Shepherd’s huts to bespoke architect-designed sheds, offices, gyms and writing retreats: how to add value in your garden.

If there exist people who don’t dream of a beautiful garden shed/ studio/ writing retreat, then we’re yet to meet them. Speaking sensibly, building such a structure at the bottom of your garden could add five per cent of value to your home, which is, of course, great. And even better, if you’re within certain height restrictions, you may be able to build it without needing full planning permission (such structures are classified under ‘Permitted Development’ depending on size and usage, though each case is different and you must, of course, take official advice to be sure). Plus, depending on the amenities and specification, you can even make money out of your garden room, by renting it out via Airbnb.

More romantically, we are taken with the idea of a shed as a place to retreat to and shut away cares. Whatever you use it for – whether as a home spa, a gym, a guest room, a library or a creative space for painting, writing or simply thinking – we find there are few home additions that make us sigh as wistfully as this one. They can range from the dreamy (yet also highly practical and moveable), such as the shepherd’s hut beloved of former Prime Minister David Cameron, to the all bells-and-whistles versions, with their own wood burners, fridges and mod-cons.

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I am always drawn to garden rooms, conservatories, and green house. This space by @christina.kayser.o is filled with vintage furniture, inviting cushions, of course potted flowers on sills... Join me for coffee this morning and stay for lunch? ????Beautiful inspiration to start your week ???????????? #antiques #vintage #flowers #greenhouse #conservatory #garden #gardenroom #scandinaviandesign #design #countryinteriors #beautiful #beautifuldestinations #jardin #monday #morningslikethese #architecture #travelphotography #gardensofinstagram #june #luxury #design #instadaily #instahome #instagarden #photooftheday #livethelittlethings #nothingisordinary #houseportrait #style #styleblogger

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Instagram is awash with garden room inspiration, from Courtney Adamo’s fresh Hamptons-style hide-out to the shepherd hut of dreams that block print maven Molly Mahon decorated for Hawthbush Farm. And then there’s Christina Strutt’s perfect outdoor loft (just outside Bath and available through Airbnb); Ben Pentreath’s Scottish bothy (we grant, not a garden room as such, but one to take inspiration from if you have more land to play with); and this beauty by Christina Keyser. Want more inspiration? Don’t forget stylist Selina Lake’s book, Shed Style (and check out her guest edit, here).

After all, how could we not defer to the wisdom of Roald Dahl, whose words we’ve grown up on, and which, it transpires, were formed in a shed of his own. Musing on the quiet creative solitude of the garden hut he built to pen his tales of monstrous adults and vile beasts after he moved to his home at Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, he said, ‘Time disappears completely. You may start at nine in the morning, and then next time you look at your watch, when you’re getting hungry, it can be lunchtime. And you’ve absolutely no idea that three or four hours have gone by.’

If you want to create an extra room without the fuss or bother of extending or moving, here are some companies to know.

Red Sky Shepherd Huts



In the aftermath of the Brexit result, David Cameron’s unruffled face, fresh from relinquishing responsibilities, was splashed across many of the country’s newspapers looking unencumbered despite the defeat. It wasn’t just the fact that he was free of Prime Ministerial obligation; rather Cameron looked pleased as punch to be perched proudly on the steps of the latest addition to his Cotswolds home: a shepherd’s hut, made by Red Sky Shepherd Huts and painted in Farrow & Ball’s Clunch. The hut – which comes complete with wood-burner, sheep’s wool insulation and Bakelite switches – is available to individual specification through the website. What unites all of Red Sky’s huts is the craftsmanship and quality of materials, from the solid oak doors and windows to the cast iron wheels; the corrugated metal cladding to the sheep’s wool insulation. Made by Paul Bennet, who runs this family business from Oxfordshire, these are a dream. Prices start from £15,500.

Garden Hideouts

‘The beauty of a garden room is that it brings so much extra pleasure and practicality to your home, all for a relatively small outlay in space and cost.’ Thus Garden Hideouts extols the virtues of the modest cabin and its longevity. Its shepherd huts, which are based on the classic 18th-century design and use bespoke iron wheels cast in Black Country foundries, offer a level of luxury (heating, insulation, fill-size showers) that would leave shepherds of old agog in wonder.



And for the more contemporary-inclined shed-seeker, Garden Hideouts’ ‘pods’ are a step further towards the realm of an extra outdoor room; finished in cedar wood cladding, the eminently bespoke interiors can provide space for anything from an additional bedroom, complete with en-suite, through to an office or al fresco dining room. And as for its garden rooms, they are so well-equipped and deluxe that we’d be happy to move right in. Explore the whole website here.

