rich. Pools, outdoor structures, feature walls and water features can all increase the budget for landscape design.

landscape design

SOURCE: Recent Milestone Project

Space Planning And Schematic Layout

These come from the design brief.

Space planning is a very important part of landscape design.

It deals with the flow of movement through the garden. It also considers various scenarios based on the client’s lifestyle.

How many people can you cater to in your garden? How will people move through the garden if you are having a party?

Is there enough seating in your garden for at least 15-20 people? What if you have bigger parties with more people?

When you look at these criteria while planning your garden, you can create a flexible design that caters to larger groups of people.

You might want to include flexible seating options such as built-in benches. By doing this, you won’t need to rent furniture every time you have more people.

You could even include informal perch spots such as a wide ledge around your water feature that can double up as a seat wall.

Drawing a layout allows you to locate zones for various activities such as lounging spaces, dinner areas and seating nooks. Use these for family fun or accessorize them to serve as entertainment spots for parties.

entertainment space

SOURCE: Recent Milestone Project

At Milestone, we excel at space planning because we realize its importance in creating fabulous gardens. We are experienced at weaving the client’s needs into a workable plan that fits the budget.

Planning Regulations

When looking at the layout, we also need to consider government regulations. Your community might have its own set of regulations that will need to be factored into the design.

For example, pools must be located at least 1.5 meters away from boundary and villa walls. Pergolas also need to be at least 1 -1.5 meters away from a boundary wall – this varies in different communities.

The Dubai Municipality has banned some trees because of its aggressive root structures. The Conocarpus (Damas) tree, as well as the Ficus Microcarpa tree, are banned from many housing communities.

Certain bamboo species are also not allowed because they are aggressive spreaders.

Similarly, you can plant certain large-root trees only if you place them at least 3 meters away from any structures.

Space planning also takes care of ergonomics such as having enough width to be able to walk comfortably along a pathway. A pathway should be 1.2 – 2 meters wide to be able to walk comfortably.

Therefore, it is important to be familiar with government and community rules. If your landscape design does not account for these rules, you will not get approval.

This will cost time and money and will delay your project.

Presenting Landscape Design Concepts To Clients

Many of our clients are not visual people. Therefore, it is hard for them to picture what their gardens will look like.

Design presentations are a way of communicating this vision to the client, so they are very important.

Moodboards, 3D renderings and sketches are all effective ways of presenting ideas. We agree, with the client, on the method of presentation when we begin working on a landscape design.

Since Milestone is a design-build company, we do all our presentations in-house. We present the overall schematic layout as the concept.

landscape design presentation

SOURCE: Recent Milestone Project

Sometimes we will use 3D designs and elevations, mood boards and sample boards for materials. This gives the client a clear idea of what they are getting.

It is also very effective in visualizing the underlying style of outdoor space. This helps to ensure that your garden and home design work well to complement each other.

outdoor garden space

SOURCE: Recent Milestone Project

Landscape Design

SOURCE: Recent Milestone Project

We also believe in being transparent with our pricing. At Milestone, we prepare detailed BOQs (Bill of Quantities).

Such itemized BOQs break the pricing down into items of construction. This makes it easy for you to see what you are paying for each service or product.

You can then decide what you absolutely must have and what you would like to have. You can also decide to postpone or phase out things that are not essential at that time.

Detailed BOQs give you a clear picture of the budget. You can also add items at a later time without there being any confusion.

What Are The Key Features of a Villa Landscape Design?

The features you want to include in your landscape design depend on your lifestyle.

Most people like to have zones for different activities. Let’s take a look at what’s trending in landscape design.

Pools In Your Landscape

A pool is a personal preference. It is an important part of landscape design.

You could go for a skimmer, infinity or overflow pool. It may also have added water features, fire features, a baja step or bar stools.

amazing Pool design

SOURCE: Recent Milestone Project

There are many different features of pool design that can bring a garden to life.

Since pools are often the central feature of a garden, they need to look glamorous when they aren’t being used. So, they act as large water features.

landscape pool design

SOURCE: Recent Milestone Project

Locate your pool carefully. If you want them to become an attractive focal point, place them where they can be seen from key areas within the house.

You want to make sure that the pool also serves as an entertainment area when you’re hosting parties. It should not be an obstacle that guests have to pass to get to the entertainment area.

Consequently, you will need to leave enough space around the pool for you to entertain.

Outdoor Dining Areas

In Dubai, people love dining outdoors as soon as the temperatures start to cool around October. You can enjoy Al Fresco dining, under the stars, for about 6 months of the year.

An outdoor dining area is a perfect way to add sparkle to your garden. Often, outdoor dining areas are an extension of the kitchen, so take inspiration from your interiors when accessorizing outside.

