When it comes to garden buildings we’re really thinking outside the box this year, using garden rooms in our outdoor spaces to expand our homes and enhance our lives.
The garden room goes far beyond what we’d expect from a traditional summerhouse. Luxury in price and quality, a garden room offers high specification, multi-layer construction including insulation, durable glazing and electrics. With little maintenance, it’s perfect for all-year round, is designed to last for decades, and can increase the value of your home.
‘Many of our projects are the fulfilment of a vision,’ says Justin Williams, director at Nordic Garden Buildings, where prices start from £10,555 for a 2.1m x 3.3m Madison studio with sliding doors. ‘This might be, “to have my own bar, my own music studio or even my own health spa”.’
As well as providing extra space, investing in an outdoor room could be a wise move long-term. ‘Property inflation means seeking an additional room by moving house can involve a six-figure investment, whereas exceptional space can be added in your garden for less than half the amount,’ says Martin Lawson, director of Swift Garden Rooms. ‘Look for long warranties, planning consent and building regulation compliance whenever needed, and using materials with a long-life expectancy to make the investment solid.’
Garden room idea 1: Emotional escape room
Have you heard of an outdoor building being used as an emotional escape room? Karen Bell, creative director at bespoke garden room, orangery and conservatory company, David Salisbury, says a popular trend this year is designating space for self-care: ‘Think cosy furniture, plants, built-in bookcases, candles, oil diffusers. The tranquil setting and abundance of natural light offered by garden rooms mean they serve this purpose particularly well. You’re separated from the rest of the house to enjoy privacy and disconnect from day-to-day anxieties, and closer to the garden and nature.’
Echoing this trend, Martin Young, founder of Sitting Spiritually, says he recently worked with a client on creating a semi-outdoor room with a swinging day bed: ‘It’s an area flooded with natural light and the ability to open lovely bi-fold doors, creating that feeling of being outside but sheltering from the weather.’
Garden room idea 2: Home spa
We love the idea of using an outdoor room as a bespoke home spa. If you want a hot tub to use year-round, a sauna or steam room is ideal.
However, you can also create a pampering space suited to your needs. The gardening team at Homebase say that framing your outdoor spa with fragrant and relaxing planting can help you achieve blissful nirvana.
‘Keeping your garden colour scheme neutral is a simple way to create a calming atmosphere for your outdoor spa,’ says Stephen Pitcher, Homebase trading director of garden and seasonal. ‘Using soft, subtle dashes of colour, such as light yellows and blues, will keep the setting from feeling overpowered.
‘Or limit your plants to green and cream shades and opt for a simple layout – green is the ultimate colour for relaxation and is a great year-round colour.’
Garden room idea 3: Gym and fitness room
Many of us have never quite got around to returning to the gym since lockdown restrictions eased, preferring to exercise at home. Using a garden room as a gym or fitness room is the perfect solution. It saves money on fees and travel time, and provides the perfect setting for creating a personalised fitness regime.
Rob Clarke, a director at motive8, a national gym consultancy, says you should pay special attention to bringing in as much light as possible by making sure windows in a garden room gym are generous: ‘We also find that the use of mirrors is key to maximising light and creating a welcoming environment.’
Garden room idea 4: Home office
The pandemic brought us WFH (work from home) and helped to establish the trend for garden rooms to be used as offices, and manufacturers have responded quickly. Tormar, for example, has devised the streamlined timber Melton Pod, from £10,000 plus VAT for the 2m x 3m size (it’s also available in larger 3m x 4m), which can be fitted out with a custom-built desk and shelving. The full height apex window at one end floods the interior space with natural light.
‘The Melton pod, as with most good design, was born from necessity,’ says Tormar designer Alex Adgar. ‘Our homes, for many, have become our offices and with this our need for space has grown. Working from home is less unusual, business is adapting and becoming more flexible, leaving many yearning for a space of privacy, solitude and somewhere they can be less distracted.’
Garden room idea 5: Reading nook
If you don’t have space for a reading nook indoors – like foodie bookworms Sophie Dahl and Jamie Oliver, who’ve both added one at home – why not seek out a space outdoors? You’ll find more than enough space to carve out some quality reading time in a garden room, or you could even opt for a circular garden pod.
It’s quite simple to create a cosy retreat with a few well-chosen pieces of furniture, lighting and textiles, says interior designer Bex Massey, founder of lifestyle and Hygge store, Bramble and Fox. ‘I’d suggest a trunk or large basket containing a patchwork or woollen blanket, a pair of cosy socks, a warm, drink in a huggable mug, a floor-lamp or Anglepoise lamp, a little side table for resting your drink on, fairy lights, maybe a little dish for snacks and of course, something great to read.’
As a final touch, bringing in a large garden mirror is a great way to ‘borrow’ light and bounce it around in smaller spaces, and it will add an interesting sense of grandeur to your hideaway.
Garden room idea 6: Studio
Companies are developing modular buildings ideally suited to creating bespoke studios for art, photography or music, or a business run from home, such as counselling or dog grooming. Justin Williams also makes a high-end hygge-inspired air conditioned modular range called Garden Retreats, from £25,000 rising up to £85,000-plus for the roof terrace and full specification, which can be configured to suit these kinds of purposes, or even be used as an Airbnb, subject to insurance and planning permission if required. A reputable garden room company will always advise on the legal side of things.
‘You need an all-weather, insulated space with power and lighting to create a warm, welcoming environment that also ticks all the health and safety boxes,’ says Justin. You may also need to budget for sound-proofing, privacy blinds and additional security features such as a remote-controlled intruder alarm.
Garden room idea 7: Bar/pub
Things have moved on since sheds were being designated ‘man caves’ and crammed with neon signs, battered armchairs and a fridge full of beer. Online spirits retailer Clink says 2.7 million households have created their own home bars since March 2020, an increase of 51 per cent since before the pandemic.
If you fancy using your garden room as an outdoor bar or pub, there a few things to take into consideration.
Consider the position: do you want to be within easy distance of the kitchen, or tucked away in a quiet corner of the garden? Think about shade. If your garden is south-facing, bring in a canopy so you can sit outside in comfort on sunny afternoons. Choose flexible modular outdoor furniture which can be configured in different ways to suit your number of guests, and to maximise floor space, fit modular shelving; String Furniture does an outdoor range from £80 that can used outside and in.
Garden room idea 8: Multi-generational living
The flexibility of garden rooms allows several members of a family to live together and share care and support, whilst each being able to keep their independence. Martin from Swift Garden Rooms says he is receiving ‘significantly more requests’ from clients who want comfortable, insulated semi-independent living space in a high-quality detached outdoor building.
‘This is usually for elderly relatives, but certainly not the heavily-dependent granny,’ he explains. ‘We are often seeing younger parents living in the same place and providing childcare for grandchildren, as well as more demand for a place for grown-up children to live, a reflection on the challenge of first-time home ownership.’
When garden rooms are intended for permanent residence, planning permission rules may apply, so always speak to the supplier for guidance.
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