This article written by Andrew Jordan appeared in Cotswold Preview, May 2014.
What could be better than a secluded little spot somewhere sheltered yet away from the house, your own little sanctuary to escape the stresses of modern life. It could even form your actual day to day working space.
Garden rooms come in many guises, from an office or studio to a shed or children’s den. Whatever the climate these places provide spaces to relax in, work-out, have fun or simply hide away.
A garden room is a fantastic investment that can be used in so many different ways. If you are considering having an extra room in your garden, here are some useful tips to help you along the way.
The first question to ask yourself is ‘how do you want to use the space?” Start a list of all the functions you definitely want your garden room to serve. Is it for work, entertaining, child’s play or pure indulgence (spa, home cinema or gym)?
There are garden rooms available to suit all budgets.
Under £2000 – DIY stores offer designs from very basic models to luxury cabins. They generally come in kit form and are therefore readily available. You may need to consider spending extra for insulation and connecting a power supply.
Over £5000 – A wider selection of summerhouses and offices are available from manufacturers. You could also consider bespoke models from specialists, or the most expensive option of having an architect-designed office which will offer you the maximum choice of design, size and materials.
One important question to ask yourself is “Do you have space for a garden room?” If your garden is small, it will feel even smaller with the arrival of an outdoor room. You could consider a pergola over a patio or even converting an existing shed (see below).
Larger buildings may require planning permission. If the garden room is single storey with a maximum height of 2.5m and is within 2m of a boundary then planning permission is not required. There are other rules relating to the position of your garden room so best to check on planning regulations before proceeding.
When is a shed more than a shed
If you have an existing shed but limited space you could consider making better use of the shed. Put some wood flooring down, get some furniture, and implement some electric so you have power. This could then become an office, kids play room, summer house or even a gym.
Alternatively you could buy a new and bigger shed and convert.
Make sure the garden room is appropriate to the space surrounding the garden. Consider views into and out of the room, orientation of the space and how much sunlight penetrates the space. If you intend to use your building as an office you may want to minimise glare on a computer screen, so north facing may be the best position.
If you want a summerhouse to add to the enjoyment of your garden then it is more likely that you want it to be a focal point and ideally it would also be south or west facing to get the best daylight.
In long narrow gardens the only real option is at the bottom, while with square gardens you can either break the formality of your garden by positioning the structure to one side or create symmetry by putting it right in the middle of the bottom boundary of the garden.
Remember ugly garden rooms could put off future buyers, so the look and style is very important.
Try and keep the decor quite pale and neutral inside, on the outside you may want it to stand out as a feature in itself, in which case you could paint the exterior a blue colour. Any furniture should be as light as possible in both colour and construction, and if you can’t guarantee that conditions will be kind to your furniture all-year round you need to invest in weather-proof designs.
To add appeal and, most importantly, value to your property, your outdoor room must be dry, warm and have power. Internet access may also be required. Check that accessing all of these services is viable, and within your budget. Some suppliers will connect these facilities for you as part of the service.
To protect against the cold and damp you will definitely need some form of heating. Underfloor heating is the most cost-efficient option if you’re going to spend a lot of time in your outdoor room, but if you are going to be in and out in short bursts, or if it’s a relatively small space, heaters will probably suffice.
You may also need to consider soundproofing the space to keep the noisy distractions from the outside world at bay.
Grounding your garden room
To integrate your garden room with the rest of the garden use a natural colour scheme and carefully planned planting. In an informal or cottage garden you may wish to soften the impact of an office or studio by planting hard against it. Plants such as trailing hydrangea or wisteria will add atmosphere and character to your building and soften the appearance.
Alternatively use stunning lighting and elegant design to make it a statement piece in your garden.
You could also include some complementary landscaping such as a path or a small paved seating area; this will help to make it look like it has not just been plonked there.
Include an arbour or trellis planted with clematis or climbing roses as an entrance to your garden room space.
Add small lights either side of the path leading to the garden room. This will not only guide your guests to the space at night time but will also create a tasteful atmosphere. Stagger the lights to avoid lighting that looks too orchestrated or organised.
Having a water feature close to your garden room will provide a calming sound to help create a relaxing atmosphere.
Examples of garden rooms
Looking for inspiration? Here are some suggestions for garden rooms.
Studio/ Home Office – natural light, remoteness and space provides a private creative environment.
Living Room – A paved area away from the house, with space for table, chairs or even sofas creates an entertaining area within the garden. Include a pergola with vines and other climbers around the posts to provide shelter and a sense of enclosure.
Gym – A home gym at the bottom of the garden, filled with all the equipment you want, will encourage you to get fit, simply because there is no excuse not to go!
Home cinema – Having a designated place to relax with your family and a few films on a lazy Sunday in a space filled with luxurious couches and plenty of comfy cushions.
Outdoor Kitchen – Creating a second kitchen won’t just save you from constantly making trips back and forth between the grill and the indoor stove or refrigerator; it’ll also create a great space for entertaining. As well a grill you could have a refrigerator, sink, food prep area or even a wood-fired pizza oven.