Whether you’re after extra room to accommodate guests, an inspiring studio space, practical home office, playroom for youngsters, or simply somewhere to relax and recuperate, a garden room can provide the perfect solution. An off-the-peg summerhouse or shed is a standard option, but why not go for something really unique that will make a fun garden feature?
Recent years have seen a boom in unusual holiday lets fitted with all the modern comforts you’d expect for ‘glamping’ getaways, with rentable retreats ranging from converted train carriages to state-of-the-art yurts. Many independent companies now offer intriguing structures in all shapes, sizes and styles, complete with insulation, lighting, plumbing and heating, so that homeowners can enjoy the experience year-round in their own gardens.
For vintage enthusiasts, there are also plenty of firms that specialise in replicas of antique structures, such as gypsy caravans and shepherds’ huts, which, made bespoke, can be customised to suit specific needs and enlarged from their poky originals in a way that won’t cramp their style.
Planning permission and garden rooms
Whether planning permission is required will depend on the size and style of structure. Most single-storey designs will not need permission, but there are grey areas, such as treehouses, so it’s always best to check the facts with your local authority before buying. Visit planningportal.gov.uk for details.
Types of garden room to choose from:
- shepherds’ huts and caravans
- miscellaneous: roundhouses, chapels, shipping containers and treehouses
With its sweeping, finial-topped lead roof, arched glazing bars and sophisticated, symmetrical design, the HSP Chelsea summerhouse comes with bi-fold doors as standard and the option of insulation and wiring.
Pavillion garden room
Positioned on a raised, fenced deck with a stylish black-painted tongue-and-groove timber exterior, the Prima Newbury garden room is ideal for fans of New England Style. It has a generous footprint, making it ideal for a studio or garden office.
With traditional details including leaded windows, a weatherboarded exterior and brass hardware, Crane’s Round Pavillion summerhouse complements any period garden. Handmade in Norfolk exclusively for John Lewis, the design has two double windows, a mortise-lock double door and a choice of four finishes (the one below is in Sage).
This glazed summerhouse with plenty of seating is the ideal space to enjoy afternoon tea and will fit neatly into a corner. Built from pressure-treated European redwood with a choice of lead-effect, or cedar shingle roof, the cost includes delivery and assembly within 150 miles of the manufacturers (based in Northamptonshire).
Bespoke for less
For a unique garden room that doesn’t cost the earth, customise an off-the-peg summerhouse. The owners of this Prima Louisa octagonal design, H300xDia.300cm, from Garden Affairs, hired a thatcher to create a roof that complemented their cottage.
Shepherds’ huts and caravans
With a metal chassis and clad in galvanised steel, this delightful Heritage hut comes insulated, wired and painted in a shade of your choice. Inside it has solid oak flooring and can include optional extras such as a kitchen, fold-out bed, canvas awning and flushing toilet.
Originally designed as mobile shelters for shepherds guarding their flock, shepherd’s huts are now becoming popular as nostalgic garden retreats.
If you love the charm of horse-drawn caravans but don’t want to compromise on comfort, a Fernhills French-style roulotte may be for you. Insulated and wired as standard, this H320xW650xD230cm design, from £19,800, can be customised to include a kitchenette, bathroom, fixed double bed and pull-out daybed, making it ideal guest accommodation. Externally, the wagon is clad in painted Siberian larch, and features an extended balcony, pretty trims, bargeboards and window shutters.
If you like classic shepherds’ huts, but would prefer a more contemporary look, then this Jacob design by Plain Huts could be the one for you. Externally clad in vertical cedar boarding with a galvanised tin roof, full-height double-glazed window, sliding doors and oak veranda, the hut offers a modern take on heritage design.
Sturdy, eco-friendly and boasting a characterful, mellow finish when weathered, oak-frame structures sit well in traditional gardens. All of Border Oak’s outbuildings are delivered to site in kit form, complete with oak frame, weatherboarded walls and roof carpentry, and can be assembled by a competent DIYer. Border Oak also offer installation at an extra cost.
Rather than buy a pre-painted insulated room, why not opt for a basic, untreated design and put your own stamp on it? This Nordic spruce Alderley log cabin by Forest comes delivered for self-assembly and can be stained or painted if you wish. Featuring four large windows and glazed doors, the space is flooded with light — ideal for taking in garden views or using as a work space.
With handsome proportions and Georgian-inspired timber windows, the Holkham summerhouse has a classic design that will complement a formal or cottage garden. The latest design from Crane Garden Buildings is made from Scandinavian redwood and comes in 15 colours (seen here in Verdigris). It has a slate effect roof and can be insulated.
If you fancy something a bit different, Garden Hideouts’ Garden Pod is a modern design that sits harmoniously within its surroundings, thanks to it red cedar-clad exterior. Fully insulated, the pod can be supplied unfinished or you can opt for an interior design service and a host of extras.
Clad in hardwearing Siberian larch, and with a distinctive angular shape, Wild Wood Designs’ camping pod is a sculptural yet harmonious addition to your outdoor space. Each unit is insulated, comfortably sleeps up to four people, and comes with French doors and a front deck, making it the perfect solution for guest accommodation. The buildings also come with a set of removable caravan wheels and tow hitch for camping getaways.
Quirky: Roundhouse, chapel, shipping container, treehouse
What better way to make a garden room that blends with its surroundings than from the earth itself? This strawbale H400xDia.500cm summerhouse, by Straw Works, is built from straw and natural plasters, and has a very low carbon footprint. Straw is a wonderful insulator, making for quiet buildings that stay warm in winter and cool in summer. Straw Works offers a fully integrated service covering everything from initial site survey to construction, and there’s even the option to build it yourself.
For the ultimate in quirky design, look no further than Love Lane Caravans’ tin tabernacles. Inspired by the prefabricated iron structures used as mission halls and chapels in the 19th century, the scaled-down, portable designs are built in Love Lane’s Cornish workshop using corrugated tin and reclaimed materials. Pictured is its latest H360xW500xD230cm model, £27,950, fully wired complete with salvaged windows, a porch, decorative bell spire and oak detailing.
This ingenious, self-supporting steel structure started life as a commercial shipping container before being converted into a home office by Green Roof Shelters. Eco-friendly in more ways than one, the offices come with deep sedum roofs planted with wildflowers, and have attached nesting places to help make your garden a haven for wildlife. From £28,680 for a similar H290xW650xD290cm glazed container, including wiring.
Like living the high life? This bespoke, luxury treehouse by Blue Forest features a spacious deck, wired interior complete with wall-mounted TV, zip wire, rope bridge and sunken trampoline, making it the ultimate chill-out space. The exterior combines warm cedar cladding with green roof tiles to blend with the tree. As the treehouses can be built with supporting stilts, having a sturdy tree is not essential.