Most of us wish we had more room at the best of times – and right now, we’re pretty far from those! The emergence of COVID-19, and a number of lockdowns, have forced us all to stay at home. And that’s hard if your home is simply too small for your new needs. Because home is no longer somewhere we sleep and refuel before heading out to work or play. For the foreseeable future still, it’s also where we work, exercise, home-school, cook and (virtually) entertain. In other words, size matters!
If moving somewhere bigger isn’t an option, an insulated garden room could be the solution. Unsurprisingly, these have become hugely popular over the course of the pandemic. More versatile – and usually less expensive than a loft conversion – insulated garden rooms can be used for all sorts of different activities. Think home office, gym, sauna, pool room, playroom, teenage den or even entertaining space. Read on to discover the various options available:
Smart Garden Offices
I have first-hand experience of insulated garden rooms. I’ve been using one to work from home well before COVID-19 came! One of the things I love most is that they offer you such versatility. I use mine predominantly as my work studio, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
I chose Smart Garden Offices, who specialise in insulated garden rooms, after moving to a ‘project’ home in 2017. It took a week or so for the installation, from preparing our empty garden to finishing the build. This boils down to the fact we had extensive groundworks, which included levelling a slope with sleeper retaining walls. This way, my studio is partly ‘sunken’, which suits me perfectly.
Once this was complete, the builders created a concrete ring beam. Then the actual build only took a couple of days, which was fantastic. Full disclosure: afterwards, we did discover some teething problems. For example, the weatherboarding was coming loose and the guttering didn’t work properly, so needed replacing. Then the roof began leaking too! However, Smart Garden Offices repaired everything, so it was fit for purpose.
The design I chose
I chose The Suffolk Barn design because I was looking for an insulated garden room with a classic style. I felt this would work well with my planting plans when designing our grass-filled garden. Measuring 4.3m by 3.2m, my home office studio can accommodate four members of staff. However, these days in light of the pandemic, I’ve adapted my studio into a more relaxing space for one! My team now work remotely, which is ideal.
I chose four sets of double-glazed windows to let plenty of light in. And I selected a green ‘Sherwood Forest’ carpet to fit in with the notion of bringing an element of the outside in. I use plug-in radiators to keep the room toasty, and LED spotlights, plus a floor lamp, for a more cosy finish during the evening. I didn’t need planning permission because this design comes with a low-pitched roof. It’s now a great, versatile, well-used space, which suits my needs perfectly!
Scotts of Thrapston
The arrival of COVID-19 has prompted many people to re-evaluate their priorities and life goals. If you’ve always dreamed of starting your own business, an insulated garden room could even double up as your first official premises. Kathryn Morris, Summerhouse Sales Manager at Scotts of Thrapston, wholeheartedly agrees. She recommends the company’s Burghley Summerhouse as a versatile, multitasking option.
“The need for our own space is more important than ever, and this is where a summerhouse can prove invaluable,” she explains. “They are a brilliant way to launch a business, enabling you to test the water and see if a strong customer base exists before taking the more formal – and costly – step of hiring premises.” Kathryn continues: “A summerhouse can act as a home office, a studio, a packing room or even a virtual or actual ‘shop window’ of your goods. And if your business does flourish, and you move it elsewhere, your summerhouse can then provide a relaxing garden haven after a busy day!”
If your space and budget allow, insulated garden rooms can be seriously grand. I’m a big fan of David Salisbury, known for its bespoke orangery designs. They customise each creation precisely to meet the individual client’s requirements. Prices start from around £40,000 (exclusive of building works). The company provides a complimentary design service, to ensure every aspect of the design matches the client’s brief. So what exactly are the main considerations to mull over with these types of insulated garden rooms? And what can they be used for?
“Design, space and light are the three key factors to consider,” explains Sales Director Karen Bell. “A well-designed garden room provides a seamless link between your home and your garden. It’s also an opportunity to enhance your lifestyle and add value to your property.” She continues: “The most sought after theme is to extend a kitchen to create an open plan kitchen/dining/living space. However, we are also seeing a return of the more traditional plant-filled garden room that provides a tranquil space in the cooler months.”
Vale Garden Houses
With public swimming pools closed throughout lockdown, there’s never been a better time to invest in your own! Insulated garden rooms make perfect pool rooms. You could even add in some exercise equipment to create your own home gym. If you’re after inspiration, do take a look at Vale Garden Houses. All of its work is bespoke, and most of its structures start at around £45,000. If you’re in a position to purchase this level of luxury garden room, it can prove to be a worthwhile investment.
Director Lisa Morton says there is no shortage of interest in this type of home improvement. She confirms that more and more clients are coming forward to update their properties to suit their newly changed lifestyles. “Not only do we now work from home, we also exercise from home,” Lisa points out. “Installing a bespoke pool house or garden room can fulfil many functions. In addition to changing facilities, it can create an isolated space for calm reflection, or a place to focus on work or studies.”
Insulated garden rooms can even be used to replicate other elements of your closed gym facility, such as the sauna. Finnmark Sauna offers a range of options, including made-to-order Puumanni sauna log cabins. But they can also help to convert a pre-existing structure, such as an old, re-purposed potting shed. Installation costs vary from around £9,000 up to £60,000. So there are plenty of options to consider, whether your budget is modest or massive.
The closure of gyms and health facilities during lockdown has understandably prompted a spike in interest of at-home saunas. “People have sought to build their own spa and wellness areas at home,” confirms PR Manager Robbie Thompson. “We’ve profited from that, seeing a surge in sales for bespoke Finnish sauna installs, materials-only bundles and modular sauna cabin kits.”
Even if you weren’t a hard-core sauna fan before, the reported benefits could well be worth exploring while COVID-19 endures. Robbie explains: “A traditional Finnish sauna experience protects against cardiovascular disease, aids relaxation, sleep, rheumatoid diseases and pain syndromes. It can also reduce stress and improve exercise performance.”
Planning permission for insulated garden rooms
In England, most insulated garden rooms won’t require planning permission, as they’re classed as permitted development. But there are a number of criteria you’ll need to comply with before proceeding. Your structure should be located at the back/side of your house, and shouldn’t take up more than 50% of your garden space. It must not be used as full-time accommodation. There are various height and boundary regulations, which Scotland is slightly stricter about. You can browse a useful overview here, but do check with your local planning authority if you have any doubts.
Looking for a floor covering to complete the look in your garden room? Then you must read my exclusive interview with Matthew, the director of Matthew Wailes, about luxury rugs and more on my blog here.