Most people prefer a more relaxing atmosphere when dining outdoors. So, outdoor dining spaces provide an opportunity to experiment with different colours, patterns and textures to get the desired effect.

Outdoor dining areas may be covered or uncovered. Adding a pergola over the dining table allows you to add fans, lighting and other decorative elements.

Consequently, this can extend the use of your outdoor dining area into the warmer months.

outdoor dining space

SOURCE: Recent Milestone Project

If you like the flexibility of dining under the stars when it’s pleasant outside but want protection from the heat, you could also opt for a retractable awning.

Remove it during the cooler months and extend it when the sun is beating down.

beautiful Dubai landscape

SOURCE: Recent Milestone Project

Outdoor Kitchens And Bars

Outdoor kitchens are becoming more popular in Dubai, especially if you love to barbeque and cook outdoors.

They can be designed according to the size of your property. They can be as small as a compact barbeque area or can be as elaborate as full-fledged outdoor kitchens.

beautiful outdoor kitchen and bar

SOURCE: Recent Milestone Project

They can also include a bar area if you enjoy relaxing with a couple of drinks. An outdoor kitchen could have a dual height bar counter, refrigerator, outdoor wine cooler, power sockets and an ice bucket for ice.

You could also include a sink, which might be a common sink shared with the barbecue or a separate entity.

If an outdoor kitchen is out of your budget, but you still like entertaining outdoors, you could opt for a buffet counter. This would assist with parties when you hire a catering service to serve your guests.

Feature Walls

Feature walls become secondary focal points within the garden. These versatile design elements can have many uses in the garden.

Feature Walls As Focal Points

They can be used to draw attention to a particular element, such as a water feature.

In the image below, the feature wall is designed to enhance the visual appeal of the entrance to the house. It also serves as a backdrop to the elegant water feature.

feature walls - landscape design

SOURCE: Recent Milestone Project

They can also be used as a standalone attraction in the garden. Feature walls are not just about using a bold colour.

You can certainly experiment with materials, textures and lighting to jazz up an ordinary corner of the garden.

beautiful feature walls

SOURCE: Recent Milestone Project

Using Feature Walls To Enhance Views

Feature walls are also often used to enhance views. If your home is designed to have a thorough view from the entrance to the back garden, a feature wall could be the first thing guests see when they enter the house.

Similarly, use feature walls in the side yards. These are often hard to design as people don’t want to waste a lot of money on a space that serves more as circulation.

You could use feature walls in your side yard if you have a large living or dining room windows opening out onto this space.

feature walls to enhance views

SOURCE: Recent Milestone Project

It is important to consider such views as they can be enjoyed all year round, irrespective of the season. The view should make you want to draw your curtains and enjoy the expanse outside the villa, irrespective of the season.

Creating Outdoor Rooms

Creating outdoor ‘rooms’ in the garden is a great way to break up a large garden into natural zones. Feature walls can help with this.

In the image below, a decorative feature wall made from wood and metal creates a semi-private dining alcove. Its open design creates a separation without making space feel enclosed.

Candles and plants are also incorporated into the feature wall, making space feel cosy and inviting.

creating outdoor rooms

SOURCE: Recent Milestone Project

You could also opt for a green wall that blends in with the landscape. They add style to the landscape so that you are not looking at just the plants.

Pathways

Pathways guide you to wherever you need to go in the garden. They may not be the most important element in your landscape design but are certainly necessary.

Pathways can be used to balance your garden palette, acting as a foil to lush planting. Keep pathways at least 1.2-2 meters wide for comfortable movement.

They are necessary to ensure smooth circulation through the garden. Interesting pathway designs also invite you to discover and explore your garden.

beautiful garden pathways

SOURCE: Recent Milestone Project

Enhancing Your Pathways

Entrance pathways are an important visual element of front yard design because they direct you to the front entrance. Well designed entrance walkways can make a strong visual impact.

In the image below, a paved pathway, leading to the main entrance, is flanked by a linear modern water feature.

The materials used are complementary to the house design. The overall design highlights the entrance to the villa.

well designed entrance walkways

SOURCE: Recent Milestone Project

With the proper materials and lighting, pathways can enhance the overall look of your garden in a subtle way.

You can add additional features along a pathway to add interest. These may include sculptural planting, garden figurines, garden accessories, water features or seating elements.

beautiful garden pathway elements

SOURCE: Recent Milestone Project

Materials For Your Pathway

Consider the purpose of your pathways carefully before choosing materials.

The materials you choose also depend on the vibe and style of your landscape. You could opt for solid, partly permeable or completely permeable pathways.