Platform 5 Architects



London-based Platform 5 Architects is an award-winning architectural practice led by Patrick Michell and formed in 2006. Taking on projects from the residential to the commercial, garden offices are at the more diminutive end of the scale of what the practice typically works on. But as they say, good things come in small packages. We love its perfectly formed ‘Shoffice (shed + office)’, a garden pavilion containing a small office alongside garden storage space, which was designed as an addition to a 1950s terraced house in St John’s Wood. The sculptural aesthetic allows it to sit organically within the garden, somehow both arrestingly yet wholly naturally and seamlessly. A truly spectacular bespoke design.


Roomworks



Are you looking for a wood-clad garden studio or office that is contemporary, slick and cool? Roomworks specialises in just such rooms, which are often commissioned by musicians and artists. The rooms come, therefore, with all the technological extras you’ll ever need. They say, ‘Carefully considered lighting, data cabling, wi-fi connection, soundproofing, in fact everything you need to create the perfect motivational workspace are all possible with a Roomworks garden office. We can even install a loo so you don’t need to nip back to the house! Remember we can design and build EXACTLY what you want – inch (mm) perfect and not just an adapted standard model.’ Check out all of their projects here.

Surman Weston



For some people wishing to create a garden room, a bespoke variant on an existing design is not enough. If you’re a garden solitude seeker who would prefer to commission something wholly unique to your surroundings, hiring an architect is a great way to go. We love this writer’s shed by Surman Weston, which was created in Hackney, east London. As they say, ‘The design responds to the client’s passion for children’s literature and mythologies. The space is conceived as a haven in the city; a fairy-tale hut at the bottom of the garden where the client can retreat and immerse himself in his work.’ We adore the cedar façade, the log store and the staggered bookshelf. Explore the practice’s wider work here.


Malvern Garden Buildings



Malvern Garden Buildings has a full complement of outbuildings, which start from just £3,015. While we like their traditional options, such as this Kew Victoria Garden Room, the one we have our beady eye on was showcased this year at the virtual Chelsea Flower Show. The Hanley Heritage will appeal to those with a penchant for the au courant crittall, its glass and powder-coated aluminium structure making it both contemporary and classic, beautifully graphic yet wonderfully light. Fully double-glazed, you can choose your colour and finish – all that’s left to you is to furnish it and lounge away. We also love – how could we not? – this Bloomsbury Writing Retreat, inspired by Virginia Woolf’s original example at her Monk’s House in Sussex? As the website says, some sheds have changed the world.

Cedar Cabin Company



You heard this one here first. The Cedar Cabin Company is so new that it, as yet, only has an Instagram account, as it busily sets up its website behind the scenes. What we can tell you is that everything it makes is meticulous and beautiful – plus the cedar referenced in its name comes from the company’s own Sussex cedar woods. Run by the team behind the Lewes-based Konstruct and Design, whose impeccable reputation for craftsmanship and style precedes them, you can check out their built projects here. If you’re considering a garden shed, room or office, everything the Cedar Cabin Company is exemplary.


Green Retreats



Green Retreats launched 2005 and, thanks to its design values and eco-credentials, impressed Kevin McCloud enough that he soon became a brand ambassador. As it explains on its website, ‘It is our commitment to ensure our garden rooms have zero adverse effects on the environment – and where we possibly can, a positive one.’ All created in its Buckinghamshire studios, there are several designs to choose from and even offshoot companies, such as The Annex, The Garden Studio and The Garden Office, all accessible through its main site. We are particularly taken with this Green Painted Garden Room. These are for a contemporary, rather than a rustic or a traditional sensibility; if that is your thing, these are hard to beat.


A Room In the Garden



This family-run business was started by Ivana Cavallo and Lukas Brzozowski and specialises in designing, building and installing ‘high-quality bespoke garden offices, summer houses, garden guest rooms and storage rooms’, all of which are fully insulated to ensure that they can be used all year round. Discover more via its website, where you can browse the gallery or completed projects. We have our eye on this beauty… now, where to lay our hands on some land to replicate it?

Shires Oak Buildings



If you’re looking for a more traditional take on the log cabin, then Shires Oak Buildings, which was founded in Warwickshire in 2004, might just be the right fit for you. Creating everything from orangeries to home offices, you can explore all its completed projects here. We like the look of this home office, and nor would we baulk at having to move straight into this cosy garden building.

By Nancy Alsop
July 2020

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