25 summer house ideas: add a garden building you love from the outside in

Be inspired to create a space for relaxing, crafting, working and more with these brilliant summer house ideas

summer house ideas

Searching for summer house ideas so you can add one of these fabulous garden buildings to your own plot? We like your style!

A summer house is a truly versatile garden building and one of the cutest garden room ideas going. It can provide extra living space with great views, of course, but it’s also ideal as a place to read, paint, sew, or enjoy other pastimes. It might even be the home office you need when things get too hectic in the house.

Summer house interiors can be designed just how you want them, so yours is a space you love spending time in. But one of these buildings can also be a wonderful feature for the garden, creating a worthy focal point.

Just scroll down for all the summer house inspiration you need.

1. Opt for a potting shed

summer house ideas

(Image credit: The Posh Shed Company)

We’ve mentioned some of the ways you might want to use a summer house, but your greatest pleasure might actually come from gardening activities. If that’s the case, this pretty number could be the potting shed you’ve been hankering after. 

With a shiplap exterior that gives it beach hut style, and gothic-inspired decorative details, this Chelsea shed from £3,040 from The Posh Shed Company is compact enough for small gardens. It has an integral side storage area with removable shelving that can be used for holding logs or other garden bits and bobs that don’t need to be kept inside, while the shed itself provides a lockable store that can be upgraded with options such as insulation and solar panels. 

2. Paint it white for modern style

summer house ideas

(Image credit: Lights4fun)

Searchers for modern summer house ideas, here’s the easiest way to update yours. Paint the interior of a wooden summer house in white: that’s walls, floors and ceiling for a clean, contemporary effect. 

It’s still a rustic building, though, so exposed wood details like this bench can blend it with the natural surroundings. Then pile on the cushions in white and neutral shades for comfort, and add soft lighting like these lanterns from Lights4Fun.

3. Fall for a shepherd's hut 

summer house ideas

(Image credit: Plankbridge Huts)

Looking for traditional summer house ideas? What could be better than a shepherd’s hut? Used as a mobile shelter during lambing season, the shepherd’s hut served as a bedroom, living room and kitchen complete with a stove for warmth and cooking. The bed often had a space underneath for orphaned or poorly lambs and stable-style doors enabled the shepherd to hear his flock. 

Today, these characterful huts make great summer houses, creating sumptuous living, working and recreation spaces for year-round comfort. 

This Cabin design, from Plankbridge, can be made from either tin or timber, and painted in a wide variety of Farrow & Ball shades to blend seamlessly into any garden. The Cabin shepherd’s hut is large enough to hold a king or super-king mattress along with shower room, basin and kitchen dresser, making it the perfect additional living area or a space for guests. 

4. Check out the quilter's room

summer house ideas

With plenty of glazing at the front, and a window boasting countryside vistas at the back, this summer house idea makes a lovely bright craft room for quilter Jenny Larvin. Not wanting to take down the tree, she and her husband snuggly fitted the room beneath, painting it green to complement its natural setting.

5. Pick furniture for interior and exterior

summer house ideas

(Image credit: Wayfair)

If you plan to spend time sitting on the terrace of a summer house as well as inside, it’s a good idea to pick furniture that looks great in both places. That way you can just move it from interior to garden as required.

We love this Rhoades Metal Bistro Table from Wayfair. It has contemporary credentials, and striking style with bronze metal legs. 

6. Go for a vintage-style summer house

summer house ideas

Complete with a pretty veranda, this summer house is a great spot from which to admire the garden in the heat of the day. Styled up with potted plants, bunting and vintage planters, apple crates and watering cans, it’s a masterclass in pretty country style.

7. Choose nostalgic summer house interiors

summer house ideas

It’s easy to bring some retro charm to summer house interiors. Just follow the example of this room with wrought iron shelving, crochet blankets, shapely ceramics and roses on the table.

This pretty garden room is also packed full of clever garden storage ideas. Custom-made, the storage bench is the perfect place to stow away garden tools or craft materials, and a vintage crate serves as a mini bookcase and side table.  

8. Try an oak-framed summer house studio

summer house ideas

Add an elegant summer house design like this oak-framed garden building that’s served as an artisan studio for engraver Andrew Davidson for the past 26 years. Now beautifully weathered to a silvery finish, it was constructed from pegged oak to his own design. Nicknamed his 'gilded cage', the building is reminiscent of a boathouse, but instead of river views it offers vistas across the Cotswold countryside. ‘If one must be imprisoned for life, it has to be in a gilded cage,’ he quips. 

9. Modify sheds to make a summer house

summer house ideas

You can construct a pretty summer house from utilitarian garden buildings. This one is made from two modified sheds, and blends into the garden landscape, with honeysuckle and clematis spilling over the roof and fragrant pink roses climbing up the walls.

