Sheds and Garden Rooms for Our Homes
Despite invariably mundane contents (paint cans, kids’ bikes, tools), the conventional timber shed, out-building or summerhouse has always had universal appeal. Often tucked at the bottom of the garden, its physical separation from the house promises a hint of privacy, while its scaled-down proportions appeal to the child in us all. Gardeners may see it as a sensible store for seedlings and implements, but anyone in search of peace – from writers and artists to children or those working at home – regards it as the ultimate retreat from the domestic scene.
It’s small wonder, then, that more of us are choosing to add a garden structure to our homes, all the better to provide an extra spot to escape room to. For those who work regularly from home, a garden home office not only provides physical separation from a busy household, cutting down on noise and constant interruption, but the (albeit short) commute from home to shed marks an important emotional division between work and evening down-time. Family members with antisocial or messy hobbies – from photography (with a need for a darkroom) to home DJ-ing or portrait-painting – will also appreciate a zone that needn’t be tidied up and in which creating noise isn’t a problem. Then there are those who simply want a quiet spot for contemplation, taking in garden views and fresh air.
If a garden structure appeals, work out your available budget and do your research. The market is huge – offering every conceivable style, combination of materials and interior fittings – and quality and prices vary enormously. There will be decisions on whether to choose a modular unit, a bespoke design or the humble DIY option, though even high-street stores are offering increasingly sophisticated options. It’s worth remembering that a garden office, fully wired and heated, will still cost substantially less than the price of adding a structural extension to the house. Also ask yourself who will use the new room. Try not to be too activity-specific once the garden room is in place, you might decide to keep your quiet study in the body of the house while the kids move their ‘den’ outdoors.
Where the garden escape will go, how much floor space it will occupy and whether its presence is permitted by local planning regulations are key questions that you will need to answer. Regulations include not having the structure too close to the house or a highway, or being in a conservation area, so always check with your local authority before proceeding with your plans. If a specialist company is supplying the structure, they will advise on the regulations. It is generally accepted that a garden building should occupy no more than 50 per cent of the exterior space, but small is good: you don’t want a barn-like room, just a cosy retreat. Think about how the structure will look when glanced through the window. Decide whether to match the style to your own house or to go for a fantasy structure that will be just glimpsed between the trees.
The least sophisticated, but often most charming, form of garden retreat is the humble timber shed. Even the simplest will have a waterproof roof, a door and a couple of windows (budget styles won’t have glass). Finished in plain planking, inside and out, it will blend with garden foliage if timber is treated and stained a natural shade.