If you entertain often, a continuous pathway is your best bet. Paving slabs with gravel or planted joints are not easy to navigate when you’re wearing heeled shoes.

Broken paving is also not ideal if you are looking for flexibility with adding furniture. Additionally, they can be a safety issue, particularly at night.

On the other hand, a pathway broken up with joints can provide relief from large expanses of hardscape. They are also better for natural drainage and don’t crack as easily as a large paved expanse.

pathway materials

SOURCE: Recent Milestone Project

Water Features

Water is one of the most desired elements in the landscape. It is soothing because it offers an instant connection to nature.

If a swimming pool is not in your budget, or you don’t have room for it, opt for water features. These are more economical and can be designed to suit your style.

Water features can be organic, natural-looking, modern or streamlined in their design. It all depends on the vibe and look you are going for.

It is important to assess the client’s needs, the layout of the garden and the operational requirements of the water feature. This ensures that the installation is workable and beautiful to look at.

Water features can be cleverly placed to provide a focal point, enhance a simple pathway design or divide a space.

At Milestone, we have designed a variety of bubblers, cascading water features and water walls, to add flair to gardens.

water features

SOURCE: Recent Milestone Project

Gentle bubbling fountains are great for soothing nooks or hidden corners in the garden. They provide much needed relief on hot days by filling the air with moisture.

In the image below, a simple cascading water urn is paired with modern sculpture. Nestled in low planting, it vitalizes this part of the garden by introducing an element of drama.

gentle bubbling fountains

SOURCE: Recent Milestone Project

Water walls can bring a sparkle to your garden by adding an element of mystery. They mimic the feel of a trickling waterfall on a vertical surface.

They can cascade into a water basin or a minimal water channel. Water walls are a great way of adding privacy by diving one space from another in your garden.

landscape design from a recent Milestone project

SOURCE: Recent Milestone Project

Landscape Lighting

Lighting is a key feature of landscape design. It enhances views at night and is also an important safety feature.

Lighting can be used everywhere in the landscape to highlight pathways, water features, plants and water walls. Creative lighting can bring a simple garden element to life.

There are many different ways to light your garden. Ground lights in pathways, step lights and directional lights for plants and trees are a few ways to enhance the lighting in your garden.

Lighting can draw the eye to a particular focal point in the garden. This might be a figurine, water feature or a feature wall.

In the image below, a series of simple stone-clad planter boxes and platforms are lit with directional uplights and concealed LED strip lights.

The lighting really makes the adjacent pathway spring to life. It makes you want to walk along the pathway and explore the garden further.

landscape lighting

SOURCE: Recent Milestone Project

Spotlights and fixtures can be mounted on the posts of pergolas to adorn seating areas, dining spaces or barbeques.

A well-lit space will be visible from the house at night. This allows you to enjoy your garden views during the night as well.

adorn seating areas

SOURCE: Recent Milestone Project

When designing your lighting layout, remember that the house will also be lit. Some of this light will spill over into the landscape.

Keep the lighting simple. Think about safety and highlighting what you want to see.

Overlighting your garden can alter the mood dramatically. An overlit garden feels uncomfortable and can be visually overwhelming.

It can also cast light into the house and be disruptive to neighbours.

Position your lighting fixtures carefully. Angle them away from the house and use fixtures with glare shields to minimize glare.

Materials In The Landscape

The visual components of a well-balanced garden strike a balance between hard and soft areas.

Hardscape materials are very important for the overall look of your garden. You can combine materials depending on the look and style you are aiming for.

Traditionally, stone has been a popular choice for hardscaped surfaces. Limestone, sandstone or travertine with flamed granite borders were popular outdoor materials.

But, modern gardens experiment with newer materials. Porcelain tiles are very popular in contemporary gardens.

They are low in maintenance. They are usually 2cms thick and come in a variety of designs and colours.

Porcelain tile designs are so versatile that they can look like concrete, wood or stone, but at a fraction of the cost.

materials for landscape design

SOURCE: Recent Milestone Project

Another material that is more widely used today is corten steel. It has a rich, raw look that is complemented by surrounding green planting.

In the image below, an etched corten steel feature wall becomes a focal point in the garden. Backlit at night, it adds interest to what would otherwise be a simple plastered boundary wall.

corten steel - a plastered boundary wall

SOURCE: Recent Milestone Project

Sustainable Landscape Design

What makes a good landscape design?

Good landscape designs must address the central issue of sustainability.

Although this word is often used in construction today, it is not always clear what it means.

To me, sustainable gardens provide pleasure for our clients because they are easy to maintain, long-lasting and don’t need an overhaul every few years.