It belongs to sculptor Pauline Lee, and is the workshop and studio from where she produces her wonderful ceramic pieces. It serves as the perfect setting to observe the natural world around her from which she draws inspiration for her botanical works. Inside brims with her fired stoneware sculptures, pots, figurative work and wall tiles.

10. Go for a summer house home office

summer house ideas

(Image credit: Smart Garden Offices)

If you work from home, finding a quiet spot to concentrate isn’t always easy, so an office at the end of the garden is the perfect solution. Providing a sanctuary away from the main house, it is a cheaper and quicker option than extending to add an office, as most designs can be installed within a few weeks. 

Another benefit is that the majority of garden offices, and most garden buildings, don’t need planning permission (see below for more). This Suffolk Barn Quarto design with a cantilevered roof and veranda is from Smart Garden Offices.

11. Smarten up the floor

summer house ideas

(Image credit: Garden Trading)

Introduce colour and pattern underfoot to add interest to a summer house interior. This geometric Aldford Rug from Garden Trading will look smart and modern in black and white.  

Amazingly, it’s made from recycled plastic, but looks and feels like wool. In other words, it’s eco-friendly and luxurious. Result!

12. Check out a brick summer house

summer house ideas

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

Louisa and Charlie Butters took on the renovation of a Grade II-listed cottage in north-east Oxfordshire. The neglected garden was re-landscaped after Charlie unearthed some photos of the garden in the 1950s. 

Charlie returned it to its former glory, replanting borders and trees, and reinstating the paving stones where an orangery had once stood. The little brick summer house perfectly complements the period features of the home and is a beautiful place to view the surrounding Oxfordshire countryside.

13. Make the most of the view

summer house ideas

You’ll want to position a summer house for optimum views, and the building in Linda Kilburn's garden has an enviable location. In fact, when friends drop by for coffee and a catch-up, they are less likely to end up in the kitchen of her 18th century house than here. Surrounded by mature trees at the bottom of her garden, this dreamy two-room summerhouse was custom-made by a local joiner and has been decorated in a calm palette of duck egg to reflect its beautiful watery setting.

14. Fit a summer house in a small garden

summer house ideas

(Image credit: Lights4Fun)

You don’t need to have a large garden to fit in a summer house. If space is limited, why not add one at the rear or side of your outdoor space, so that it can be opened to the rest of the seating area for a sociable scheme?

When it come to the finish, painting the summer house white will reflect the light to help make your backyard feel bigger, or choose a soft green so it blends in with surrounding foliage. 

Make sure you can use the summer house after dusk as well as in the day with atmospheric lighting like these designs from Lights4Fun.

15. Use planting to create a summer house hideaway

summer house ideas

Pretty up a summer house by growing climbers up it and positioning containers outside. 

This one is Latte Lodge, one of two outbuildings on the grounds of Wendy Blakeman’s 240- year-old renovated farmhouse. The garden cabin where Wendy likes to sit and sew or chat to friends over a coffee is an impressive space with views right across the Derbyshire hills. 

16. Try coastal summer house interiors

summer house ideas

At the other side of Wendy's garden (see above) is Gull Cottage. Originally a small tool shed that friends were throwing out, Wendy transformed it into her very own Southwold beach hut-style summer house. 

Shells, seaside accessories and bric-à-brac were sourced on frequent trips to the Suffolk coast and to her all-time favourite shop, Tinkers in Walberswick, which she says is a ‘treasure trove of vintage finds’.

17. Create a summer house-cum-crafter’s shed

summer house ideas

Summer house interiors can be created from the materials you need for the activity you pursue there. Artist Ali Ferguson’s back garden studio in Roslin, near Edinburgh, is known as the ‘Purple Thread Shed’. It is lined with cupboards, crates, drawers and shelves brimming with her collections of objects, from buttons of all sizes and colours, lengths of old lace and fabric and vintage bobbins to sepia photographs, giving her the perfect place to produce her complex collages of found objects. Her love for vintage even spills outside, with old suitcases and Singer sewing tables used as decorative features.

18. Choose soft colour for the exterior

summer house ideas

In soft blue this pretty summer house blends beautifully with the shades of foliage surrounding it. Studio to textile artist Viv Sliwka, inside it is cosy yet bright and stacked floor to ceiling with drawers, painted shelves made from salvaged circus benches, and patchwork hangings. 

‘I would find it impossible to do what I do on the kitchen table, clearing it up for dinner every day,’ says Viv. ‘This workroom is my bolthole, and I love spending time in my garden — it feeds me. Listening to the birds, being surrounded by nature; it’s all part of what I do.’