This means they are also easy on the pocket. You can still change the look of your garden by replacing some of the plants, but the foundation of the garden remains intact.

Let’s take a look at how you can make your garden sustainable by looking at each element.

Planting

How sustainable are the plants in your garden?

Going green doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to stick to xeriscaping.

You can still have a lush, tropical look and be sustainable. Place plants with similar light and water needs together.

This helps to streamline the irrigation and reduce unnecessary water usage.

Opt for perennials for your gardens. These are long-lasting plants and are not dependant on the weather like seasonals are.

You can have a few choice seasonals in your garden where you want bright splashes of colour. But the bones of the planting should be perennial plants and shrubs.

planting for beautiful landscape design

SOURCE: Recent Milestone Project

You could also opt for artificial grass and use real grass only in select areas. Artificial grass is toxin-free, UV resistant and well suited to families with pets.

It also saves on big water bills that are normal when irrigating real grass.

For easy to maintain gardens, have a clear separation between planted areas and grass areas. This reduces the need to keep mowing or weeding roots that have grown into undefined grass areas.

grass areas

SOURCE: Recent Milestone Project

To reduce the loss of water from the soil surface, you can dress your planters with gravel or mulch for a finished look.

Using Sustainable Materials

Since hardscape is usually a large part of most landscapes, choosing materials that are suited to the local weather in Dubai can make a big impact on sustainable gardens.

Current trends in landscaping in Dubai see many clients opting for composite woods.

WPC or therawood is great for decks in Dubai as they come with a 10-year warranty and are resistant to fading.

They don’t need to be stained every year and also absorb less heat. This means you can walk barefoot on these decks.

Pergolas can also be made of composite wood.

sustainable materials for landscape design

SOURCE: Recent Milestone Project

If you really like the idea of using solid wood, clad I-beams with real wood. This reduces bending of larger wood panels and gives you a long-lasting pergola structure.

Use wood that is sourced from sustainable forests. Wood is the only sustainable construction material and its carbon footprint is lower than that of concrete or steel.

As we briefly mentioned earlier, permeable pathways are also an option for sustainable gardens. They reduce water run-off and allow water to seep back into the ground.

This replenishes the groundwater table and reduces the amount of evaporation from your garden.

Landscape Lighting

All landscapes need lighting for them to be functional after daylight hours.

Hence, the type of lighting you choose can have a big impact on the sustainability of your garden.

The lighting in your landscape needs to satisfy two basic functions: the fixture should be designed to keep water away from the lamp and the amount of heat generated should be minimal.

If these conditions are not satisfied you will find that your fixtures short quickly and you will need to replace them often.

For this reason, plastic fixtures, although cheaper, are not ideal. Most outdoor fixtures, today, are made of metal; the body of the fixture usually contains brass or aluminium.

Both these metals are renewable and recyclable. Aluminium fixtures will need to be coated to prevent them from corroding.

When it comes to the type of lamp, LED lights trump most others. They are great for outdoor lighting as they are more energy-efficient and use less power.

Halogen lights are quickly becoming obsolete because they generate a lot of heat and need to be replaced frequently.

Milestone – The Premier Garden Design Company in Dubai

At Milestone, all our outdoor landscapes take into account these various elements of long-lasting design.

We take great care in carefully designing how people move through and experience your garden. Our garden designs are always versatile – you can use your gardens to entertain or to enjoy with the family.

We look at how you intend to use the space and ensure that there is ample place to sit. So, you can make full use of your garden to make entertaining enjoyable.

Most importantly, we look at your lifestyle, needs and budget to include facilities that will help to create a long-lasting, livable outdoor space that is as appealing as your indoor space.

Please contact a member of our landscape design team to schedule an initial consultation. Your ideal garden is just a phone call away!
Sejal Nagjee

Sejal Nagjee

Sejal Nagjee, Milestone’s CEO and Creative Director is a gifted designer. Regardless of the project scale or scope, from homes and offices, hotels and restaurant, to gardens and exterior living spaces, her distinctive style injects a fresh and vibrant perspective to every living space. With over 30,000 hours of hands-on experience, across a wide breadth of interior and exterior design and build projects, Sejal has the skills, passion, resources and industry connections to get the job done on time!

Sejal Nagjee

Sejal Nagjee

Sejal Nagjee, Milestone’s CEO and Creative Director is a gifted designer. Regardless of the project scale or scope, from homes and offices, hotels and restaurant, to gardens and exterior living spaces, her distinctive style injects a fresh and vibrant perspective to every living space. With over 30,000 hours of hands-on experience, across a wide breadth of interior and exterior design and build projects, Sejal has the skills, passion, resources and industry connections to get the job done on time!