19. Update a shed

summer house ideas

(Image credit: Dan Duchars)

Tucked away at the bottom of the garden, this old potting shed has been transformed into a beautiful work and creative space which blurs outside and inside. To complement the glorious verdigris exterior, the bench is covered in a selection of botanical print cushions, and the window adorned with beautiful leafy curtains in a fabric from Jean Monro.  

summer house ideas

(Image credit: Dan Duchars)

Inside, it has one of our favourite summer house interiors with the botanical theme continued with the apple green paint shade which creates the perfect backdrop for a selection of botanical wall prints and freshly picked blooms.

Rustic and hard-wearing outdoor metal furniture is an ideal choice for a practical work space, and old apple crates are used as side tables to blur the boundary between outside and inside.  

20. Have fun with a quirky design

summer house ideas

A summer house definitely doesn’t have to be conventional in style. Inspired by the prefabricated iron structures used as mission halls and chapels in the 19th century, this scaled-down, portable tin tabernacle was built in Cornwall.

21. Introduce a touch of industrial style

summer house ideas

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, these offices come with deep sedum roofs planted with wildflowers, and have attached nesting places to help make a garden a haven for wildlife.

22. Try a tree house 

summer house ideas

Summer house ideas that are out of the ordinary? How about this bespoke, luxury treehouse by Blue Forest. It 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 tree houses can be built with supporting stilts, having a sturdy tree is not essential.

23. Get yourself a BBQ Shelter

summer house ideas

(Image credit: Scotia)

Take your barbecuing inside when it rains with this clever take on the summer house. It boasts a centrally vented grilled fire, meaning you can enjoy barbecuing all year round with no fear of your plans being spoiled.

Its circular design makes it a social space, easily seating 15 people around the fire, while a few adjustments transform it into a unique guest bedroom, sleeping up to three people. The flexible 10m2 BBQ cabin is from Scotia Cabins.

24. Create a unique summer house interior

summer house ideas

Follow shell artist Linda Fenwick’s lead and give a summer house an individual interior. Just a stone’s throw from her house, this atmospheric folly is used for lunches and dinners, and in the evenings candlelight reflects off the iridescent forms covering every surface. ‘People find it very peaceful sitting in a room full of shells,’ Linda says. ‘You just imagine where the shells have travelled to and come from.'

summer house ideas

This stunning summer house was a purpose built hexagonal folly in her garden, the interior of which is entirely decorated in shells. ‘I worked with my joiner, Colin Thomas, and it took about four years to get the building finished, grabbing free days as and when. It took me a year altogether to finish the interior, creating and putting up each panel separately, and I added the last shell in 2010, the night before we opened the garden for the NGS,’ Linda explains. ‘I have always collected shells and wanted to do something with them, and I love architecture and art, so all of these things have fed in to each other and go hand in hand.’

25. Pick a contemporary summer house

summer house ideas

(Image credit: Cuckooland.com)

If your garden design is contemporary in style, or you’re simply looking for modern summer house ideas, check out this amazing design. The Luxury Summerhouse Garden Pod from Cuckooland.com has a heater, bluetooth audio system, power point and soft LED down lights as well as a dining table and two sofas that will seat up to 10 guests.

The reflective stainless-steel cover over the roof reduces the heat in high summer sun ensuring the modern summer house remains a comfortable temperature even on the hottest of days.

  • Thinking of something attached to the house? Try an annexe out for size.

Do you need planning permission for a summer house?

You may not need planning permission for a summer house, as your garden outbuilding could be permitted development (PD). Bear in mind, though, that there are limits and conditions on what you can do under the PD regime. 

These include rules on the size of the summer house you can build and its position. Bear in mind, too, that a summer house in the curtilage of a listed building would need planning permission. 

What do you put in a summer house?

Put the furniture that suits the needs and uses of the room inside your summer house, but bear in mind that it’s often better to opt for garden furniture rather than that made for the interior of your home when it comes to upholstered seating so it’s easy to care for. Taking this option also allows you to use the furniture outside the summer house on warmer days.

Be mindful that you might need window treatments to make the summer house cooler in hot weather and avoid glare. Blinds and shutters are easier to clean than curtains. If you opt for these, pick washable versions.

What’s the best flooring for a summer house?

Flooring for a summer house needs to be hard wearing and easy to clean. Remember that you’ll be accessing it from the garden and damp and sometimes muddy shoes are pretty much inevitable. 

A wooden floor is easy to sweep the debris off if yours is a rustic summer house, while more sophisticated summer house designs could offer a range of flooring choices, but they should still tick the boxes for durability and easy cleaning.

If you want to soften the look of a summer house floor, laying an outdoor rug is a great idea. These will tolerate the conditions but give a more decorative finish.

  • Find all our decking ideas for the surrounding area, in one place.

You know where to find us this summer...

Pippa is Style Editor for Period Living magazine and spends many a weekend exploring the Cotswolds for decorating shoot ideas. A collector at heart, she is currently looking for a vintage cabinet to store her favourite wares.